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Matthews disappointed by talk he'll leave Maple Leafs when contract is up

Forward dismisses speculation he's looking to play in American market

by Mike Zeisberger @Zeisberger / Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- Auston Matthews said speculation he will leave the Toronto Maple Leafs when his contract runs out in five years is "a little bit disappointing."

Former NHL executive Brian Burke last week told Sportsnet 590 The FAN he would "bet a sizeable amount of money" that Matthews will head for an American market when his contract expires because of the tax differences between Canada and the United States.

Matthews said he was caught off guard by the comments and the reaction they drew from media and fans.

"We haven't even started my first year (on the new contract) and then this?" the 21-year-old center said at the NHL Players Media Tour on Friday. "I think it's just August, there was nothing going on, why not just spark up a controversy. How better to do that than to talk about the Toronto Maple Leafs."


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Matthews, who could have been a restricted free agent this offseason, on Feb. 5 signed a five-year contract with an average annual value of $11.634 million. It runs through the 2023-24 NHL season.

"It's a little bit disappointing because it's so far away and there is other stuff that could be talked about rather than that," he said. "Obviously you can talk about what you want to talk about. Obviously it creates controversy and will get you a lot of clicks. But it's not really something that bothers me or that I look at because I'm just looking at today and this season and doing the best I can."

Video: Top 10 plays of 2018-19: Matthews

Matthews, who was born in San Ramon, California, grew up in the Phoenix area and began attending Arizona Coyotes games when he was 2 years old. He readily admits cheering for the long-term success of the Coyotes but said he embraces being in the fishbowl of playing for the Maple Leafs. That wasn't always the case for the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.

"I think it's just an adjustment," Matthews said. "You go through an adjustment period. First year it's pretty eye-opening because you are not really used to it. It's different. You kind of get more comfortable with it, you get used to it, you end up answering the same questions you did the day before. It's just something that comes by playing in a market like that."

The Maple Leafs have made the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each of Matthews' three seasons after qualifying once in the previous 11 seasons (2012-13). They are among the favorites to win the Stanley Cup, which they haven't won since 1967.

"I've said it quite a bit: I've never taken it for granted these past three years," he said. "I love playing in Toronto. It's unbelievable. It's the best city to play in in the NHL. Our fans are amazing. The history of the organization is incredible. The spotlight and all of that is something that kind of comes with it and it's something I've learned to embrace and kind of gone with."

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