Auston Matthews’ recent four-year, $13.25 million per season extension with the Toronto Maple Leafs has not only solidified his status as the NHL’s highest-paid player but has also set the stage for contract comparisons and speculations regarding other star players whose deals expire before his new contract concludes.
Among the names that emerged in nearly instantaneous social media discussions were Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. With specific regard to Draisaitl’s current contract, one that expires at the end of the 2024-25 season, the question of his next deal’s value looms large. Draisaitl’s current contract, an $8.5 million per season “sweetheart deal,” is poised for a significant surge in the impending negotiation. The intriguing query arises — should Draisaitl earn more than Matthews? If so, how much more? And, does he even want to make more if his ultimate goal is to build the best possible team around him and reach the Stanley Cup with the Edmonton Oilers?
These are all fascinating questions and it may be too early to know the answers. Frankly, a lot can change in three years, including how well each team performs and if they’re able to get over the playoff hurdles their teams have experienced.
The Similarities Between Matthews and Draisaitl
Matthews is acclaimed as an elite scoring center, adept at creating opportunities and goals during 5v5 play while showcasing his prowess in various facets of the game. That includes an improvement in his defensive contributions. The same attributes resonate with Draisaitl, albeit with nuanced differences. Draisaitl leverages his size to control the tempo, excels on the power play, and presents a different style of play. He too can score in bunches, has a canon for a shot, and is considered elite in that regard, coming off back-to-back seasons of over 50 goals (55 and 52 in the past two campaigns).
Statistical analysis fuels the debate further. The goal-scoring leaderboard since 2016-17 reveals Matthews leading with 299 goals, closely trailed by Alex Ovechkin, Connor McDavid, and Draisaitl. Yet, Draisaitl has emerged ahead in the points category over the past five seasons. (Matthews has 410 to Draisaitl’s 537).
Finally, when you look at injuries and games played, there are real concerns with Matthews, ones that might not be as prevalent with Draisaitl.
Experts like Jason Gregor of Oilers Nation and Daily Faceoff predict that Draisaitl’s impending contract negotiations will yield comparable figures. However, this projection may be based on the assumption that Draisaitl is a bit more willing to be flexible.
One area where each player’s negotiations may vary and could affect an intriguing facet of these potentially similar deals is each player’s motivations. Oilers enthusiasts contend that Matthews aims primarily for financial gain, citing his tendency to go short-term. Meanwhile, they argue that Draisaitl prioritizes team success over individual demands. That may or may not be true — because we don’t yet know what the catalyst will be that drives Draisaitl — but because Matthews has now signed two deals that were not max term in length, there are questions about his commitment.
** To be fair, Matthews may be opening the door and the first to walk through what many see as the norm for what new deals for superstars look like in the NHL.
How Does Matthews’ Deal Change The NHL Landscape?
As discussions swirl around the implications of Matthews’ contract on his peers, the NHL community anticipates the unfolding negotiations and the precedence set by Matthews’ deal. The evolving landscape of player contracts underscores the intricate balance between financial compensation and collective success, shaping the league’s dynamic and competitive framework. In other words, did Matthews set the bar and a new trend for what these contracts will look like moving forward? If so, will Draisaitl take his cues from Wednesday’s deal?
One could argue that the next big name which will fall anywhere near what Matthews just signed, is, in fact, Draisaitl.
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