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Three burning questions heading into the Leafs offseason

Who Stays? Who leaves?

Will Auston Matthews sign an extension?

Easily the question that fans are most anxious about this offseason. Will the Leafs Hart trophy-winning, sixty-goal star stay in town? Matthews himself says it’s likely.

“My intention is to be here, I think I’ve reciprocated that before, how much I enjoy playing here and what it means to me… it’ll all kind of work itself out in due time.”

It’s been speculated that Matthews is looking to sign a deal in the four to five-year range, taking him to a place in his early thirties where he can sign another massive deal. It’s certainly a smart business tactic by Matthews and his representatives. His next contract, however, likely won't be a team-friendly one.

Matthews will look to become the highest-paid player in the history of the NHL. According to the CBA, a player’s average annual salary may not exceed 20 percent of the team’s overall salary cap, making the highest possible salary for a player $16.3 million per year. Matthews understands that taking up a whopping 20 percent of the salary cap would be detrimental to the team's ability to sign other players and form a competitive team. He also understands that as an athlete he has a very small window to make money. With those factors in mind, I’d expect Matthews to take a deal somewhere between $12.5 million and $14 million AAV.

Will Kyle Dubas sign an extension?

If Auston Matthews is looking to sign an extension, it’ll be in the franchise’s best interest to also re-sign Kyle Dubas. It seems Dubas has a close relationship with his players, with a league-wide reputation as the players' GM. After negotiating and signing his first contract extension, it’s clear that Dubas would have the best chance of resigning him.

Dubas addressed the media on Tuesday and revealed some interesting information regarding his status.

“This has been a very taxing year on them (my family), and that’s obviously very important to me… I definitely don’t have it in me to go anywhere else, so it’ll either be here or it’ll be taking time to recalibrate and reflect on the seasons here. You won’t see me next week pop up elsewhere. I can’t put them through that after this year.”

Dubas did not say for certain that he would be re-signing with the Leafs during that media conference. It would appear that an extension for him was proposed during last year’s offseason, but it was blocked by other members of the board at MLSE.

Multiple sources report that MLSE was committed to re-signing Kyle Dubas after the Leafs defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning and moved on to the second round.

Altogether, it seems that ownership is working towards getting him signed, and would like to get a deal done sooner rather than later. It will ultimately come down to whether Dubas wants to be back.


Will we see a coaching change?

In stark contrast to last year, Sheldon Keefe’s job as head coach of the Leafs is far from secure. When asked how confident he was that Keefe is the right coach for this team moving forward, Kyle Dubas stated;

“There sill to me has to be a full evaluation of everything, and a full and conclusive answer on that, I think to do so right now would be too hasty.”

Certainly a quote that will not sit well with Keefe in the coming days.

It seems that the Leafs are exploring every coaching option. Not committing fully to Keefe at the moment opens the door to other candidates. While the amount of available coaches with NHL experience is far less than last season, there are still options. 

Former Panthers head coach and Jack Adams finalist Andrew Brunette comes to mind. He’s currently serving as an assistant coach in New Jersey and has proven that he’s capable of coaching a team to a president’s trophy.

Spencer Carbery, who currently serves as an assistant coach for the Leafs has been on the radar of many NHL teams for a while now. He’s had major success in both the ECHL and AHL, winning coach of the year in both leagues respectively.

Once again, the Leafs seem to be exploring every possible option before making any final decision.

Dave Felsbourg

Friday, May 19, 2023

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