Breaking down Leafs fans’ reactions to the Auston Matthews extension

Photo credit:© John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Mazzei
8 months ago
Anything that involves the Leafs is always going to get people talking, especially when it involves Auston Matthews.
He is just days removed from signing a four-year extension that will make him the highest-paid player in the NHL when the deal kicks in next summer. In the hours and days since he put pen to paper, fans have shown various reactions to the news that the most crucial component of the Leafs roster will remain in Toronto for the next half-decade.
The vast majority are obviously happy that he will be staying, especially since training camp was quickly approaching and Matthews said he didn’t want to negotiate once it began. But there are also some mixed opinions on the contract itself regarding the length and if four years was enough for the amount of money he received.
Regardless of which side you fall on in the debate, it is hard to deny just how critical it was to get the 2016 first-overall pick locked up now to avoid the distraction going into the regular season. As the dust settles and the focus shifts to William Nylander’s negotiation, let us look at some fan reaction to the Matthews extension.
The saga initially began just before 5 p.m. EST when Matthews posted on X this post that heavily implied he was staying in Toronto for the foreseeable future. After a few minutes of anticipation and debate on what he meant by it and if he was hacked, reporters quickly posted that the extension was coming.
Once it became clear that his post was to announce his new deal, fans heaped a lot of respect for the star forward for being the first to break the story. Perhaps he has a future as an insider cause he found quite the scoop (his brain).
Brad Treliving was not put in an easy position when he took over as the Leafs GM a few months ago and has certainly been kept busy throughout the summer. The biggest tasks were to get Matthews and Nylander re-signed, which he has now checked off half of the list.
But beyond that, Treliving had quite the eventual start to free agency as he placed his stamp on the roster by the end of Day 3. Although he was unable to retain the likes of Michael Bunting, Ryan O’Reilly, Luke Schenn, and Noel Acciari, he replaced them with guys such as Tyler Bertuzzi, Max Domi, John Klingberg, and Ryan Reaves.
It remains to be seen how this new-look Leafs will do once the real hockey starts, but there is certainly a lot of intrigue to be had. And it seems like he’s not done yet.
There are two ways to look at this. On the one hand, Matthews now has the next five years to cement himself as the greatest Leaf of all time from a statistical standpoint health permitting. On the other, the fact he is within reach after seven NHL seasons goes to show just how bad the Leafs have been over their 100-year history.
Even still, the fact that Matthews could be the first Leaf to hit 500 goals and 1,000 career points are incredible accomplishment that will be worth celebrating if he can achieve them.
Mere hours after Matthews signed his new deal, Grant Williams signed a nearly identical contract that made him a member of the Dallas Mavericks. He has primarily been a bench player who has yet to average more than 10 points per game or five rebounds per game in his four prior seasons with the Boston Celtics.
If that doesn’t show you just how far behind the NHL is from the other major North American sports leagues, I don’t know what will.
The extension won’t permanently squash the fan speculation of Matthews returning to his boyhood team but will help subside the noise for the next few years. Get ready to hear the talking point all over again in three years’ time!
This is a microcosm of the feeling of fans who are feeling uneasy about the length. Given that the majority of league stars across the league are locking into long-term deals of seven or eight years, the Leafs stars being notable outliers has caused some frustration for those who were hoping Matthews would follow suit.
It certainly won’t calm down some fears that some may have of Matthews leaving once this new deal is up. This happened after he signed his second contract in 2019 and those talking points have reemerged four years later.
On the flip side, there is some logic behind why the mid-term deal makes some sense. The new extension ensures that Matthews will play the entirety of his prime with the Leafs and gives the two parties a chance to reassess things when this deal is done.
While there certainly are benefits to having him locked up for longer, but perhaps the Leafs could hypothetically bring down the cap hit to account for the fact that he will be 30 when he is due for an extension. It is reasonable to conclude that a four-year contract is beneficial for both sides.
The moment the contract was announced, the debate over whether Matthews was worth the money quickly emerged given the competition around him. Some of them were more in a joking manner, but the real discussion comes when lining him up alongside guys like Connor McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon, both of whom also make over $12 million a season.
All three players have different playstyles, have a ton of individual accolades, and vastly different team success. The latter is where Matthews falls short since McDavid has at least been to the third round and MacKinnion has a Cup. Which segways us nicely to the next post.
The outcome of this new contract will squarely be determined by how the Leafs do over the next five seasons. Whether it is fair or not, Matthews’ legacy is going to be put to the test because he runs the risk of being considered a failure if he is unable to help his team recapture the Cup.
Getting past the first round this past spring was an important step forward on the path to glory but there remains plenty of work to be done. Just one playoff-series win over the first seven years of his career simply isn’t going to cut it, especially with how inconsistent he has been throughout that time.
So all he has to do to ensure his legacy is saved is to put the Leafs on his back on a dominant run that carries them to the summit. No pressure.
Some fans worried that Treliving would put the team down a similar path to what occurred last summer with the Flames when he let Johnny Gaudreau walk and was forced to trade Matthew Tkachuk to the Panthers. And it is entirely possible that this saga could have gone sideways which would have left the team in dire straits, but those concerns are now just a memory.
At the end of the day, the most important thing out of all of this is that Auston Matthews is going to remain a Leaf for the next half-decade. Toronto got it done and now they can squarely focus on negotiating with Nylander to begin the cycle of stress all over again.

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