NHL Rumour Report: Auston Matthews' uncertain future with the Leafs


The end of Auston Matthews' 5 year extension with Toronto looms on the horizon.

- We're still a ways away from a full-scale Auston Matthews frenzy, but the first rumours have already begun to surface.
 
- Not a free agent until 2024 but eligible for an extension with Toronto in 2023, the chatter about Matthews' future with the franchise that took him first overall in 2016 has started to pick up.
 
- When Matthews signed his 5 year extension with Toronto that could walk him into free agency in 2024, there were a lot of questions about his desire to remain a Leaf long term. That chatter only started to build over the years with reports of a rift with then head coach Mike Babcock. 
 
- It was, or perhaps is, not entirely clear that Matthews wishes to be in Toronto long term. Fans of the Leafs have long feared their American superstar has his eyes on a return to the United States, either to hometown Arizona or a big market such as LA or New York. Of course, it's hard to picture Matthews joining a cap floor and generally-struggling franchise like the Coyotes any time soon.
 
- Recent reports suggest Matthews has warmed up to the idea of an extension with Toronto, having a desire to play on the big stage for a competitive team. But those reports also strongly suggest an extension is contingent on the Leafs remaining competitive through that deal. Toronto has excelled through recent regular seasons only to be stifled by a variety of teams in the opening round.
 
- All 32 teams would be interested in a free agent Matthews in 2024. But how many could realistically pay for his services? Only playoff competitive cap ceiling teams with enough space to fit him in. Matthews Watch should make for a compelling storyline over the coming years as Toronto does its best to convince their franchise forward to stay put for a while longer.

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