Today, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 21-year-old superstar center Auston Matthews signed one of the most lucrative second contracts in the salary cap era. Matthews agreed to a five-year, $58.17 million extension with the Leafs through the 2023/24 season.
This news is a sigh of relief for both Toronto management and the fan base alike after it spent six months collectively stressing over William Nylander’s contract holdout that ended on December 1, 2018, which was the deadline date.
Matthews' average annual value of $11.634 million makes him the second-highest paid player in the league, trailing only Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid's at $12.5 million. Matthews' annual cap hit is $634,000 more than fellow teammate John Tavares', who signed a seven-year, $77 million contract with the Maple Leafs this summer.
Matthews on his contract
“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,” he said. “Keeping that core intact is a big part of that.”
Matthews and his signing bonus
According to SportsNet's Chris Johnston, the vast majority of Matthews' contract, 93% percent, will be paid in signing bonus money, which is lockout, rollback and buyout protected. That includes $40.1 million in signing bonuses in the first three years of the deal.
Courtesy of TSN's Bob McKenzie, below please find a year-by-year breakdown of the deal:
Year 1: $15.2M SB, $700K salary.
Year 2: $15.2M SB, $700K salary.
Year 3: $9.7M SB, $750K salary.
Year 4: $7.2M SB, $750K salary.
Year 5: $7.2M SB, $750K salary.
That’s $54.5M in SB, $3.65M in salary.
Living up to expectations
Matthews has been as good as advertised since entering the league three years ago as the top pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. The sniper has 178 points in 182 career regular-season NHL games with Alex Ovechkin being the only player with a better goals per game rate since 2016/17 who have played at least 50 games.
In his NHL debut on October 12, 2016, against the Ottawa Senators, he set a new NHL record for goals scored in an NHL debut with four.
In 2016/17, Matthews captured the Calder Trophy as the NHL's Rookie of the Year and was named to the NHL's All-Rookie Team after establishing Maple Leaf rookie records for goals (40) and points (69) in a season, which led all NHL rookies in both categories.
In 182 career NHL regular season games, he has recorded 178 points (97 goals, 81 assists), while registering seven points (5 goals, 2 assists) in 13 career Stanley Cup playoff games.
2018/19 season statistics
As of now, Toronto is 32-17-3, good for 67 points and second place in the Atlantic Division behind the Tampa Bay Lightning. They're trying to make a Stanley Cup push this season, but the extensions of Nylander and Matthews to join Tavares long-term have their window wide open for a long time.
This season, Matthews is fourth in scoring on the team with 46 points (23 goals and 23 assists). He has only played 38 of Toronto's 52 regular-season games due to injury.
Matthews comments at All-Star break
The Scottsdale, Arizona native has represented Toronto at the NHL All-Star Game in three consecutive seasons (2016, 2017, 2018).
At this year’s NHL All-Star Game, Matthews said he wasn't concerned about the deal getting done.
"It's something that's in the back of your mind. When it gets done, it gets done. I'm not too worried about it. When my agent calls me and says we're ready to sign, then I'll sign," he said.
Internationally, Matthews has represented the United States at the 2016 IIHF World Championship and registered nine points (six goals, 3 three assists) in 10 games to earn a Top-3 player on team recognition.
He has also represented the United States at two World Junior Championships (2015, 2016), capturing a bronze in 2016, two World U-18 Championships (2014, 2015), capturing gold at both, and the 2014 World U-17 Hockey Challenge.
He took part in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey in Toronto as a member of Team North America and registered three points (two goals, one assist) in three games.
Important deal for the Leafs
Rather than commit the organization to an eight-year max contract, the Leafs decided to sign Matthews to a deal that brings him right to unrestricted free agency. In an effort to create some added financial flexibility for a team that already is committed annually to Tavares through 2025, they still need to sign fellow 21-year-old forward Mitch Marner to his second contract.
Bright future for the Leafs
This past off-season, Tavares joined the Maple Leafs when he signed a seven-year, $77-million contract in free agency. Nylander is locked up until 2024 at a cap hit slightly north of $6.9 million per season. Fellow forwards Nazem Kadri, Zach Hyman, defensemen Morgan Rielly, and Nikita Zaitsev, plus goaltender Frederik Andersen are currently the only Maple Leafs signed through at least 2020/21.
Unfinished player business
Like Matthews, Toronto still has to come to terms with Marner, who is in the final year of his rookie contract and leads the team with 63 points in 52 games. Leafs project to have $16.4 million in cap space next season to sign him as well as Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson.
Contract talks with Marner, however, have been put on hold until after the season, at his agent's request.
What do you think about the Toronto Maple Leafs and their chances of winning the Stanley Cup now that Auston Matthews is signed? Let us know in the comment section below, and make sure to give us a follow on Twitter (@VAVELNHL_ENG) for more updates!