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Treliving: Matthews pushing for extension 'a sign of leadership'

Kevin Sousa / National Hockey League / Getty

New Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brad Treliving crossed off the No. 1 priority on his offseason checklist by signing Auston Matthews to a four-year, $53-million extension, but the executive said his star sniper was similarly eager to put pen to paper.

"You're talking about one of the world's best talents. In the situation he was in, he could come in and demand a whole lot more than what he got. That's just the reality," Treliving said Friday, according to Sports Illustrated's David Alter.

"It gets done because Auston says he wants to get it done. I want it to be a non-issue. I want the focus to be where it needs to be and that's on winning and putting all of our energies on the ice. And that's why it's done. At the end of the day, it's a sign of leadership."

Matthews has one season remaining on his current deal with an average annual value of $11.64 million, and he could have become an unrestricted free agent next summer. His new $13.25-million cap hit will make him the highest-paid player in the league beginning in 2024-25, beating out Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon's $12.6-million price tag.

The two-time Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy winner signed a five-year extension upon the expiry of his entry-level deal in 2019 and followed that up with a four-year pact. Matthews explained that he felt like a shorter-term contract just struck "the right balance."

"It was a lot of long conversations, a lot of thought. ... In the end, this is kind of what I felt most comfortable with. ... I don't think I've ever done things just to be different, I just felt strongly in my situation and my position that that was the best deal for myself and the best deal for the team," he said, per TSN.

Matthews will be 30 years old when his new deal expires, and he will have been in Toronto for 12 seasons by that point. He already has 299 goals in 481 games as a Maple Leaf, meaning he's 122 tallies away from surpassing Mats Sundin, who is the franchise's all-time leader in that category.

If Matthews averages 24 goals in each of the next five seasons, he can replace Sundin as No. 1 in the record books, but the talented center is far more interested in winning a Stanley Cup than individual accolades.

"My biggest priority as a Maple Leaf is to be the best teammate, the best player that I can be and obviously do my best to take this team where we're trying to go," he said.

He added, "It's been a real honor to be a part of this organization, it's something that I definitely don't take for granted."

William Nylander is also eligible to sign an extension this summer, but he said Wednesday that he isn't in a big rush to get a deal done. Treliving echoed that sentiment on Friday, adding that he'll continue to work toward a new contract with the winger, per Sportsnet's Luke Fox.

Puck drops on the Maple Leafs' 2023-24 season on Oct. 11 against the Montreal Canadiens.

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