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The Matthews Extension

By the end of this deal, Auston Matthews may very well be considered the greatest Leaf of all time

The Matthews contract saga has finally ended, as the Leafs' superstar centre has now become the highest-paid player in NHL history.

The Leafs announced on Wednesday that Matthews had signed a four-year contract extension with an AAV of $13.25 million, keeping him in Toronto through the 2027-28 season.

"Just felt like it was the right balance for all involved," said Matthews regarding the deal.

He also made it clear that the contract wasn’t worked out overnight and was a result of many long conversations.

"It wasn't like I just woke up and was like, we're doing a four-year deal. It was a lot of long conversations. A lot of thought. A lot of just going to bed thinking about it, praying about it. And in the end, this is kind of what I felt most comfortable with."

Although many fans and the Leafs organization would’ve liked to see him sign for more term, Matthews’ camp made it clear through negotiation that he wanted to sign another big-ticket contract at age 30 that would take him to retirement. It’s a smart strategy for a guy who’s already proven himself as a top player in the NHL, possibly revolutionizing the way NHLers negotiate deals going forward. Shorter term, higher AAV for players willing to bet on themselves going forward rather than taking the maximum term at the expiration of their entry-level deal.

Of course, the expected salary cap explosion in the near future has an impact on players wanting to sign shorter-term deals, as the maximum single-player salary will likely jump from 16.5 million to 18.5 million by 2026.

All that aside, Matthews has chosen to stay in Toronto for the next five years. Looking at his career point totals over the past few years, he has a very good chance at becoming one of, if not the greatest Leaf of all time.

It’s well known that goal scoring is Matthews’ bread and butter. The all-time Leafs goal record is currently held by Mats Sundin with 420. Matthews is sitting at 299 on the career, averaging 47 goals per year over the past three seasons. If he can keep up that pace, he’ll eclipse Sundin in less than three years.

In terms of points, Matthews is sitting at 542 on the career while Sundin holds the all-time Leafs record at 987. It’s a much more distant record for Matthews to chase, but with an average of 96 points per season over the past two years, Matthews could catch up in less than five seasons, just before this extension is up.

Although Mitch Marner may just beat him to it, already sitting 12 points ahead.

By the end of this contract, Matthews could both be Toronto’s all-time goals and points leader. An amazing accomplishment that would ensure his number is sent to the rafters of Scotiabank Arena. The only thing sweeter than that would be to win a championship in this city. Those accomplishments together would cement him as the undisputed greatest Leaf of all time.

Dave Felsbourg

Saturday, August 26, 2023

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