Mats Sundin, Dave Keon, Darryl Sittler, Borje Salming are the four Toronto stars at the top of franchise points list who retired in another team’s sweater.
Auston Matthews isn’t a ‘Leaf for life’ quite yet, but is now signed past his 30th birthday, soon poised to be the highest-paid NHLer. And he still could wear the scoring crown and the Maple Leaf — permanently.
While the Leafs might have been thinking of a longer extension with that in mind, at least to to avoid going through this dance again in the summer of 2027, news of Wednesday’s four-year extension does put Sundin’s goal record of 420 and points total of 987 on the clock.
Matthews, in fewer than 50% of Sundin’s regular-season games, is already at 299 goals in 481 appearances. In points, he trails current right-wing teammate Mitch Marner by 19, in 26 fewer games because of injury and suspension, while both are past the halfway mark of Sundin.
Matthews, in the twilight years of John Tavares, must also be in the conversation again as the future team captain. It’s an exalted position that three of the four aforementioned club stars held (Salming declined the ‘C’ to his lasting regret) and it would’ve gone to Matthews in the 2018-19 season had he not been mixed up in a disorderly conduct charge that summer.
That anointing is well down the road. What Leafs Nation and new general manager Brad Treliving want for the next few years is the return on their $13.25 million US average annual value investment that kicks in next summer.
They want to see Matthews healthy, happy and truly make this his team and have Marner, William Nylander, the Core Four and other elements ride the wave. They seek the same as Connor McDavid’s contributions to Edmonton — for what will be less money than Matthews as of 2024.
They want spring production from Matthews that matches autumn and winter or the post-season success any number of teams with lower salary structures have managed versus one series win by the Leafs since Matthews arrived.
Be assured Matthews hears that griping. He’s in the not-so-exclusive group of Hart Trophy winners who didn’t or have yet to win a Cup. He’s not had more than five goals in any of his seven playoffs.
At least the fear of him haunting Toronto in another jersey has now abated with the extension, not that many seriously thought he’d let his Leafs time lapse and embrace being the big fish in a small pond back home in Arizona or somewhere else.
On the heels of Nylander saying Wednesday he wished to remain a Leaf amid his contract stalemate, with Marner and Tavares here at least two more seasons and defenceman Morgan Rielly beyond that, the cloud over training camp should lift, too.
There is less chance of Matthews repeating Sundin’s awkward exit, the latter torn between loyalty to a faded Leafs era and his own trade commodity. All parties dithered and the Leafs received nothing when he played out his days in Vancouver.
Keon and Sittler both had enough of rogue owner Harold Ballard at the end, glad to move on to the World Hockey Association and the Philadelphia Flyers, respectively, Salming to a lesser extent as a Detroit Red Wing.
Matthews has five years to author a much happier script.
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Most points in Leafs history
*Mats Sundin 981/987
*Darryl Sittler 844/916
*Dave Keon 1,062/858
*Borje Salming 1,099/768
George Armstrong 1,118 /713
Ron Ellis 1,034/640
*Frank Mahovlich 720/597
*Bob Pulford 947/563
Ted Kennedy 696/560
Mitch Marner 507/554
Auston Matthews 481/542
*Did not finish career with Leafs