When Bryan Hayes and Dave Poulin discussed Auston Matthews’ extension on the OverDrive Show this week, the discussion turned to why the Toronto Maple Leafs treat Matthews differently than everyone else on the roster and how that might affect future negotiations with players like Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and John Tavares. Poulin said, “Of the core four, Matthews is the core,” and that led to more discussion, both hosts wondering if there’s a world in which all members of the core except Matthews is gone. Poulin said he could see it.
Hayes argued Matthews is “the institution” and said he’s synonymous with being a Maple Leaf. And, while he also contended that there’s some feeling with the other three that they too are Maple Leafs, it’s just not to the same degree as Matthews is considered the player you simply don’t let leave.
He went on to say that he’s not sure what Tavares’ future is in Toronto, but everyone knows he won’t be making the same money if he stays after his contract is up. Poulin then said, “So that is one step of the core four.” Hayes then added, “Willie is a year away, and Marner is a year away from being able to negotiate an extension. Do you think they go at those two differently than they do Matthews?” Poulin said yes, to which Hayes said, “Cause they didn’t really the last time.”
When Poulin argued this is a different management group and they will get another two years to see if this group will work. “But at the end of two years, Marner hasn’t signed and it hasn’t worked, Tavares is leaving, not sure what happens with Willie, at some point, you have to look around…”
Hayes then asked if he could see a world, where in three years “only Matthews is here?” Poulin said he could and then noted there “would have to be a major, major trade involved, maybe two.”
They Already Changed the General Manager
Saying the first thing that changed was the GM, both suggested that the optics of why the change at the position matters, a change was made. That suggests the only change left in three years would be the players because one can’t imagine the coach surviving another year of no playoff success.
Hayes suggested that Brad Treliving has already talked about making this team less about the core four, but argues that doesn’t start with Matthews because he’s the top dog and he gets different billing than everyone else. If the other members of the core four don’t start to set limits on how much they’ll be paid so that the team can build around them, the Maple Leafs will likely never be as successful as past champions who have done it.
Is There One Saving Grace?
When Hayes suggested that Marner sees himself as Core 1A, and there’s no reason he would be the player to set those new limits, Poulin interjected and said, “You’d better hope the cap is going up a lot.” Both agreed the money would go up, but it’s not entirely clear by how much.
“The Leafs, at some point, have got to put their stake in the ground,” said Hayes. “If it wasn’t going to be for Matthews, and it can’t be for Tavares, because the ink is dry… Nylander or Marner. I think it’s gotta be both.”
Saying that the opportunity to establish that standard comes first with Nylander, Hayes said if it takes all year, or it takes all year and he walks, that’s not the worst thing for this franchise to have to experience.
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