TORONTO – 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.
With William Nylander having signed a new six-year deal in December worth $10.2 million this season and $6.9 million the following seasons, that leaves stylish winger Mitch Marner on Leafs GM Kyle Dubas’ to-do list.
Like Marner, Matthews was eligible to become a restricted free agent on July 1 after their three-year rookie deals expire. Contract talks with Marner, however, have been put on hold until after the season at his agent’s request.
WATCH: Leafs GM Kyle Dubas says long-term deal for Matthews gives team flexibility, balance
“We understand the cap restraints that we have, and that the league and every single team has,” Matthews told reporters Tuesday. “We went from everything from three (years) to eight, and we kind of settled on five and I think both sides are obviously happy.
“Happy to kind of get this over with and move on.”
The 21-year-old Marner leads the Leafs in scoring this season with 63 points (20 goals and 43 assists). Veteran centre John Tavares is second with 56 points (31 goals and 25 assists) with defenceman Morgan Rielly third with 52 (13 goals and 39 assists) and Matthews fourth with 46 (23 goals and 23 assists).
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Matthews has only played 38 of Toronto’s 52 games due to injury, however.
The 34 at the end of the annual value of his new deal appears to be a nod to Matthews’ uniform number.
Tavares signed a $77-million, seven-year deal with Toronto as a free agent last July.
Between Tavares, Matthews and Nylander, the Maple Leafs are on the hook for $177 million.
According to reports, the bulk of Matthews’ deal is in signing bonuses. 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.
Tavares also went the bonus route with a salary listed at a mere $650,000 this season. Reportedly almost $71 million of his Toronto deal is in the form of signing bonuses.
Matthews’ three-year entry-level deal called for him to make the maximum $925,000 a year. The first overall draft pick in 2016, has 97 goals and 81 assists in 182 regular-season games with the Leafs.
The former NHL rookie of the year from Scottsdale, Ariz., has also represented Toronto at the NHL all-star game in each of his three seasons.
“I don’t think there’s anything like playing in this city,” Matthews said of his NHL home. “From our fans, the support we get day in and day out, walking around the street getting recognized, I mean that’s not something I imagined when I was a kid growing up in Arizona.”
WATCH: Auston Matthews: The goal is to bring a Stanley Cup to Toronto
In addition to Marner, Toronto has some more loose ends. Forwards Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson are eligible to become restricted free agents while defenceman Jake Gardiner is headed towards unrestricted free agency.
Toronto hosts the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday.