Auston Matthews has two years remaining on his contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The 24-year-old sniper just won the NHL’s Hart Trophy and put up 60 goals in a single season, becoming the first American and the first Maple Leaf ever to do that. So why are we talking about him leaving?
It all starts with the Calgary Flames. I know it’s a weird place to start, but it’s true. When both Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk decided they wanted to play elsewhere once their contracts with the Canadian team expired, the musing around the league was that Matthews would do the same.
After all, his current contract, signed immediately after his ELC expired in 2019, walks Matthews right up to free agency, where the star center will have the right to choose his next team.
According to online sportsbook Sportsbook, Matthews will choose ... the Toronto Maple Leafs. Toronto is the favorite to retain Matthews with odds at -1000. The Arizona Coyotes are next at +550 while the Florida Panthers are third at +1500.
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Auston Matthews Next Team Odds
|Toronto Maple Leafs||-1000|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||+1500|
|Vegas Golden Knights||+1800|
|Los Angeles Kings||+2000|
Odds as of August 18 from Sportsbook
Why Is Auston Matthews’ Next Team Odds Favoring The Toronto Maple Leafs?
Again, he scored 60 goals this past season and was essentially named the NHL’s MVP by winning the Hart Trophy. Since being drafted first overall by the Maple Leafs in 2016, Matthews has put up some incredible numbers: 259 goals and 457 points in 407 games.
Since entering the league in 2016-17, he ranks first in goals and 10th in points in the NHL. In terms of his place in franchise history, he already stands ninth all-time in goals and 15th in points. And he’s only 24 years old.
The Leafs are built around Matthews. The center is the cornerstone of the franchise and every move that GM Kyle Dubas makes is centered around Matthews.
Matthews is also being paid very well to do what he does. His $11.64 million AAV is the third highest in the NHL. Only Connor McDavid ($12.5 million AAV - Edmonton Oilers) and Artemi Panarin ($11.643 million AAV - New York Rangers) are paid more, on average, than Matthews.
Why leave that? Not to mention the Leafs have the second-best Stanley Cup odds for the 2022-23 season at +850. Add a Cup and there’s no way Matthews leaves.
Auston Matthews Next Team Odds: Staying Or Going?
Staying With Maple Leafs (-1000)
The only way Matthews is leaving is if the Toronto Maple Leafs can’t pay him. And while that’s certainly a possibility with the Maple Leafs currently up against the salary cap, GM Kyle Dubas has consistently signed his top players.
Dubas has traded multiple first-round picks in order to offload salary to pay/retain his top talent. There’s no doubt he will do the same for Matthews when his contract expires.
There’s a possibility another team swoops in with a more lucrative offer, but looking at the field on the oddsboard, there isn’t a team in a better place to challenge for a Cup than the Leafs.
Both the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning make for intriguing destinations because of their advantageous tax situation. Matthews could save $2.2 million of his highest-paid year if he played in Florida instead of Toronto. But the Panthers are still trying to build a squad that can consistently win in the regular season. For the Lightning, by the time Matthews’ contract is up, they should be entering a rebuilding cycle and won’t be in a place to add someone like Matthews and his contract.
But with the Leafs having $52.997 million in projected cap space by then, there’s no reason to think he’ll leave.