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How does Auston Matthews’ four-year contract extension affect the Edmonton Oilers?

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Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
6 months ago
Auston Matthews is a Toronto Maple Leaf for another four years.
The superstar forward at the centre of the hockey universe inked a new contract with the team on Wednesday locking him into an average annual value of $13.25-millon, Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli reported.
But the big question here isn’t about how this deal affects the Toronto Maple Leafs: it’s about how it affects the Edmonton Oilers.
You see, the Oilers have intrinsically been linked to Matthews for years. It comes with the territory of Leafs fans who clamoured for Connor McDavid, an Ontario native, in 2015 only for him to be drafted by the Edmonton Oilers. Matthews, taken a year later first overall, was a nice little consolation prize.
The comparisons have been there for years, but there’s no question about who the better of the two is with Connor McDavid far surpassing Matthews in terms of his on-ice production. What Maple Leafs fans still won’t admit, however, is that Leon Draisaitl is better than Matthews, too.

                                                  Per  Per  Per
Rk            Player   Age    From      To    GC    G    A  PTS
1     Connor McDavid 19-26 2015-16 2022-23 312.4 0.53 0.96 1.49
2     Leon Draisaitl 19-27 2014-15 2022-23 284.3 0.48 0.69 1.17
3    Auston Matthews 19-25 2016-17 2022-23 227.3 0.62 0.51 1.13
Provided by Stathead.com: View Stathead Tool Used
Generated 8/23/2023.

Where the effect really comes into play here is the salary implications of Matthews’ new deal. When it kicks in for the 2024-25 season, his cap hit will be the largest of any player in the NHL. It’ll be $750,000 more than that of McDavid’s and $4.75-million more than that of Draisaitl’s. Boy, Leon’s deal sure has been a steal, hey?
The Oilers will be reaching a major impact over the next three years from a salary cap perspective.
Draisaitl’s deal is up after the 2024-25 season and he’ll be eligible for an extension on July 1st, 2024.
McDavid’s will be up following the 2025-26 season and he can ink a new deal on July 1st, 2025.
I think you can see where I’m going here, as the Oilers are going to be in a less-than-favourable cap position when these deals are coming up. That is, unless, the NHL sees massive expansion to their salary cap like is expected. In June, The Athletic reported that some around the league believed the cap could increase between $10-million to $12-million over the next three years based on revenue.
For the Oilers, that would be very ideal. Salary cap resource site CapFriendly has $92-million as the projected salary cap in 2025-26 with the Oilers having a projected $38-million in cap space. Heading into that season, the Oilers will have to sign Draisaitl, Evan Bouchard, Cody Ceci and Ryan McLeod to new contracts, or fill their spots on the roster.
In 2026-27, the Oilers would have to have plans in place for McDavid, Evander Kane, Mattias Ekholm, Brett Kulak and Stuart Skinner.
At the end of the day, Matthews’ new deal sets the bar high for the high-end talent in the NHL, and it will be interesting to see how his deal impacts McDavid and Draisaitl’s future negotiations.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@oilersnation.com.

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