It took three questions until Auston Matthews politely shut down discussions about a contract extension with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The 25-year-old is now in the final two years of his deal. So, of course, questions are looming around the future of the player and the club. Make no mistake, this team is playing for two big wins in the 2022-23 season. First, it has to advance in the playoffs (win a Stanley Cup?). Second, it has to do enough to extend one of the best players in the game.
It took one question for the attention to return to the contract, and you can’t blame the reporters. This is going to be a storyline all season. While he deflected the first contact question, the next was essentially how do the Maple Leafs have to perform for him to want to extend his contract? Matthews gave a broad smile and courteously said, “I appreciate the question, but I am not going to be entertaining this question all year. I understand why you guys want to talk about it, but at the same time, there is nothing that can be done. I am under contract for two more years. I can’t extend it for another 10 months. So I will just kind of leave it at that, but I appreciate the question.”
Maple Leafs are on the Clock
There you have it Leafs Nation, you can rest easy for 10 months, and then there will be plenty of sleepless nights. An answer to that question could’ve helped provide a little relief. Does he need to see the second round? The third round or the fourth round? The superstar has made it clear that the individual awards he continues to rack up are nice, but he is after the Stanley Cup.
Toronto has failed to see the second round since 2004, including all six years Matthews has been with the team. For a talented player like this, he has to be confident the team he signs to play with for years to come has all the pieces in place to win championships. Is Toronto that team? The answer has come back with a big fat no every year, and the follow-up sentence is always next year will be the year. But the years are running out for Matthews. It’s now down to months until an extension can be discussed.
Matthews Considers Toronto Home
Matthews, who started his Maple Leafs’ career with a four-goal performance, has continued to grow. He is now considered by many to be the best to wear the Blue and White. The back-to-back Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy winner as the NHL’s leading goal scorer added the Ted Lindsay Award and the Hart Trophy to his accomplishments. But he is the only Maple Leaf that has collected any hardware during his time in Toronto. It’s also no secret that he watches a lot of hockey, and he would be human to wonder what it would be like to play with some of the elite players in the NHL.
While he isn’t talking contract, he said many contract-negotiation-like things, “It is just a really special place to play. There is a lot of history here, and it is a big honour to go out every night and wear the Maple Leaf on my chest. It’s something I definitely don’t take for granted. I really appreciate it. It has felt like home for a while. It is just an awesome place to play. I have really enjoyed my time.”
That leaves the door open for the return of a Ka’Wine and Dine-like drive in Toronto and throughout Leaf Nation. You may recall the fan rally to get Kawhi Leonard to re-sign with the Toronto Raptors after winning the NBA Championship. Matthews deserves that kind of treatment by the fanbase. He is a generational player who will have teams lining up in two years. The Maple Leafs have the head start to get an extension done, and the wining and dining have already begun.
Kevin Armstrong is an award-winning journalist with more than two decades of experience. He’s been rink side for World Juniors, Memorial Cups, Calder Cups and Stanley Cups. Like many Canadian kids, his earliest memories include hockey. Kevin has spent countless hours in arenas throughout the country watching all levels of the game.