Matthews, Maple Leafs continue productive contract talks

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Matthews, Maple Leafs continue productive contract talks

TORONTO — Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs are having productive conversations toward a new contract, general manager Kyle Dubas said Tuesday.

“With Auston, we continue to have very healthy dialogue with (his agents) Judd Moldaver and Jeff Jackson,” Dubas said.

The 21-year-old center is in the final season of a three-year, entry-level contract and has been eligible to sign with Toronto since July 1. Matthews has 42 points (20 goals, 22 assists) in 34 games this season and 174 points (94 goals, 80 assists) in 178 games since entering the NHL in the 2016-17 season. 

 

[RELATED: Matthews, Marner look to spark Maple Leafs as new linemates]

 

Matthews, selected No.1 in the 2016 NHL Draft, missed 14 games with a shoulder injury from Oct. 29-Nov. 26 but has 26 points (10 goals, 16 assists) in 23 games since returning to the lineup.

Dubas said forward Mitchell Marner, who is also in the final year of a three-year, entry-level contract, remains intent on waiting until after the season before resuming contract discussions. Marner’s agent Darrin Ferris said that they do not plan to negotiate during the season.

“When it comes to Mitch, Darrin Ferris has been very overt in his stance on it publicly,” Dubas said. “When we have a further update, we’ll be letting everybody know.”

The 21-year-old forward leads the Maple Leafs with 61 points (19 goals, 42 assists) in 48 games and has 191 points (60 goals, 131 assists) in 207 NHL games.

Dubas said he has not been surprised to see Marner take another step forward this season and increase his production (he is already eight points shy of his total from last season, when he played 82 games). The GM said if that leads to a more lucrative contract than Toronto had originally forecasted for Marner, he would rather have that issue to contend with than a player who has stalled in his development.

“Mitch comes in, even in the dog days of the season, and he’s so happy and excited to be here, it just lifts the group,” Dubas said. “I think anybody who has as much talent as he does, that loves hockey as much as he does and works as hard as he does, you’re going to continue to see continued growth in him. I wouldn’t say it’s a surprise whatsoever, his impact on the team is immense and he’s a fantastic player that we’re very fortunate and proud to have as a Maple Leaf.”

Video: Dubas says the team is close to extending Matthews

In mid-December, Dubas said the team’s intention was to have Matthews and Marner each signed to a new contract prior to July 1, when each can become a restricted free agent, thereby avoiding the possibility of a protracted negotiation possibly stretching into next season as it did with forward William Nylander this season. Nylander agreed to a six-year contract minutes before the Dec. 1 deadline to play in the NHL this season.

“We do want to avoid the situation we were just in (with Nylander),” Dubas said in December. “It would be our intention well before July 1 that we have an agreement and both players are here long term. One way or another, we’ll get to that point.”

Contracts for Matthews and Marner are the primary focus for the Maple Leafs and until they are completed, it affects Toronto’s ability to determine whether they will be able to re-sign defenseman Jake Gardiner, who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1.

“I don’t want this to come off as anything other than reality,” Dubas said. “If we knew where all of our players would be (contractually) and what our situation was, it would help us prepare for a number of factors, but those are very big personal decisions for the players and I don’t want this to come off as we’re putting pressure on them to do so.

“It’s a life-changing decision for any player that is signing a long-term contract, not just the two of them but for many others as it was for John (Tavares) in the summer and others who’ve re-signed or signed here. Yes, it would be, selfishly for me, beneficial but for the players. I think they have to make sure they are fully comfortable in going into any arrangement when they are fully happy and ready to do so.”

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