Auston Matthews recently signed a contract extension with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The specifics can be seen below. That contract will make him the highest-paid player in the NHL when it kicks in during the 2024-25 season.

However, it might have also set a stage for how new contracts are signed in the NHL for elite players.

One interesting thing is that (as PuckPedia shows above), Matthews’ four-year, $53-million deal comes with a twist. Of the contract’s payments, 94 percent will be paid in signing bonuses.

Related: Tavares Weighs in on Matthews New Maple Leafs Contract

Matthews Signing Bonus Strategy

This contract structure is quite unconventional, with signing bonuses constituting the bulk of the payments. Signing bonuses, which are paid on the first day of the league year, provide financial security. They are especially appealing in an unpredictable sports landscape. Matthews’ contract structure is interesting for several reasons.

Reason One: Short-Term Gains with Long-Term Vision

Matthews decided to sign a shorter-term contract. That contract plays in his favour, especially with the NHL’s salary cap continuing to rise.

His first two years of the extension will pay him the NHL minimum salary of just $775,000 per season. During the final two years of Matthews’ contract, the NHL’s minimum salary will increase to $900,000 annually. Matthews’ contract will align with that expectation.

Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs

As a result, Matthews will continue to maximize his earnings while adjusting to the evolving salary cap.

Related: Five Reasons Easton Cowan Could Be a Future Maple Leafs’ Star

Reason Two: Balancing Financial Gain and Team Commitment

The contract includes a full no-move clause. That both signifies Matthews’ strong commitment to the Maple Leafs; but, perhaps more telling is the organization’s commitment to him as a player.

While questions will always be raised about whether Matthews prioritizes financial gain over team success and his loyalty to playing in Toronto, he’s done his part in signing this extension. He was expected to “escape” to the United States after his current contract expired, but he didn’t. He signed on for another four years. That does show his commitment to this team.

Reason Three: Does It Set a New Precedent?

The unique structure of Matthews’ contract makes fans and hockey pundits wonder if such contracts might become more of a norm – at least for elite NHL players. A number of superstars might seek such contracts in the future. Matthews’ contract serves as an interesting insight into the evolving relationship between players and teams. It might help redefine the concept of loyalty.

Matthews Feels Fortunate to Be a Maple Leafs’ Player

In Matthews’ announcement of the extension, he said the things that most Maple Leafs fans wanted to hear. Specifically, he noted that “I feel fortunate to continue this journey as a Maple Leaf in front of the best fans in hockey. I will do everything I can to help get us to the top of the mountain.”

Given his signing of the contract extension, you have to believe he’s genuine.

Matthews’ contract extension will also be interesting as a precursor to William Nylander’s contract. It should be curious to see how this signing impacts Nylander’s near future. But that’s a question to be answered soon.

Related: Maple Leafs Quick Hits: Rielly, Tavares, Mete & Matthews

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