Matthews makes it official, signs deal with Maple Leafs
In an announcement that probably shocked no one, Auston Matthews signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs in late July after being the first-overall pick by Toronto at the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24.
The Scottsdale native, who turns 19 on Sept. 17, inked a three-year, entry-level contract and is already being touted as a Calder Trophy candidate as the NHL’s Rookie of the Year.
Still, Matthews knows nothing will be handed to him.
“My main goal is to go to (Leafs) camp and earn a spot on the team, to earn that right,” Matthews said to the Maple Leafs website. “I’m not looking too far ahead.”
Matthews, who played youth hockey in the desert for the Arizona Bobcats and Jr. Coyotes, collected 46 points (24 goals, 22 assists) in 36 games with the ZSC Lions pro team in Switzerland last season, while registering nine points (six goals, three assists) in 10 games with the United States at the IIHF World Championship and 11 points (seven goals, four assists) in seven games at the IIHF World Junior Championship.
He was also named to Team North America’s roster for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, a tournament that starts later this month in Toronto.
“Like any other player, especially a first-year player, we all know what Auston is capable of because he’s done it,” said Maple Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello. “We certainly have no pressure on Auston to do this, that, or the other. We want him to come into camp as comfortable as he possibly can. He knows we believe in him. It’s obvious. He was picked No. 1 overall. We just want him to be himself, not to try and do something out of the ordinary. Just do what he’s been doing for the number of years that he’s been playing and allow the end result to take care of itself.”
Lamoriello added that having Matthews sign his entry-level contract was never in doubt.
“First of all, I think that the comfort that I have with Auston Matthews — through spending some time with him at the World Championships and also having the opportunity to meet his family and then watching how he has handled himself throughout the process prior to the draft and then post-draft – from my end of it, and our organization’s, is exceptional,” Lamoriello said. “As far as the process as far as this contract, this was never in question — from our end of it, and I don’t think from Auston’s end of it. It was just when.”
The terms of the agreement were also never a point of contention between the Leafs and Matthews’ representation.
“The agreement took place, I would say, within 10 minutes of the first conversation that Pat Brisson and I had when we talked about Auston’s contract,” explained Lamoriello. “Pat and I have been doing contracts for a number of years together. We’ve had a lot of different players that we’ve worked with. This was never an issue at any point. Auston was No. 1 overall. The agreement that he has with the Toronto Maple Leafs, he’s earned this. He deserves what he’s getting. It was never a question from us on this. I think everyone was questioning a lot of different things for a lot of different reasons, but the comfortability with both the contract and Auston is exceptional.”
“It feels good,” Matthews added. “To me, it was never an issue or a concern, but now that I’ve signed and everything’s been agreed upon, it’s definitely a pretty special feeling.”
As far as the monetary value of the contract, Lamoriello reiterated that Matthews is getting the maximum that the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement allows.
“As far as Auston getting the maximum that the CBA allows – as I said earlier, he’s earned that,” said Lamoriello. “He deserves the max that could be given. Contracts that someone deserves, they should get.”
— Matt Mackinder