NHL Rumour Report: Auston Matthews won't commit to Leafs on July 1; trade now a possibility?

Leafs management always knew it might get to this point when they signed Auston Matthews to a 5 year extension in 2018.

- The Maple Leafs find themselves in a bit of a bind. Auston Matthews, their franchise centerman who is about to enter the last of his 5 year extension in Toronto, appears far from a sure thing to sign another pact with the team that took him first overall in 2016.

- All indications were that Matthews was ready and willing to sign a 4 or 5 year deal to stay in Toronto, but that was before bombshell news rocked the hockey world on May 19th: the Leafs would not be renewing the contract of GM Kyle Dubas.

- Matthews' camp had built a very close relationship with Dubas, and were on the same page in terms of the direction of the team. The departure of Dubas throws all predictions that Matthews was sure to extend out the window.

- The Leafs have just weeks to find a GM to deal with a myriad of in-house contractual decisions and prepare for the upcoming draft and free agency periods. But the key task of the new GM will be to quickly build rapport with Matthews and convince him that the team is still on track to compete for the foreseeable future. That is not going to be easy, to say the least.

- If Matthews gets to July 1st, he has a full no-move clause that kicks in, making him untradable before he can simply walk to free agency in the summer of 2024. That means the Leafs have the choice of trying to trade Matthews before this July 1st, or let his trade protection kick in, giving him unlimited leverage on his contract extension. Or, in the Leafs' nightmare scenario, he could refuse to sign and cost the Leafs whatever assets they could have gotten back for him in a trade.

- Matthews' leverage could also be used to put pressure on whatever new manager comes in on roster construction. Rumblings suggest the Leafs are at least considering trading one of Mitch Marner and William Nylander. Would Matthews use his pull to prevent either trade from happening? It makes sense that Matthews' camp would wait until all of the negotiating leverage shifts to him on July 1st, regardless of whether he plans or to stay or not.

- Reports suggest the Leafs are looking for a manager that is willing to make tough decisions regardless of how the core feels. We'll soon find out how Matthews, Marner and Nylander feel about that manager - and if it could mean one or more of them are out the door when their contracts expire in the coming years.

- To call this offseason a big one for the Leafs would be an understatement. It is enormous. Toronto is expected to begin its search for a new GM in the coming days. Stay tuned.

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