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Toronto Maple Leafs

Friedman wonders about timeline of Matthews and Marner extensions

Chris Nichols

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(John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)

The Toronto Maple Leafs have some important contract work on the horizon, although it could be interesting to see how quickly the key core players actually put pen to paper on their new deals.

Restricted free agent William Nylander will need a new pact before next season begins as his entry-level contract expires, but Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner each still has one season remaining before they absolutely must have a new contract.

We’ve become somewhat accustomed to seeing higher-end players signing contract extensions a year out from restricted or unrestricted free agency, but is there really necessarily a rush from the players’ perspectives to get these deals done?

Elliotte Friedman had a Friday afternoon radio hit on Edmonton’s 630 CHED.

During a longer discussion on the Leafs’ news of the day with Kyle Dubas having been named general manager, the NHL Insider was asked if the team could sign all three players and still get in on a free agent like defenseman John Carlson.  

“I don’t know if they’re going to do a John Carlson, to be perfectly honest,” said Friedman. “I think Nylander is probably a bridge deal right now. I don’t think they were hugely happy with the way he finished the season. I think if I was Nylander I’d bet on myself on a short-term bridge and go from there. I think if you sign a long-term a year ago (based on) the kind of year he had a year ago, his number would be much higher. So I don’t know if that’s as much of a concern right now.

“I think the thing that’s interesting is I’m not convinced that Matthews and Marner will sign this year. Now, I’m not saying it won’t happen. But I really believe it was a slam dunk that Edmonton was going to do whatever it could to get McDavid done last year and they did. I think Toronto will ask both of those players, but I’m not convinced that those players are going to do it yet.

“Again, you always wonder about these things turning into headlines, but I will just say this and I hope people will take it for the way I’m saying it: It’s that it wouldn’t be a huge surprise, I think, to a lot of people if Matthews and Marner both began next year unsigned.”

Again, the entry-level contracts for Matthews and Marner still run for another season. There’s not necessarily any rush to get an extension done, but they could be signed as early as July 1.

One upside of waiting a year can be that another bump up in the salary cap can combine with positive production on the ice to net a higher payday, while still only counting for the same percentage of the team’s cap hit as had the player signed the contract a year earlier.

Whenever they sign, Matthews and Marner will clearly be rewarded handsomely.

Source: 630 CHED, CapFriendly

NHL Insiders. 17-year digital media hockey career includes a combined decade online with Sportsnet and ESPN.

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