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Elliotte Friedman on Auston Matthews: “I think he’s going to be the highest paid AAV in the league”

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Photo credit:Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Cam Lewis
9 months ago
The big story in Toronto this summer, as usual, revolves around which members of the Maple Leafs’ Core Four will be back with the team in the fall.
Captain John Tavares has two more years left on the seven-year, $77 million deal he signed back in 2018 and a no-movement clause. Mitch Marner also has two more seasons left on the six-year deal he signed in 2019 and his no-movement clause kicks in this summer. Both Auston Matthews and William Nylander are set to become unrestricted free agents after the 2023-24 season and are eligible to sign contract extensions on July 1.
Over the past week, Sportsnet insider Elliotte Friedman has said multiple times (first on the Jeff Marek show and then on 32 Thoughts) that he believes that Matthews will re-sign in Toronto to a mid-length contract that’ll give him the highest average annual salary in the league…
“Auston Matthews had an availability [on Tuesday] and he wants to stay. I believe that. I’ve been on record many times saying that I think they’re going to sign a medium-term contract extension at a big number that’ll likely make him the highest-paid player on AAV in the NHL.”
Matthews is coming off of a season in which he scored 40 goals and 85 points over 74 games and added five goals and 11 points over 11 playoff games. It was a strong season, but not one quite at the same level as the Rocket Richard and Hart Trophy-winning performance he had in 2021-22.
The five-year contract that Matthews inked in February of 2019 features an $11,634,000 average annual salary, which is set to be the fourth-highest in the NHL next season behind only Nathan MacKinnon, Connor McDavid, and Artemi Panarin. It really won’t take much of a raise for Matthews to slide into that top spot.
The NHL’s salary cap ceiling is expected to see a significant rise after a few years of stagnation as the NHLPA repays pandemic-related debts back to the owners. If those debts are paid off, the assumption is that the NHL’s cap ceiling will jump to $88 million for the 2024-25 season.
It’s standard for a superstar player to sign a contract worth around 15 percent of the salary cap ceiling when they reach unrestricted free agency age. For example, Nathan MacKinnon’s eight-year, $100.8 million contract extension with the Colorado Avalanche was worth 15.27 percent of the salary cap ceiling when the deal was signed in September.
For Matthews, something between $13 and $14 million annually seems likely for his next deal.

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