When star forward Auston Matthews signed a five-year $58.195 million contract on February 5, 2019, he agreed to that term for a reason. With his contract ending in two seasons, he will have the option to stay with the Toronto Maple Leafs, or become a well sought after unrestricted free agent.
Auston Matthews Tallied 60 Goals
There’s not much more that can be expected of any NHL player who has scored 60 goals in a season. Matthews accomplished that and yet his team again was banished from the playoffs in the first round. The Leafs are now 0-9 in elimination games in their last five playoff series. For Matthews and the entire Leafs team and staff, that has to be more than frustrating.
As forward Mitch Marner put it, “We’re getting sick and tired of feeling like this. This one is going to sting for quite a bit.”
It Gets Worse
The Maple Leafs have not won a playoff series since 2004. Since 2017, the Maple Leafs have lost four Game 7s: twice to the Boston Bruins (2018, 2019), once to the Montreal Canadiens (2021) and to the Tampa Bay Lightning. It seems they load their roster with star players and meet or exceed the salary cap limits only to fail in the playoffs.
Auston Matthews Must be Getting Sick of Playoff Failure
If a player continues to exceed expectations and his team proceeds to lose time after time in the postseason, that has to get old. Matthews is under contract until the conclusion of the 2023-24 season. If things don’t improve by then, will he be contemplating a change of scenery?
He has done pretty much all he can as an individual player and while the Leafs have no plans to break things up, something must improve.
Matthews Would Love to Play in Arizona
He has family is in the Phoenix area and he grew up going to Arizona Coyotes games admitting that was how he became interested in becoming a player. While he holds no allegiance to “come home” to play locally, the thought must have him intrigued.
The only problem is, that the Coyotes are a total mess. They couldn’t get along with the city of Glendale and now are forced to play in a new arena built for the Arizona State University hockey team. With Matthews’s contract expiring in two seasons, the projected new arena the Yotes have planned in Tempe won’t be ready by then.
If Coyotes fans are dreaming that Matthews would give up playing in the hockey capital of the world for a college arena seating 4,700, they need to snap out of it. Would they sell the arena out? Of course. Would Matthews even have a slight interest in playing there? Probably not. It would be like trading in your Range Rover for a compact sedan. Why would he do that? So he could see his family and experience his Mom’s home cooking? Not hardly enough.
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Arizona Coyotes Salary Cap
The other issue is that the Coyotes are in the midst of a huge rebuild. Would Matthews want to take that on at this point of his NHL career? The team may be able to afford his inflated (and well deserved) contract, but the timing is off. The earliest the Coyotes will have new digs in Tempe will be after the 2024-25 season if the arena project is approved. By then, the open window to attempt to lure Matthews to the desert will have passed.
It is a forgone conclusion that Matthews will sign an extension to stay in Toronto or find another team worthy of his services. Eventually, the Leafs will make it out of the first round of the playoffs and Matthews will be a huge contributor to that feat.
Auston Matthews Deserves Better
Much like Connor McDavid has grown weary of his team’s lack of playoff success, Matthews has to be feeling likewise. Both these guys play their hearts out and then they are on the golf course way too early. At least McDavid’s Edmonton Oilers got out of the first round but now must face the Calgary Flames in the “battle of Alberta” to advance.
In the end, Matthews’ time will come. He must be a very patient man. And for now, he is still a Toronto Maple Leaf. That may change, but the odds are remote of that happening. It’s a foregone conclusion his dream of raising the Cup will come true. And he certainly deserves it.
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