Leafs Re-sign Matthews to Five-Year Extension
The Toronto Maple Leafs have signed center Auston Matthews to a five-year, $58.17-million contract extension. The annual average value is $11.634 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: And with that, the threat of a rival club swooping in with an offer sheet for Matthews this summer is negated. It’s a significant raise for Matthews, who is completing the final season of his entry-level contract.
Selected first overall in the 2016 NHL Draft, Matthews swiftly developed into a top offensive center, winning the Calder Memorial Trophy in 2017. Despite missing 14 games to injury this season, he’s tallied 23 goals and 46 points, putting him on pace for 40 goals and 82 points by season’s end.
Both sides were reportedly interested in an eight-year extension but doing so apparently wasn’t in the Leafs’ long-term interests. This deal also gives Matthews the opportunity to negotiate another major contract by age 26, when he’ll be eligible for unrestricted free agency.
Starting next season, Matthews’ new annual cap hit will be the highest on the Leafs and the league’s second-highest behind Edmonton’s Connor McDavid’s $12.5 million. While Matthews didn’t exactly get “McDavid money”, his new cap hit will still take a big bite out of Toronto’s payroll for 2019-20.
The Leafs now have over $71.9 million invested in 14 players, with Mitch Marner, Jake Gardiner, Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, Ron Hainsey, Garret Sparks, and Igor Ozhiganov to be re-signed or replaced. Even by placing Nathan Horton ($5.3 million) on long-term injured reserve at the start of next season, and assuming a projected cap of $83 million for 2019-20, the Leafs won’t have enough to re-sign everyone. They’ll likely have to shed a contract or two before the start of next season.
Marner, of course, is the Leafs’ next priority and could cost around $11 million annually to keep in the fold. He’s indicated he’ll wait until season’s end to open contract discussions. It’s a good bet the Leafs will try to get him locked up before he becomes a restricted free agent -and a potential offer-sheet target – on July 1.