Toronto Maple Leafs: No pressure on Auston Matthews to sign extension

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - JANUARY 10: Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on January 10, 2019 in Newark, New Jersey. The Maple Leafs defeated the Devils 4-2. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - JANUARY 10: Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on January 10, 2019 in Newark, New Jersey. The Maple Leafs defeated the Devils 4-2. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

With reports of recent talks between the two sides, all of the pressure is on the Toronto Maple Leafs to get a new deal negotiated with Auston Matthews.

There is zero doubt when it comes to Auston Matthews‘ importance to the Toronto Maple Leafs. In fact, he’s arguably going to be the most important player to the team during the next decade.

Of course, this is assuming Matthews remains with the Leafs for that long. While both sides want this to be the case in an ideal world, there are enough scenarios in professional sports where things doesn’t always go as planned.

In this respect, you can make a case that all of the pressure is on the Leafs organisation to turn the ideal scenario into a reality. They are the ones who need to find a way to make his contract extension work within the confines of the salary cap, while also attempting to re-sign other key players.

Matthews will get his money regardless; and while he would prefer this to be in Toronto, he can earn it elsewhere in the NHL. This may partly explain his calm outlook and comments on contract negotiations, as per Sportsnet‘s Luke Fox:

"“There’s no secret there’s a cap. So, try to find something that works for both sides and obviously helps us out with that whole situation. I’ll leave it to them and just continue to play hockey, and once it’s done, it’s done. That’ll be it.”More from Toronto Maple LeafsMaple Leafs Rumours: Half of NHL teams interested in Ilya MikheyevToronto Maple Leafs: How to address the goaltender positionLeafs reward Timothy Liljegren with extension after breakout seasonMaple Leafs: Jack Campbell situation becoming increasingly uncertainJason Spezza retires, joins Toronto Maple Leafs front office"

The question is, how demanding will Matthews be, with speculation indicating he wants anywhere between what John Tavares ($11 million) and Connor McDavid )$12.5 million) are earning per season.

Fortunately for the Leafs, it appears the 21-year is being flexible, realising how important it is to keep the core of the team together for the foreseeable future. Again as per Fox:

"“We’ve got a lot of great players on this team. A lot of young guys. A solid core. We want to be a great team and a team that makes the city proud — and accomplish our ultimate goal — for a long time. Keeping that core intact is a big part of that.”"

Now compare this outlook to the apparent one being shared by TSN‘s Darren Dreger, in respect of Mitch Marner. During last week, Dreger took to the airwaves on TSN 1050, to claim Marner’s camp is confident they are worth every cent as much as Matthews.

Now in defence of Marner, there is nothing to indicate the accuracy and truth of Dreger’s comments. Further, even if this is the mindset, it might refer to those around him, e.g. his agent, family, etc, rather than the player himself.

In any event, the 2015 fourth overall draft pick is a concern for another day. He’s previously made it clear he won’t negotiate his contract until after the 2018-19 season concludes.

What does matter right now is Matthews. And all indications are his agent and the front office are taking positive steps towards having his extension agreed sooner than later.

We’ve already mentioned how the Leafs’ salary cap situation will impact their approach to re-signing certain players on the roster. In terms of Matthews, the cap will influence the length of his next deal.

The indications are the three-time All-Star probably won’t get the maximum length of eight years. As per Sportsnet‘s Elliotte Friedman:

"“Initially, both sides wanted eight years, (but) it’s just not going to work (because) the number is going to be too high. The team would have to be broken up. So, it’s going to come down to five or six years.”"

In this situation, you can argue it is better for Matthews to go with five years. This would improve the bargaining position of adding another year to his prime when it comes time to negotiating his next deal.

Overall, what will be most intriguing is how much the 2016 first overall draft pick is prepared to take per season in the interests of keeping the core of the current roster intact. With plenty of people suggesting he should be the Leafs’ next captain, his pending contract extension will theoretically allude to his suitability.

Matthews’ comments about contract negotiations are definitely encouraging. However, it’s one thing to talk the talk; now let see if he walks the walk.

Marner must decide what's most important to him. dark. Next

What’s your take on the contract situation with Matthews? What’s your prediction for how much and how many years the Toronto Maple Leafs will re-sign him for? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.