Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs
TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 10: Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the Ottawa Senators during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on February 10, 2018 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Senators 6-3. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Auston Matthews discusses the captaincy, his ice time, and Mitch Marner’s situation while Trevor Moore and Michael Hutchinson speak about the importance of performing in camp in today’s Leafs Links.

Leafs Links

Auston Matthews Talks Moustaches, Marner, And Mini Sticks (Tim & Sid)
AM34 joined Tim & Sid to discuss his offseason, his ice time, Marner’s situation, and his mustache.

On his minutes:

I think we’ve talked about it after the season and over the summer, just kind of finding that fine line. I think we’re all on the same page now. As players, we always want to play as much as possible. If I could, I’d be out there for 60 minutes. Obviously, it’s a long season. It’s a grind. You want to make sure you’re deploying the players and getting the most out of them and not overusing them.

For myself, I’d love to see myself on the ice a little bit more, especially in different situations where maybe we’re down a goal or we need a goal, or we’re down two goals. That’s something we spoke about. I think everyone is on the same page and we’ll go from there.

On whether he’d embrace the captaincy if chosen:

I think it’s something I’m ready for. Myself, I’ve grown a lot the last three years. In my first three years in the organization, I think I’ve had a lot really good people and teammates around me. We’ve got plenty of guys in the room that deserve and could have a letter or the C on their sweater. For myself, I don’t think anything really changes if I have a letter or not. I am going to be myself every day and be hardest worker I can be and bring what I bring to the team every day and every night. I think the staff, when they’re ready to make that decision and the time comes, will make a good one.

On Mitch Marner’s situation:

I am not really a part of those conversations. I guess it’s really none of my business. Obviously, he is a big part of our team and we’ll see him as soon as possible. The situation with Willy was kind of tough on everybody, I guess. It’s not really a road that you want to see another guy go down because it is hard mentally and physically. You’re hoping something gets done here soon. Obviously, you want him here as soon as possible.

On whether he is glad he got the contract out of the way earlier:

In a way. It depends, really. I just felt like you’ve kind of got this over your head, right? You’re going into the summer with that kind of looming in the air. For myself, I am happy it kind taken care of when it did. I could go into the summer and just the rest of the season and not really have to worry about that; enjoy my time with my family and focus and try to get better in different aspects of my game and head into the season with a clear mind.

On whether Nylander sitting out two months hurt his season and the team’s season:

I don’t want to say it hurt the team. I mean, it’s really tough… He didn’t play a hockey game for six months. You step in in December and guys are in mid-season form. It’s not like you are stepping into a preseason game or the first couple of weeks of the regular season. It is really a tough situation to be in. We feel for him as players. Finally, once he got his legs kind of under him, he had some unlucky nights and it kind of wears on you mentally as a player when the puck is not going in and you’re used to it going in. But missing those three months, that’s huge. That’s a quarter or more than a quarter of a season. If you don’t play a game for six months and you jump right in in December, it’s not easy.”

On whether he thinks Nylander will bounce back in 2019-20:

Of course. I skated with him yesterday and he looked good. He’s looking pretty good on Instagram this summer with the cornrows. He played well at the World Championships. It is always good to see. Willy is the kind of guy who has the confidence to begin with. I am sure, for him, as well as quite a few guys on the team, going home after a disappointing first round exit again, you are pretty hungry and motivated to kind of get back ini it and have a bounce-back year and push over the hump.

Hutchinson understands importance of embracing ‘team atmosphere’ (TSN)
In contention for the Leafs‘ backup job, Michael Hutchinson met with the media on Thursday.

On his relationship with Frederik Andersen:

Freddy was awesome to me when I got called up and was playing games. He came up to me right away in the room and I was comfortable right away talking to him. We’ve been texting back and forth all summer. We got out for a few rounds of golf. It’s nice to build that kind of relationship where we feel completely comfortable. We were just in the room talking about gear and stuff. He is one of the best goalies in the league and so fun to watch. It’s great to have that kind of soundboard to ask him questions on things he does. He sees the game a little bit different than most other goalies to play at the level he does consistently.

On rediscovering his game in the NHL:

My last year in the Jets organization was when everything really started to click back in. The year before that, we weren’t performing up to standards as a team and so you put a lot of pressure on yourself. I wasn’t playing, so when I would play, I would get a little too amped up for the games. It doesn’t go well when you try to force it as a goalie. You can’t force more saves. You’ve got to let the game come to you and play relaxed. That is how you get the best out of yourself. That offseason, I went over my own game and re-evaluated and realized I was putting too much pressure on myself and getting too amped up and getting too nervous when not playing every single night. I was able to kind of calm myself down. Doesn’t matter if I am playing every night or every two weeks, I need to have that confidence that I’m going to come in [and play well]. A lot of it is having that confidence, even if you’re not playing that often, that you’re still going to come in and play well.

With Hyman out, Moore aiming to capitalize on opportunity (TSN)
Trevor Moore met with the media after an informal skate on Thursday.

On the opportunity in camp to secure a spot higher in the lineup on LW:

That opens opportunities to get that opportunity to move up the lineup. We’ve got to be ready — us guys who want to make the team have got to be ready. It might be our best opportunity right out of the gate here. The biggest thing with Hyman being out for a period of time is the penalty kill. I am hoping I can kind of make an impression there.

On his goals for 2019-20:

Last year was more about making a name for myself and enjoying it. This year is more about taking that next step and becoming an important part of this team.

Chris Johnston talks Williams’ decision, RFA’s and more (NHLN)
CJ joined NHL Network to discuss the outstanding RFA contracts throughout the league and Jake Gardiner remaining unsigned.

On why Gardiner is still unsigned:

Initially, he was someone looking for big term and big salary. I thought he would’ve signed the type of deal we saw Tyler Myers sign with Vancouver. It didn’t materialize early and then it becomes a waiting game.

One thing that has really hurt Jake — and other UFA and RFAs — is that the salary cap didn’t go up by the amount it was expected to originally; only going to $81.5 million has squeezed the market a little bit not just in his case but in others.

This guy is highly coveted and it would not surprise me in the least if we see him sign a shorter deal now and maybe next year on July 1st he is someone we’re talking about cashing in. There are a lot of moving chairs.

A small part of it, too, is he wasn’t totally ready to close the door on Toronto. I don’t believe he is even at this point in time. It just doesn’t look like the Leafs are going to be a team that could have the cap space to bring him back.

On how many RFAs will remain unsigned past September 12:

A lot of them are probably going to miss the start of camp. We are going to hear a lot in the next eight days about the importance of that deadline of camp. Obviously, it is a symbolic point in time. if you gave everyone their druthers, no one would want to see their player miss camp and no player would want to miss the start of camp. But it is not necessarily a real deadline. That’s the sense I got from talking to a lot of the agents out there. It is not viewed as a point where a player has to rush to make a deal if it’s not the right one… It does feel as though this is going to drag beyond September 12th and medicals. This is going to be a huge storyline right through September and into October.

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