The 2022-23 season is over, now all eyes turn toward Auston Matthews, who is eligible to sign an extension on July 1.

Fans want something done quickly, but what they’re likely less keen on is the notion that Matthews may prefer short-term flexibility opting toward a contract with only three-to-five years of term. Toronto will push for max term, but Matthews is right to maximize his earnings as an unrestricted free agent. The best way to do that for a player of his ilk is to bet on himself and bank on salary cap increases with multiple short-term deals. 

That’s not the way things are done in the current NHL, but conforming to a status quo that greatly benefits teams is not something Matthews — or any other franchise player up for a new contract — should be beholden to. 

Matthews is in a substantial position of power here not just for himself, but the elite class of players at large — a class that has been contractually slighted over the last decade. The Maple Leafs megastar has potential to be a major catalyst for change.

The current playbook for a new contract for a franchise player is simple: A max-term contract at a cap hit in the same ballpark as the league’s highest-paid players. 

Recent contracts for Nathan MacKinnon, David Pastrnak, and Matthew Tkachuk are perfect examples. Three franchise players, three eight-year deals, three deals using the current cap hit landscape as a benchmark — not cap hit percentage. That MacKinnon signed for just $100,000 more than Connor McDavid, the league’s best and highest-paid player who signed his contract six years ago, was telling.