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The Matthews Contract is Good. If You Think Otherwise You’ll Die Alone.

Folks. It’s done. The Leafs have Auston Matthews signed for the next five years, and that’s an incredibly good thing. Let’s completely ignore the dollars and cents of this for right now. The Leafs have Auston Matthews signed for five years, that already makes this deal a winner, and if you’re struggling to get past that, well, I guess we can do a bit of an FAQ/Frequently Made Comments below for you. It’s important to me that we get you on board.

First the facts…

Now the questions/comments:

Dubas (and/or Pridham & Gilman) don’t seem to good at this negotiating thing

This is fair. We can all point to team friendly contracts around that league that would have wished for, just like we did with William Nylander. It seemed odd to pay Nylander more than Ehlers when Ehlers has the added displeasure of playing in Winnipeg, and it seems odd that Auston Matthews has the second highest cap hit in the league when he’s arguably not reached that 2nd best player in the league status yet.

Let’s say that negotiating isn’t their strength, that’s a fair criticism, but I think we’ll have to look for this group to find its advantages in other areas. At the end of the day, I’d rather have the GM who overpays Auston Matthews by $1M/yr instead of the GM who overpaid Nikita Zaitsev by (let’s conservatively say) $2M/yr.

Play hardball on the roster filler and reward your core guys, and I think we can safely say that Matthews is a core guy.

$11.634M is too much money

Yep. This is fair again, because really all of these are just going to be an extension of that first point, but when you look at it by % of the cap, it seems a lot more reasonable to consider giving Auston Matthews 14.63% of the cap. Knowing that cap is likely going up to around $83M next season, really they signed him with an even 14% cap hit in mind, which is only going to look better in the next couple of years.

Perhaps there is also something to be said for what the Leafs are doing, and that is paying their players. Nylander got close to what he wanted, let’s assume Matthews got the same, if the Leafs are helping kill the notion of team friendly deals, and making it so that first time RFAs are going to have a very real price tag attached to them, the group of RFAs that come after this wave so pose challenges for their teams as well. The trendsetting factor is important as is the next point.

The Leafs are owned by Bell and Rogers Telecommunications companies, two businesses which have been granted near monopolies to print money without government intervention. How the hell are the Leafs supposed to play the “there’s only so much money to go around” when nothing could be further from the case. You can choose to spend money on all other aspects of the organization and then shortchange the players. As much as hockey players are quite possibly the furthest thing from rocket scientists, I don’t doubt they’ve figured out who is signing their cheques.

Five Years is not a lot of term

Dammit man, you’re just criticizing everything. And that’s fine. If you are paying a lot, you probably want quite the commitment back, and Matthews came up three years short, and will be an unrestricted free agent earlier than we’d all hope.

The good news is that the Leafs will be negotiating with Auston Matthews before Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Jack Hughes, etc. hit unrestricted free agency and they’ll have the opportunity to set the market then. He’ll also likely be the first of the Matthews, Marner, and Nylander trio up for renewal, so they can plan around Matthews first.

On a less appealing note, there is also the issue of Matthews injuries in the past couple of seasons, and perhaps an eight year commitment can be scary for the Leafs as well in that regard.

There is also the opportunity to reassess Matthews sooner rather than later following the new Collective Agreement.

Five years doesn’t need to be a negative, it can be a benefit, it just means that the Leafs will have to hustle like hell to get Matthews under contract as soon as possible because no one wants to see the Leafs “Islander” the situation and lose a top league talent for nothing, but that’s a problem for four years and five months from now.

What about Mitch Marner?

What about him? He’s going to command a lot of money, and the Leafs will either pay it or they won’t, the same as they did for Matthews and Nylander. It appears that Mitch Marner probably should be pretty excited about how this played out, but it does also leave the Leafs with less spreading around money. We can talk about trades or offersheets, or what happens if Marner cashes in as well, but frankly I’m tired, and the Leafs did the right thing by making Matthews their priority.

What if I’m still mad?

You’re a true Leafs fan, and your inability to happy is historically sound.

The summary is that the contract isn’t ideal, but the player the Leafs signed is. The Leafs have five more years guaranteed of Tavares and Matthews down the middle, and at the very least it looks like Nylander is going to around on the wing somewhere too.

Most of us would have been completely happy with Matthews at $11M, but the extra $.634 is the sticking point. You know what that sticking point is equal to? Justin Holl. The Leafs have spent $675k this season for Justin Holl to sit in the press box and play one game. Not having Justin Holl on the Leafs and running a roster of 22 players instead of 23 covers the difference.

That’s a lazy example, but for everyone intent on making the death by a thousand cuts argument, I encourage you to make it a less essential player.

In closing, any Auston Matthews contract is a good contract. Thank you for your time.

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