The 25-year-old superstar, who’s signed through 2023-24, arrived at training camp on Wednesday and was asked by reporters about his potential future with the franchise — a question that’s been widely debated all summer.
Matthews responded by professing his love for Toronto, explaining how much he has enjoyed his six seasons with the Maple Leafs. The San Ramon, Calif., native, who grew up in Arizona, refers to the city as his second home.
“I’ve loved my time here,” Matthews said. “I really love playing in the city of Toronto, I consider it home now. So I’ve really enjoyed my time. My teammates have been incredible year after year. It’s nice to have the support this city brings.”
Every Maple Leafs fan wants to know if Matthews will remain in Toronto long-term, but after losing in the first round for six straight playoffs, he’s more focused on changing that narrative this season.
“I’m focused on winning, on continuing to improve and help push this team over the edge,” Matthews said. “I understand why you [media] guys want to talk about it, but at the same time, there’s nothing that can be done. I’m under contract for two more years. I can’t extend for another 10 months.”
By all accounts, there’s plenty of interest from both sides to eventually agree on a lucrative multi-year contract extension. But it remains to be seen when pen will be put to paper.
Playing for a big-market franchise isn’t for everyone, but Matthews has been blown away by how the fan base has supported him over the years. They welcomed the 6-foot-3 forward with open arms as a rookie, and he’s done the same since debuting in 2016.
“The city has embraced the players, embraced myself, my family,” Matthews said. “I have grown comfortable in my own skin here. It’s not easy to do that at times. It’s such a special place to play.
“A lot of history here and it’s a big honour to go out every night and wear the Maple Leaf on my chest. It’s something I don’t think I’ll ever take for granted. I really appreciate it. It’s felt like home for a while. It’s just an awesome place to play.”
When Matthews does sign his next contract, it certainly won’t come cheap, especially after Colorado Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon became the highest-paid player in the league, signing an eight-year, $100.8-million deal earlier this week.
Auston Matthews discusses Nathan MacKinnon's new contract, and how it may or may not relate to his own contract situation a couple years from now. pic.twitter.com/gV2hHeqMvZ
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) September 21, 2022
Matthews dominated on the ice last season, posting 60 goals and 106 points in 73 games. The four-time All-Star won the Hart Trophy, Ted Lindsay Award and a second-straight Maurice Richard Trophy.
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