Mitchell Marner remains without a contract one week before the Toronto Maple Leafs open training camp, and Auston Matthews said he's hopeful it doesn't become a situation similar to the one that kept William Nylander off the ice for the first two months of last season.
"Willie, he didn't enjoy those three months not being with the team, not playing," Matthews said at the NHL Player Media Tour in Chicago on Thursday. "Obviously jumping back in midseason, you haven't played a game in six or seven months, it's tough mentally and physically. I don't think anybody really wants this to drag out.
"Obviously, we'd love to see him [sign] as soon as possible. He's a big part of our team, so obviously when the season starts, you want to see him out there with everybody."
Video: Latest on the Maple Leafs' negotiations with Marner
Marner led the Maple Leafs with an NHL career-high 94 points (26 goals, 68 assists) last season. The 22-year-old forward became a restricted free agent July 1.
With training camp set to begin in St. John's, Newfoundland, on Sept. 13, Matthews said it would become more difficult for Marner to get back into the NHL grind the longer the negotiation process goes, much like it did for Nylander, a 23-year-old forward who did not sign until Dec. 1, 2018, and had 27 points (seven goals, 20 assists) in 54 games.
Matthews said he spoke with Marner during the offseason, but the two did not discuss the negotiations.
"I've talked to him a bit this summer," said Matthews, a center who was the No. 1 pick of the 2016 NHL Draft who had an NHL career-high 73 points (37 goals, 36 assists) last season. "I mean, not really anything about the whole contract situation, just about different things. I mean, that's really about it. I'm just kind of letting him do his thing; obviously, it's really none of my business. Let that process work itself out."
Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas told TSN in comments published Tuesday that it remains Toronto's goal to have Marner signed before the start of training camp. Time is running out, but Matthews said he remains optimistic.
"Anything can happen, right?" Matthews said. "Hopefully. I'm hoping for it."
NHL.com senior writer Dan Rosen contributed to this report