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NHL Notebook: Insider believes Auston Matthews will command league’s highest average annual salary

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Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Cam Lewis
9 months ago
On July 1, Auston Matthews will be eligible to sign a contract extension with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Is he going to stick around long-term? Or will he test the free-agent market?
Over the past week, Sportsnet insider Elliotte Friedman has said multiple times (first on the Jeff Marek show and then on 32 Thoughts) that he believes that Matthews will re-sign in Toronto to a mid-length contract that’ll give him the highest average annual salary in the league…
“Auston Matthews had an availability [on Tuesday] and he wants to stay. I believe that. I’ve been on record many times saying that I think they’re going to sign a medium-term contract extension at a big number that’ll likely make him the highest-paid player on AAV in the NHL.”
It really won’t take much of a raise for Matthews to slide into that top spot. The five-year contract that Matthews inked in February of 2019 features an $11,634,000 average annual salary, which is set to be the fourth-highest in the NHL next season behind only Nathan MacKinnon, Connor McDavid, and Artemi Panarin.
The NHL’s salary cap ceiling is expected to see a significant rise after a few years of stagnation as the NHLPA repays pandemic-related debts back to the owners. If those debts are paid off, the assumption is that the NHL’s cap ceiling will jump to $88 million for the 2024-25 season, which would be the first season of Matthews’ next contract.

Quick notes from around the NHL…

  • The Arizona Coyotes are no closer to finding a permanent home in the desert but they’ll continue to play at Arizona State University’s Mullett Arena for the 2023-24 season. The Coyotes had their plan for a $2.1 billion entertainment district, with a 16,000-seat arena at its center, in Tempe shot down by voters on Tuesday. There’s been talk that the Coyotes could move to Houston, Salt Lake City, Quebec City, or even Atlanta, but they won’t be packing up this summer. Also, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said on Twitter that the Kansas City Coyotes has a nice ring to it.
  • The Pittsburgh Penguins are looking for somebody to lead their hockey operations department after president Brian Burke and general manager Rox Hextall were let go from their roles a few weeks ago. Some names that are reportedly in the mix to lead the Penguins are former Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli, former Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin, Lightning assistant GM Mathieu Darche, Stars director of scouting and player development Steve Greeley, Hurricanes assistant GM Eric Tulsky, New Jersey Devils assistant GMs Dan MacKinnon and Kate Madigan, Devils director of player development Meghan Duggan.
  • Over at Daily Faceoff, Mike McKenna suggested that this summer is the best time San Jose Sharks general manager Mike Grier will have to trade defenceman Erik Karlsson… “I think that they need to move Erik Karlsson. If you’re Mike Grier and you can’t get assets for what Karlsson is worth at this point, you’re never going to see it again. He’s coming off of a 100-point season as a defenseman, we haven’t seen that since Brian Leetch in what seems like a century ago at this point. Teams could use his offensive boost but he’s a very strict set of parameters for what you need. He’s not a shutdown guy, he won’t kill penalties, you’re bringing him in to put points up.”

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