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Matthews' contract talks with Maple Leafs set to pick up: report

Center, who can become restricted free agent July 1, seeks 'something that works for both sides'

by @NHLdotcom

Auston Matthews' contract talks with the Toronto Maple Leafs are getting ready to intensify, Sportsnet reported Saturday.

"I think it's just letting (Toronto general manager) Kyle (Dubas) and management handle that with my agent, find something that works," the center said Saturday after the Maple Leafs defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 at Scotiabank Arena. "There's no secret there's a (salary) cap, so it's just trying to find something that works for both sides and obviously helps out with that whole situation. I'll leave it to them and just continue to play hockey and once it's done, it's done and then that will be it and move on."

Sportsnet reported Saturday that the two sides are set to sit down and work out a new contract. Matthews is eligible to sign an eight-year contract, though Sportsnet said it appeared a five- or six-year contract is more likely. A five-year contract would account for one year of Matthews' unrestricted free agent years; a six-year deal would account for two UFA years. 

The 21-year-old, taken No. 1 by the Maple Leafs in the 2016 NHL Draft, can become a restricted free agent July 1. The third-year center is fourth on the Maple Leafs with 46 points (23 goals, 23 assists). Toronto qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each of Matthews' first two seasons but lost in the Eastern Conference First Round to the Washington Capitals in 2017 and the Boston Bruins last year. The Maple Leafs (31-17-3) are second in the Atlantic Division, three points ahead of the Montreal Canadiens.

The Maple Leafs also have to work out a contract with forward Mitchell Marner, who leads Toronto with 63 points (20 goals, 43 assists). Marner's representatives have said they don't intend to negotiate a new contract during the season.

Matthews said he wants to see the Maple Leafs hold on to a core that also includes forwards Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson, who each can become a restricted free agent July 1, and defenseman Jake Gardiner, who can become an unrestricted free agent the same day.

"We've got a lot of great players on this team, a lot of young guys, a solid core," he said. "We want to be a great team and a team that makes this city proud and obviously accomplish our ultimate goal for a long time, so keeping that core intact is a big part of that." correspondent Dave McCarthy contributed to this report

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