The Maple Leafs have locked down one of their franchise cornerstones by agreeing to a five-year million contract extension with Auston Matthews, the team announced Tuesday. The deal includes an annual cap hit of $11.634 million, making the center one of the highest-paid players in the NHL.
Signing Matthews was a top priority for the Maple Leafs given the star forward was set to hit restricted free agency this offseason. Teams rarely extend offer sheets to restricted free agents in the current market, but the franchise already went through a protracted negotiation with William Nylander that extended into the start of this season. It’s not surprising the Leafs wanted to avoid any sort of similar headaches playing out with their top center.
Matthews, 21, quickly established himself as one of hockey’s premier offensive talents after being picked first overall in the 2016 NHL Draft. The forward won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie in 2017 after a 40-goal debut that included a league-leading 32 scores at even strength.
He’s continued to put up big numbers since then with 57 goals and 52 assists in 100 games since the start of the 2017-18 season.
The Leafs gave him a contract reflective of such standing as one of the league’s premier young players. Only Connor McDavid, whose eight-year deal with the Oilers takes up $12.5 million in annual cap space, has a higher average annual value. The shorter term also affords Matthews the opportunity to pursue a massive third contract as an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2024, when he’ll be 26 years old.
Toronto now has nearly $29.6 million committed to the trio of John Tavares, Matthews and Nylander over the next five years, according to Cap Friendly. Mitch Marner, Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson (all RFAs) are among the team’s unsigned players for next season.