Maple Leafs sign Auston Matthews to five-year extension

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The Toronto Maple Leafs locked up star centre Auston Matthews on Tuesday, signing the 21-year-old to a five-year contract extension with an average annual value of US$11.634 million. "We went from everything from three (years) to eight, and we kind of settled on five and I think both sides are obviously happy".

Matthews is fourth in scoring on the team with 46 points (23 goals and 23 assists).

Matthews has only played 38 of Toronto's 52 games due to injury, however.

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Toronto also needs to work out a contract with its leading scorer, forward Mitchell Marner (63 points; 20 goals, 43 assists), who can become an RFA on July 1. At US$11.634-million, Matthews's share comes in at 14 per cent, which is a good move by the Leafs.

This deal is slightly less than what Connor McDavid signed for with the Oilers in July 2017 as the 2016-17 Hart Trophy victor earns about $12.5 million annually.

The Maple Leafs, of course, also signed William Nylander to a huge extension through 2024 after Nylander held out for the first leg of the season. He will make just $750,000 in salary each of the five years while getting bonuses of $15.2 million, $15.2 million, 9.7 million, 7.2 million and $7.2 million.

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Some have speculated that the potential extension for Auston Matthews has been shortened from 8 years to 5-6 years, sparking the recent progress in contract negotiations. Since Matthews was drafted first overall in 2016, only Alex Ovechkin has scored more goals per game among players who have played at least 50 games.

The average annual value of the contract is $11.634 million.

That said, it's highly unlikely that the Leafs are going to make Marner the highest paid winger in the game over two players who've been among the best wingers in the National Hockey League for multiple years.

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This much is clear: Whichever route Matthews and Marner choose to take, their decisions will have important implications for the future success of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Forwards Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson are eligible to become restricted free agents while defenceman Jake Gardiner is headed towards unrestricted free agency.

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