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Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Can Auston Matthews Really Command $11 Million Next Summer?

The Toronto Maple Leafs are entering a new era of promise, of course, led by their youth and mainly by 2016 first overall pick Auston Matthews.

In order for a team to establish a rebuild, as well as a new wave of hockey, they have to sign the star player and centre of the franchise to a long-term extension. And with that term also comes a lot of money to pay.

Looking at Matthews, there are many factors to take into consideration when it comes to a contract extension for the Leafs’ young sensation. However, in the end, The Athletic’s James Mirtle expects that Matthews’ next contract will likely pay him an average around $11 million per season.

In 82 games this past season, Matthews stunned the league with 40 goals and 69 points. While the 6-foot-3, 219-pound centre made himself a force on offence, he also played a solid defensive game and proved his worth at both ends of the rink. With 76 takeaways for just 44 giveaways, Matthews played as an exceptional player at both ends of the rink and is making a statement as one of the top up-and-coming defensive forwards in the league.

Not only did his performance earn him a trip to the 2017 NHL All-Star Game, but he also led the Maple Leafs to their first trip to the playoffs since 2013, and also won the Calder Memorial Trophy for rookie of the year.

Considering all of this, Matthews is building a case for himself and has already shown just how important he is to the Leafs organization.

The 19-year-old is already well on his way to becoming a member of the NHL’s elite. Not only is Matthews a pure goal scorer, and already an All-Star player and a young sensation, but he plays a solid game at both ends of the rink and can bail his team out defensively. In addition, Matthews is the type of player who leads by example and makes those around him better.

However, when it comes to how much money he will be making in the future, it won’t be McDavid money for a number of reasons.

While he is was the first-overall pick in 2016 and has already greatly impacted the Leafs, he is not already producing McDavid numbers and hasn’t done nearly as much as the Oilers’ captain has. Of course, if he leads the NHL in scoring, regularly produces over a point per game and wins a Hart Trophy in his sophomore year, we can talk.

But right now, Matthews is a 40-goal scorer who will be a key member of the Leafs’ core for years to come. And while he packs a lot of promise and is the new centerpiece of the Toronto franchise, he won’t be making $12.5 million per year. Not yet, at least.

Not only that, the Leafs have to pay attention to their cap space, especially with all of their young guns warranting extensions sooner rather than later. Toronto still has to sign Connor Brown to an extension by the end of this season, and moving forward, they have to make sure they can still sign their other young guns in Mitch Marner and William Nylander to long-term deals.

All three of these players are pieces the Leafs want to hang on to, and they are all good enough to be earning big money, and that in itself will make the cap tight.

After all of these players are signed, including Matthews, Toronto will have to make sure that they can still afford the rest of the pieces on their roster and still build a good team around their young core. This also explains why $11 million is enough to pay for Matthews; while he is a star, Toronto needs to have enough money to pay and build a solid, deep team around him.

In the end, Matthews won’t be making McDavid money, but he’ll come pretty darn close. It takes more than one player to make a team, and $11 million is ultimately the best contract for both parties involved.