If one of the best goalscorers in the National Hockey League becomes available, every organization will be trying to figure out what they can do to land him. A former 60-goal scorer, Auston Matthews is one of the league’s best talents. He is one of the most in-demand players in the league because he can do what is so difficult, put the puck in the net. Scoring is always needed and so he will be a popular man if he hits the market.
This is a particularly thin free-agent class so the trade market is going to be the best way for teams to approach improving their roster. If Toronto were to make their first-line center available, he would be the best player to hit the market possibly since Eric Lindros back in 1993. That was for a 1st overall pick that did not want to sign in Quebec, and this is for one of the best goal-scorers in the league.
This was a relatively down year for Auston Matthews. He “only” recorded 40 goals and 45 assists for 85 points in 74 games. Last season, he recorded 60 goals in 73 games. He also had 43 assists to crack 103 points for the Maple Leafs. This is quite a talented player and he is just 25 years old. He’s about to enter the prime of his career and he could be a force in this league for a while if in the right situation.
As much as I can pump the tires on the San Roman, California native, there are some drawbacks. He’s going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. Perhaps the only reason Toronto would move him now is because it is before his trade protection kicks in and he makes a metric butt-ton against the cap. That is not an NHL-recognized amount, but it is accurate for describing his contract.
If this is a deal that comes with an extension, Matthews is going to be a desired asset but he’s also going to become the most expensive player in the league. Currently, the highest-paid player is Connor McDavid at $12.5 million a year. Nathan MacKinnon is set to surpass that at the start of next year at $12.6 million a year. Matthews is going to pass them both, at least until McDavid is up for renewal again in a couple of seasons.
This would be the dream for New York and I think it works both ways to be completely honest. Assuming Drury could get Matthews to agree to a reasonable number in New York, but let’s assume he knows roughly the price before the deal and the extension is worked out after the fact so Toronto has no reason to ask for more for the sake of a few more years on his contract.
Lafreniere has not quite lived up to his draft slot, but he’s not been underperforming. Considering he’s still a 21-year-old 40-point producer, he’s good quality as an NHLer. Not quite the 1st overall pick Matthews was all those years ago, but it’s still justifiable to consider him a good enough piece to move here. He has good value.
Zibanejad would have to waive his no-movement clause. There is no reason he should or would, but let’s say for the sake of argument he does. It’s a step down from Matthews, but not a major step down. Mika is older, but he’s also cheaper and is under contract for longer. The 2023 1st should be enough to make up the value for the Leafs. This is not going to happen, but I thought this was at least plausible.