Auston Matthews may surprise a lot of people this summer

Mike Armenti
January 10, 2023  (10:36)

For the better part of the last year, there has been ample talk of Auston Matthews becoming the highest paid player in the National Hockey League, culminating in recent reports that the reigning league MVP could seek a contract in excess of $15M as early as July 1st.

While it's entirely possible and more probable than not that Matthews does indeed become the highest paid NHL player, but he doesn't need to earn $15M per season in order to do that. This whole ordeal reminds me of the Nathan MacKinnon negotiations. Prior to Mack signing his 8-year, $100.8M, which carries a $12.6M AAV, there were rumours that MacKinnon could pursue a deal in excess of $13M and up to $14M per season.
Granted, MacKinnon's situation differed from Matthews' upcoming negotiations in that Matthews' new contract won't take effect until the rumoured salary cap bump at the start of the 2024-25 season. In MacKinnon's case, the deal was signed this fall and will take effect a full year before the salary cap bump.
If Matthews wants to win, perhaps he's well aware of what happens when a player leaves money on the table. It allows the team to retain an additional player or two, or gives them some additional salary to spend on free agents to help bolster the roster to improve the team's overall chances of winning. For Matthews, he's been very open about wanting to win. He's even tightened up the two-way aspects of his game this season and committed to playing more of a team-first game, putting personal accolades and stats on the backburner. He was very public about his goals and assists not meaning as much to him as winning when the games start to matter in the spring and summer.
In the end, I think it's very possible that we see Matthews land in and around the $13.34M per season range, which still does make him the highest paid player in the league, albeit incrementally, just over $700K above Mack's $12.6M AAV. Most importantly, if that does happen, it will leave the Leafs with a little over $1.6M to spend elsewhere, which can be significant in the hands of Kyle Dubas and Brandon Pridham, assuming Dubas earns a new contract with the Leafs.
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Auston Matthews may surprise a lot of people this summer

How much will the AAV be on Auston Matthews' next contract?

$12.734M-$13.33M27933.1 %
$13.34M-$14.33M36843.7 %
$14.34M-$15M13716.3 %
More than $15M597 %
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