Heading into an offseason that promises plenty of big changes, Chris Johnston of NorthStarBets.ca reports the Toronto Maple Leafs top priority is obvious. Johnston writes that signing Auston Matthews to a long-term high-priced contract has to be the team’s number one priority and filling in the pieces around him can come next.
Matthews is now heading into the final year of his current contract after the Leafs were knocked out of the playoffs by the Florida Panthers in five games. Matthews has earned just over $11.6MM per season since his entry-level contract expired in 2019 and is due a raise on that enormous contract. Matthews has a strong case to surpass Nathan MacKinnon’s $12.6MM annual cap hit as the highest paid player in the league, but Johnston believes the Maple Leafs need to do whatever it takes to get the 25 year old’s name on a new contract and they are eligible to do that as soon as July 1.
The Maple Leafs have some other huge questions to answer this offseason. William Nylander is also eligible to sign a contract extension as he could be an unrestricted free agent in 2024, like Matthews. Mitch Marner and John Tavares has just two years left on their contracts, but no decision needs to be made on them quite yet. Off the ice, general manager Kyle Dubas is also a free agent as his contract expires on June 30. Head coach Sheldon Keefe has one year left on his contract and the team needs to decide if they extend him, replace him or let him ride out the final year of his deal.
- Also in Leaf Land, Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sun reports Joseph Woll will return to the Toronto Marlies next week. Woll was the team’s number three netminder most of the season behind Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov, but with both of those goalies injured in the playoffs, Woll started the final two games of the Maple Leafs season. Murray was great for the Toronto Marlies in the AHL this season, posting a 2.37 GAA and a .927 SV% in 21 games. The Marlies are facing elimination after losing the first two games of their Best-of-5 Division Final series and will play Game 3 on Wednesday.
- Speaking of Toronto Marlies goaltenders, Dennis Hildeby was returned to the AHL earlier today per the AHL transactions page. He was called up after Samsonov’s injury and served as the Maple Leafs third string, in case of emergency goalie in the final few games of the postseason. The 21 year old played most of this season in Sweden’s SHL with Farjestad and was the Maple Leafs fourth round pick in 2022.