After signing an NHL record-setting $13.5 million AAV contract extension with the Maple Leafs, Auston Matthews discussed the decision to sign for four years and the process of reaching an agreement before the new season starts.
How important was it to get this done before training camp?
Matthews: It was definitely a priority. It was something I didn’t want to rush into right away with the process of Brad coming in, getting to know him, and the moves we made in the offseason.
I have expressed before my passion and my belief in this team and I love playing here in the city of Toronto for these great fans and for the Maple Leafs. I take a lot of pride in that. I have really enjoyed my time here.
Getting it done is very exciting. I can kind of just put it behind me now and continue to focus on myself and the next couple of weeks leading up to training camp.
Why did you feel comfortable at four years versus something longer?
Matthews: Just the balance on both sides, obviously. It wasn’t something where I just woke up one day and it was the case. There were a lot of long discussions with my family, my agent, the people closest to me, and kind of going through my process.
The conclusion was that we found the right balance at four years. It will put me with the team for 12 total years by the end of that contract. As I have expressed before, I love playing in Toronto. I love my teammates and everything that comes with being a Maple Leaf. It has been a real honour to be a part of this organization, and it is something I don’t take for granted.
It was the right balance for everybody involved. As I said, I am happy and excited to put it behind me and focus on hockey.
Now that you have five more years guaranteed on the books, if you average 25 goals for each of the next five years, you are going to catch Mats Sundin for most goals in Leafs history. At 89 points a year, you can catch Mats for the most points in Leafs history. Do you let yourself think ahead to the legacy that you might have as a Leaf by the time it is all said and done?
Matthews: I think it is something that pops up in the back of your mind every once in a while. You kind of see it on online or wherever.
My biggest priority as a Maple Leaf is to be the best teammate and best player that I can be and do what I can to take this team where we are trying to go. All of the other accolades just kind of come with being a part of this organization, committing here for the next five years, and just really sinking my heels in.
If that stuff happens, that’s great, but we are all chasing one goal in particular. That is definitely the most important.
What is your take on the way your friend and teammate William Nylander handles his own contract situation? On the same day that you signed, he said, “What is the rush? I have another year.” What do you think about the difference in approach and how he is going about his own contract situation?
Matthews: I don’t know. Everybody is in a different position and situation.
I love Willy. I have enjoyed playing with him, being his teammate, and being his friend. His position is his own situation. All of us want him here. He is not in much of a rush.
For myself personally, it is just kind of nice to get it done and get it over with and know what lies ahead in my future here. This is obviously where I want to be.
As I said, I hope everything works out. I am sure it will. He is his own man and will make his own decisions. I hope he is a Maple Leaf for a really long time as well.
The term you’ve signed for on your last two contracts — five years, then four — is unique in hockey. Can you give more insight into that philosophy?
Matthews: I just felt like it was the right balance. I don’t mean to keep repeating myself, but it wasn’t something where I just woke up and was like, “We are doing a four-year deal.” There were a lot of long conversations, a lot of thought, and a lot of going to bed thinking and praying about it.
In the end, this is what I felt most comfortable with while striking the right balance for both sides on the term, AAV, and all of that stuff. It was definitely heavily thought about. There was a lot of back and forth. A lot of different things go through your head with different conversations.
I don’t think I have ever done things just to be different. I felt strongly in my situation and in my position that it was the best deal for myself and the best deal for the team.
What went through your mind when you found out Shane Doan was hired by the organization? How involved was he in this negotiation process?
Matthews: I was obviously super excited. I have known Doaner for a really long time now. It is everything you guys already know. He was one of my idols growing up. I feel really fortunate to be able to call him a friend. He is someone I have gotten to know a lot over the years and have gotten to play against. It is cool to have him on this side now.
I think he is going to be a great addition to our staff and our team. As the guys get to know him and the kind of person that he is, he is just such an amazing human being. I think that is infectious through the locker room with his character. It is very inspiring, in my opinion.
As far as my contract negotiations, he wasn’t really too heavily involved. We had a couple of conversations early on when he ended up taking the job. I am excited. He is a great person and a great hockey mind. I am really going to enjoy seeing him around the rink a lot this year.
What are your thoughts on some of the new players coming in? How much were you following things outside of your own personal contract situation? How instrumental was Brad Treliving coming to meet with you after taking the job and establishing a relationship there?
Matthews: I am really excited about the moves that he made and the guys that are coming in. It always sucks to see teammates leaving for new teams — it sucks to lose friends and teammates — but I am really excited about the guys that Brad has brought in. I think they are going to help our team out a lot. It is always exciting to get to know new players and guys you have played against over the years.
It wasn’t an easy situation for Brad to come into and get things going, but it has been really great to get to know him. He flew down here and we spent some time together establishing a relationship and getting to know each other. I really enjoyed our talks and what he has brought to the table. The conversations that we have had have been very positive.
The moves he has made reflect that. I am very excited.