Auston Matthews is hoping the Toronto Maple Leafs can avoid a similar situation to that of William Nylander last year and sign restricted free agent Mitch Marner ahead of the season.

"Willie, he didn't enjoy those three months not being with the team, not playing," Matthews told on Thursday. "Obviously jumping back in mid-season, 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."

Nylander was unsigned last season until minutes before the Dec. 1 deadline and his production dipped from previous totals upon rejoining the team. 

Marner scored 26 goals and led the Maple Leafs with 94 points in 82 games last season. He added two goals and four points in the playoffs as the Maple Leafs were eliminated in the first round by the Boston Bruins for the second straight year.

Nylander, who finished last season with seven goals and 27 points in 54 games, skated with the junior team of Swedish club AIK while he waited for a contract last fall and Marner's camp has reached out to the Zurich Lions about working with their club should he remain unsigned.

Matthews, who signed a five-year, $58.17 million contract in February to avoid restricted free agency, said he's kept in touch with Marner, but the two have not spoken about his contract situation.

"I've talked to him a bit this summer," said Matthews. "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 said Tuesday the team has not explored trade options for Marner and said it is the team's "hope and our goal" to have him signed when the team opens training camp next week.

"Anything can happen, right?" Matthews said Thursday of the possibility. "Hopefully. I'm hoping for it."