The Matthews Commitment: How the Maple Leafs Navigate the Path to the Stanley Cup

Maple Leafs star player on the ice.

The NHL’s 2024 offseason witnessed a pivotal moment for the Toronto Maple Leafs: Auston Matthews sealed a four-year contract extension. This contract dictates a significant portion of the team’s strategy for the next five years. Their goal? To capitalize on having one of the game’s premier talents and finally break a long-standing championship drought.

Auston Matthews: A Jewel in Toronto’s Crown

Matthews, previously the top draft pick, is undeniably among the elite in the NHL. His performance metrics are compelling:

  • Goals since 2016-17 season: 299
  • Total points from 481 games: 542
  • League ranking based on points: 11th

This sheer output has been unmatched by any player over this span. With figures like these, the extension seems a no-brainer for the Maple Leafs. However, it comes with the challenge of building a championship-caliber team around him.

The Weight of a Contract: Financial Implications

Matthews’ extension locks him in with the Leafs through the 2027-28 season at a price tag slightly above $64.6 million. The inherent question then becomes, will this heavy financial commitment inhibit the Leafs from strengthening their roster?

“Matthews will be worth every cent that hits his bank account.”

This statement is often echoed in the NHL circles, emphasizing the value Matthews brings to the Leafs.

The Five-Year Challenge

Having a talent like Matthews is both a boon and a challenge. The Leafs find themselves with a five-year runway to leverage his prime years and make aggressive moves to secure the Stanley Cup, a trophy that’s eluded them for 56 years.

Certainly, the weight of the clock’s ticking grows heavier on the Maple Leafs’ shoulders, given their storied history and long-absent silverware. The acquisition of Matthews was not just an addition of a star player but the embodiment of renewed hope for countless fans. Now, with the five-year timeline, there’s an underlying sense of urgency permeating every decision the management makes. Beyond roster changes and salary cap adjustments, they must cultivate a winning culture that not only capitalizes on Matthews’ prime years but also galvanizes other team members to transcend their best. Every game, strategy, and trade will be a calculated step, not just for immediate victories, but to lay the foundation for a dynasty that can eventually bring the Stanley Cup home to its eager Toronto fans.

Roster Dynamics: Existing Contracts & Future Signings

The Leafs have a formidable lineup for the 2023-24 season. Alongside Matthews, the roster boasts other talents like:

  • John Tavares
  • Mitchell Marner
  • William Nylander

Beyond this season, though, there are uncertainties.

According to CapFriendly, the Maple Leafs’ financial commitments for the 2024-25 season amount to a little over $54 million for 12 players. If projections hold, and the salary cap increases to $87.5 million, the Leafs will have approximately $33 million to bolster their lineup.

The Nylander Equation

One major decision revolves around William Nylander. A long-term extension for this 40-goal scorer could consume nearly a third of the available cap space. However, Nylander isn’t alone. The list of players poised for unrestricted free agency in 2024 is sizeable:

Player NamePosition
William NylanderRW
Tyler BertuzziLW
T.J. BrodieD
John KlingbergD
Mark GiordanoD
Jake MuzzinD
Matt MurrayG
Ilya SamsonovG

Additionally, defenseman Timothy Liljegren and forward Nic Robertson will be restricted free agents at season’s end.

Maple Leafs teammates celebrating a goal together.

Treliving’s Strategy: Being Bold and Innovative

Brad Treliving, Toronto’s general manager, is at the helm of these critical decisions. Treliving has a reputation for thinking outside the box, making him an intriguing figure over the next two years.

The team has some significant decisions to make, particularly surrounding core players:

  • John Tavares: As captain, Tavares is a crucial figure. However, post the 2023-24 season, his $11 million contract could be a potential trade piece, especially as he’ll be 33 and nearing its end.
  • Mitchell Marner: Holding two more years on his contract, Marner’s extension could significantly impact the salary cap. The question arises, will Treliving consider trading him if a tempting offer appears?

“As talented as the current core is, it has produced 21 playoff wins in the last seven seasons. That won’t cut it in Toronto.”

This sentiment summarizes the pressure on Treliving and the Maple Leafs. It’s imperative they optimize their roster while Matthews is at the pinnacle of his career.

The Defensive Landscape

While much attention is on the forward lines, the Leafs’ defensive unit also demands consideration. Post the 2023-24 season, only Morgan Rielly, Jake McCabe, and Conor Timmins remain under contract. Treliving must prioritize securing a top-tier defenseman to partner with Rielly, be it through trades or free agency.

The Stamkos Opportunity?

Looking forward, a potential target could be Steven Stamkos. Born near Toronto, he’s projected to become a free agent soon. If the Lightning fails to secure Stamkos, Toronto might be a compelling destination, especially if the Leafs falter in the 2024 playoffs. The idea of Stamkos taking a “hometown discount” to chase the Cup is tantalizing for many Leafs fans.

A Crucial Half-Decade

With Matthews cemented for five years, the ball is in Treliving’s court. He has the resources, both in terms of players and financial capabilities. But, will he craft a championship team around Matthews? Only time will tell if the Leafs can bring the Stanley Cup back to Toronto.

Hockey Expert
reviewed by: Jeremy Karamen (Hockey Expert)

Share this article

More News
More links
Follow us