If Auston Matthews wants to be a leader for the Leafs, here's his chance

Mike Armenti
August 9, 2023  (9:03)

Before the Leafs had named a captain back in 2019, there were 3 names spinning around the carousel as possible options. Those 3 names were Auston Matthews, Morgan Rielly and, of course, the eventual choice, John Tavares.

The Maple Leafs have maintained since naming Tavares captain that he was always going to be the choice. I'm no so sure I believe that. It's certainly the right PR answer, and logic suggests that it could be factual, with JT having been a captain before, during his time on Long Island, but anyone who remembers that period of time as well as I do will clearly remember all the talk about Auston Matthews potentially donning the "C" for the Leafs.
The prevailing thought here is that Matthews was in serious consideration to be named captain of the Leafs, but a drunken night out with friends that led to Matthews exposing his underwear to a female security guard and (intentionally or otherwise) frightening her in her car had ultimately showed him in a bit of a juvenile light. In the end, although the situation was resolved and Matthews had issued a public apology, the damage, as they say, had already been done.
Now, Matthews has already redeemed himself, having issued his apology and settled the matter with that security guard, having gone on to win a pair of Rocket Richard Trophies, a Hart Trophy and a Ted Lindsay Award, but he now has the opportunity to showcase his leadership in a massive way, helping to set the Leafs up for the future in a huge way.
The word out there right now, as reported by several credible NHL Insiders, is that William Nylander does not wish to sign before Matthews. His biggest concern is that he signs a deal, taking far less than $10M, only to see Matthews turn around, ask for $14M and get it. Obviously, Matthews is a center and plays a 200-foot game, so in that aspect, he certainly does deserve to make more than Nylander - a winger whose two-way game is lacking in certain areas. But, is Matthews worth $5M-$6M more? Therein lies the problem.
If Matthews wants to prove not only his leadership qualities but also that he is willing to make major sacrifices in order to win in Toronto, he needs only sign first and sign for less. With reports circulating that Matthews could be preparing to sign a 3-5 year deal at $13M-$14M per season, if he instead signs a 5-year deal worth $12.7M per season, he will be sending a clear-cut message to Nylander that he believes that this team can get the job done if everyone gives a little more. A $12.7M AAV still ensures that Matthews is the highest paid player in the league, but it also shows that he's willing to leave $1.3M on the table per season in order to try and win.
If Matthews ends up signing a 3-5 year deal at less than $13M, then perhaps we see Nylander agree to terms on a long-term deal with an AAV under $10M, leaving some money on the table as well, following suit with Matthews. Nylander isn't worth as much as $6M less than Matthews, but he's certainly worth $3M less in the eyes of many.
Of course, none of this matters if Matthews isn't willing to take less to win in Toronto. If he demands $14M and gets it, I don't know if anyone is going to be all that upset for very long. He's a marquee player in the league. He's a bona-fide superstar. However, if he wants to show that winning matters more, and if he wants to set an example in the Leafs' locker room, he needs to do two things; sign first and sign at a discount. That would prove that not only does he want to win, but that he's every bit the leader that he wants to be recognized as.
9 AOUT   |   324 ANSWERS
If Auston Matthews wants to be a leader for the Leafs, here's his chance

Do you think William Nylander would sign quicker if Auston Matthews signed his extension first?

Yes12638.9 %
Too hard to say4213 %
Willy's agent is greedy. It wouldn't matter13541.7 %
See results216.5 %
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