The Toronto Maple Leafs have signed forward Auston Matthews to a five-year contract extension worth $58.17 million, the team announced Tuesday. The deal carries an annual cap hit of $11.634 and will last through the 2023-24 season.
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) February 5, 2019
An incredible 93% of this contract will be made up of signing bonuses, effectively making it lockout-protected as we’ve seen so many players and agents opt for in recent signings. As Bob McKenzie reported, the deal will include $54.5 million in signing bonuses and only $3.65 million in salary.
Matthews has scored 23 goals and 46 points in 38 games this season and has been among the best forwards in the entire league Despite dealing with an injury that kept him out of action for an extended period of time, Matthews hasn’t missed following the injury as he’s scored 13 goals and 30 points in 37 games since returning in late November.
Matthews Making an Immediate Impact in Toronto
When the Maple Leafs drafted Matthews, the hope was that he would help usher in a new culture and era in Maple Leafs hockey. The 21-year-old forward has done all of that and more and has been the focal point of one of the league’s most lethal forward groups in the entire NHL.
Few careers start as well as Matthews’ did when he would score four goals in his NHL debut on Oct. 12, 2016 in a road game against the Ottawa Senators, setting the record for goals in a debut. He’d follow that debut by breaking multiple Maple Leafs’ records, including goals (40) and points (69) from a rookie.
For his efforts, Matthews would be named to the NHL All-Rookie Team and win the Calder Trophy, awarded annually to the NHL’s Rookie of the Year.
In 182 games in his career over the first three seasons of his career, Matthews has already scored 97 goals and 178 points and is just shy of a point-per-game pace. Impressively, Matthews has also made an appearance at all three All-Star Games that have taken place since he was drafted, being named an All-Star in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
His place in Maple Leafs history is already cemented and his legacy is already being established.
Matthews Contract is Significant
Matthews new contract will make up 14.63% of the Maple Leafs cap space based on the 2018-19 ceiling of $79.5 million. This will be the sixth-highest cap hit percentage at the time of signing among current contracts behind Alex Ovechkin (16.8%), Connor McDavid (16.7%), Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane (15.2%) and Evgeni Malkin (14.8%).
While there will undoubtedly be a discussion that Matthews didn’t do the Maple Leafs any favors as far as taking a discount goes, it should be noted that the only business Matthews needs to look out for is his own. Players should not be expected to take a discount, even if they have teammates who are also in need of a new contract.
Players that choose to do so can obviously handle things in their own way.
For Matthews, this deal in terms of salary and term makes sense. Mitch Marner should also be happy about this deal as it helps set up the market for his negotiations, much to the chagrin of the Maple Leafs who are still far from through their contract obstacles that date back to the signing of John Tavares and extended to the re-signing of William Nylander and these recent Matthews negotiations.