Auston Matthews is one of the most talented forwards in the NHL. He also is up for a contract extension that can be signed this offseason. If he does not, and that’s up in the air right now, a no-move clause kicks in on Canada Day. At that point, the Toronto Maple Leafs can no longer trade him without his say-so.
He could theoretically walk to free agency when his contract expires at the end of next season. And that possibility has become a subject of speculation. What is his future with the team? What is on his mind?
Both fans and hockey analysts wonder about his next move – as I do. In this post, I’ll consider the possibilities and explore Matthews’ mindset. I’ll also speculate that Matthews will stay in Toronto and will offer four reasons why I believe he will do so.
Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Penguins, Dubas & Shanahan
Matthews Was Clear in His Season’s Exit Interviews
During his exit interviews that completed the season, Matthews spoke with the media. He was clear that he loved playing in Toronto and wished to remain a Maple Leafs’ player. From the outside looking into the team, the team seems to like each other a lot. They all expressed similar feelings that Matthews expressed.
If that’s true, and there’s no reason to doubt it, both loyalty and team camaraderie are key characteristics of this team’s members. Although Matthews grew up in the United States (specifically in Arizona), there has been speculation that he’d be attracted back home to the Phoenix area or might be lured to other warm-weather US destinations such as the Los Angeles Kings or the Anaheim Ducks.
I believe that Matthews will stay in Toronto, and here are four reasons why I believe this is the case.
Reason One: Matthews Sees the World Differently
But Matthews seems to see it differently. He expressed that he’s enjoyed being a Maple Leaf and that he intends to negotiate a contract extension. Given the tightness of the team, he might prioritize winning a Stanley Cup with the core of teammates he’s grown up with (in a professional sense) and has suffered postseason defeat with over the past seven years.
He could be one of a few NHL stars that reject the trend of superstar departures from a team. Instead of seeking immediate success as an addition to another team, perhaps he valued the fulfilment that comes from winning after enduring adversity. Perhaps he also believes he could become the leader of the Maple Leafs’ first Stanley Cup after so many postseasons of failure.
Related: Former Maple Leafs GM Shares Regrets About Leaving the Team
Reason Two: Matthews Has Grown and Matured
Matthews was a teenager when he first suited up with the team. Fans have seen him grow and mature over recent years. While he hasn’t always been a role model for good behaviour, he seems to have distanced himself from those past incidents that put a smudge beside his name. Instead, he’s focused on becoming a better player. His on-ice performance has been beyond solid.
He also wants desperately to win. That was obvious when he embraced his father after the team eliminated the Lightning from the playoffs. Such behaviour seems to demonstrate his commitment to winning hockey. He’s grown in his leadership; and, at the same time, his commitment to his team has deepened.
There’s some speculation that he’s played through Round 2 injuries, but that was never obvious. He remains determined to work hard and improve. The result is to lead his team to playoff success.
Reason Three: Matthews Has Gained More Self-Confidence and Found His Identity
It isn’t as though Matthews has been immune from critique. There’s a certain group of Maple Leafs’ fans who point to his postseason play as less than acceptable. Yet, despite criticism and expectations, Matthews exudes self-assurance. He seems more than comfortable in his own skin.
Part of that confidence must come from the impressive collection of trophies and accolades he’s gathered over the past few seasons. He won the Calder Trophy as a rookie; he’s won two Rocket Richard Trophies, the Ted Lindsay Award, and the 2021-22 Hart Trophy. It isn’t likely that he’ll lose much sleep over any suggestions from fans that he needs to become more physical – even to fight – if he’s going to become more effective on the ice.
Reason Four: Matthews Wants to Lead This Maple Leafs’ Team
Matthews wants to help his team win the Stanley Cup. Sadly, to me and I would guess to him, he won’t win that Cup with his former general manager Kyle Dubas. While some fans believe Matthews and Dubas were not close, my logic and everything I see would seem to indicate that is probably not true.
As I noted before, I believe that one key reason Matthews will stay in Toronto is that he sees himself as the on-ice leader for this team’s first Stanley Cup win in almost 60 years. He believes he is Toronto’s future. And that’s a good thing that speaks of confidence and not arrogance.
My guess – and it’s just that – is that Matthews will spend his career leading the Maple Leafs to a Stanley Cup or he’ll retire trying.
The Bottom Line
So much of this post is speculative and relies on my reading of the five seasons I’ve watched Matthews play with the Blue and White. I believe Matthew will stay with the team because his mindset revolves around his desire to win a Stanley Cup with the Maple Leafs.
It’s just that simple. Despite external speculation, he’s expressed his joy and loyalty towards the organization and his love for his teammates. He’s a comrade in arms with the other members of this team. He wants to win with his friends.
Matthews is mature, self-confident, and he believes he can lead this group of guys to a championship. Matthews remains a beacon of hope for Maple Leafs fans.
Related: Maple Leafs’ Fans Learning More About Behind-the-Scenes Moves
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May 22, 2023 at 1:26 am
His chances of winning will depend on the new coach and roster. Will he stay if the Leafs hire a dinosaur coach? What if it’s Brad Treluving, who did some things right but a lot wrong?
May 22, 2023 at 5:05 am
Almost every single player always says they love their team, their fans, playing there, etc. However, almost every one of them dump their team when presented a batter contract somewhere else.
May 22, 2023 at 5:15 am
Matthews has seemingly developed as a human being and player more than the rest of the core 4, that is true. However, if Matthews prioritized winning a Cup, he would have put in way more effort in those first 3 round 2 games. Talk is cheap. Actions speak louder than words. Same comment applies to his talk of wanting to stay vs only getting a 5 year contract to hit the UFA market first thing!
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