Leafs’ Matthews encouraged by progress on contract extension talks

HC analyst Brian Burke uses all his front office experience to speculate on what "healthy dialogue" means between the Maple Leafs and Auston Matthews' camp with regards to a new contract.

TORONTO — Auston Matthews is encouraged but not preoccupied by the advancement of his camp’s contract extension talks with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

General manager Kyle Dubas told reporters Tuesday that he and Matthews’ agent, Judd Moldaver, had taken positive steps toward structuring a deal that will keep the 21-year-old franchise centre in blue and white.

“They’re obviously talking and making some progress. And that’s great. I’m not really too worried or too focused about it,” Matthews said Wednesday, ahead of a showdown versus the Washington Capitals. “I let my agent kinda handle it. I don’t really talk to him much about it.

“If they get something done and my agent comes to me and says, ‘You know, I think we’re ready to sign,’ then we’ll sit down and figure it out. But for right now, my focus is here, on this team, on tonight’s game.

“When it’s ready, it’ll be there.”

Matthews is due to become a restricted free agent on July 1 and, despite battling a shoulder injury and a recent goal slump, has racked up 20 goals and 42 points through the first 30 appearances of his platform season.

His next extension has the potential to raise the bar set by fellow first-overall pick Connor McDavid’s eight-year, $100-million contract signed in 2017.

Matthews said he hasn’t consulted much with teammate William Nylander, the first high-profile RFA to negotiate with the Leafs’ rookie GM.

Moldaver reiterated to Sportsnet earlier this month that Matthews has every wish to remain a Maple Leaf.

Dubas would prefer to lock up his superstar ahead of February’s trade deadline to give the club a clearer salary-cap picture moving forward.

“Yes, it would be selfishly for me beneficial,” Dubas said. “But for the players I think they have to make sure they’re fully comfortable in going into any arrangement when they’re fully happy and ready to do so.”

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