#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.
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.
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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?
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.
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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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