Auston Matthews will be well paid to lead the Toronto Maple Leafs to a Stanley Cup championship.
The question will be for the star centre is if his four-year US$53-million extension – formally signed Wednesday – will be enough to get the team over the difficult NHL playoff hump.
The deal carries an average annual value of $13.25-million, which makes Matthews the league’s highest-paid player starting in 2024-25 – passing Colorado Avalanche’s star Nathan MacKinnon ($12.6-million AAV).
“I feel fortunate to continue this journey as a Maple Leaf in front of the best fans in hockey,” Matthews posted on X, the site formerly known as Twitter. “I will do everything I can to help us get to the top of the mountain.”
Matthews said Friday it was a priority to get the deal done before training camp.
“It was something I didn’t want to rush in to obviously right away,” said Matthews. “But just the whole process itself with Brad [Treliving, GM] coming in, getting to know him, the moves that we’ve made in the off-season, obviously I’ve expressed before my passion, my belief in this team and loving playing here in the city of Toronto and for these great fans.
“I take a lot of pride and I’ve really enjoyed my time here. So I just think getting it done is obviously very exciting. I can just kind of put it behind me now and continue to focus on myself and hockey in the next couple of weeks leading up to training camp.”
Matthews has one season left on his current contract – a five-year, $58.2-million pact signed in February 2019 – that could have walked him into unrestricted free agency next summer.
Matthews won the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP in 2021-22 thanks to a league-best 60 goals that also propelled him to a second consecutive Maurice (Rocket) Richard Trophy.
The 25-year-old from Scottsdale, Ariz., dipped slightly in 2022-23, but still found the back of the net 40 times as part of an 85-point campaign over 74 games.
Matthews added five goals and six assists in 11 playoff contests, helping Toronto advance in the post-season for the first time since 2004.