Photo Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

What does the John Tavares contract tell us about Auston Matthews’ future deal?

#TavaresWatch is now over, and now we must wait for the actual #TavaresWatch when he is in a Leafs jersey in October.

So yes, here we are. July 1st has come and gone and the winners of the day were clearly the Toronto Maple Leafs. They have solidified their position as a contender for years to come with the biggest free agent signing arguably of the century.

But what does this all mean for the Leafs’ star players, in particular, Auston Matthews?

He is eligible for a contract extension now as he enters the final year of his entry-level deal and all eyes are now glaring at him and Leafs management to see if they can get his contract wrapped up before the season starts.

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Of course there are pros and cons to getting the contract signed before the season starts, but with Matthews, have we already learned what his cap hit will be?

John Tavares signed a deal for seven years at $11 million per season. Can Auston Matthews demand higher than this figure – I would argue not.

Tavares left money on the table, he could have gone to San Jose for an extra $14 million. Auston Matthews reportedly spoke to Tavares to convince him to sign for Toronto – big players want to play with other big players and win championships together.

Auston Matthews is smart enough to know that him demanding a contract over the $11 million that Tavares is on would likely mean that one of his other superstar teammates would be out of town (Leafs cap outlook). Is it worth demanding an extra few million dollars but losing a core player like William Nylander or Mitch Marner?

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By signing Tavares to his $11 million deal, Toronto now have a bargaining position with Matthews to say that he is worth a similar contract. Yes, locking up Matthews and Tavares for $22 million seems a lot, but these are two of the best players in the NHL who play in the hardest position.

When do you sign Matthews? If he outperforms Tavares next season, then the team are in a tricky situation where they could have to pay him more. Getting the deal done now likely means paying him $11 million per season.

What if he has a weaker season than Tavares? You can then pay him less than the $11 million.

It is an interesting dilemma.

The other pieces around them now need to fall into place. Nylander and Marner will deserve hefty pay rises, but they surely will know that their price falls considerably lower than that of Matthews and Tavares.

Could Toronto have them signed up for a long-term deal at say $7 million per season? That would mean that the team were spending roughly $40 million of their five core players if you include William Nylander.

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Those are scary figures, but the price of winning in the NHL is fighting with the salary cap. Kyle Dubas and co. are not silly, they will have worked out how the Tavares deal effects their position going forward and it is likely that they know what sort of contracts the players they need to sign want.

Beating every other team to Tavares is a big sign of where this team is going and Kyle Dubas has earned himself a lot of trust and respect by getting the deal done. We now need to trust him to navigate the salary cap and make sure that the core players of this team stay in town.

Over to you, Mr. Dubas.


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  • Matmarwill

    If you use comparables for nylander, he comes in at less than pasternak, say 6m aav. However, there is the perception issue that he shouldnt be too much less than marner. But i can see nylander @7m for a 3-5 year deal, marner @8m for 4-6 years and matthews @ 10 for 4-6yrs. These guys are rfa’s, and also need to give a bit of a discount. JT’s contract may set the ceiling, but mnm are young rfa’s and should be gotten for considerably less.

    • Jroc

      I’m hoping for longer term but you’re pretty realistic, inflation may drive them a bit higher. I would be happy if they combine for $25m on longish term

    • Drapes55

      I think they’ll all be 8 year deals. Why not sign these guys to 8 years if you have the chance. They e shown that they are real players in this league so why not give them the maximum length possible? Plus if something comes up and you have to give one of them up. Having them signed long term can be beneficial in a trade as a team getting them knows that they’re getting a good player locked into a team friendly deal for 3-4 more years.

  • Hugh Allan

    I would like to se them all signed to 7 or 8 year deals. They are elite players and by signing them long term Leafs keep them through their peak, productive years. Then, as they approach 29 years old and will be eligible for huge new extensions, Leafs can trade each of them for 1st round picks and start building the next Leaf juggernaut.

  • JimmyV1965

    Why would any of these guys take a pay cut because Tavares signed cheap. This is Msthews’ Team. He’s getting $12 mill and he should. Marner gets at least $8.5 mill.

    • lab16

      It’s called a team, and it’s best player just signed on for 11M. Mathews may one day be better than JT, but that won’t be for a number of years. He is not getting more than JT. I would project 6, 7.5, and 9 M for Nylander, Marner and Mathews in that order on 4 -5 year bridge deals. Then, the Leafs lock at least 2 of them them up for 8 year deals, to finish their careers as Leafs at 12+ M. The other gets traded for picks.


    Matthews will be offer sheeted max pay from the Islanders if he is not signed this summer. Lou will get his revenge on the Taveres signing but not to worry Matthews isn’t worth 8M let alone 15M.