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Matthews reiterates love for Maple Leafs, city of Toronto following new four-year deal

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs Auston Matthews - The Canadian Press

Following the news that Toronto Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews signed a four-year, $53 million extension to keep him in Blue and White through the 2027-28 season, he met with the media on Friday to discuss how the deal got done and his desire to remain a Maple Leaf.

"It was something I didn't want to rush into obviously right away," Matthews said. "But just the whole process itself with Brad [Treliving] coming in and getting to know him, the moves that we've made in the off-season and, obviously, like I've expressed before, my passion my belief in this team and loving playing here and city of Toronto and for these great fans."

"I take a lot of pride and I've really enjoyed my time here. So I just think getting it done. It's, obviously, very exciting."

The 25-year-old Matthews has one season left on his current contract — a five-year, $58.2 million pact signed in February 2019. This past season, the Scottsdale, Ariz., native got off to a slow start by his standards. Still, a now four-time All-Star, Matthews finished the 2022-23 campaign with 40 goals and 45 assists for the second-highest point-getting season of his career.

Lingering in the aftermath of Matthews' signing is the devil in the details as he inked a four-year deal with the club.

"I think just the bounce on both sides, both parts," said Matthews on his comfort level at four years as opposed to a deal that carried longer term.

"I think it was a lot of long discussions with my family, my agent, people closest to me and just kind of going through my process. I guess the conclusion is we just found the right balance at four years."

"I'll be with the team for, I believe, 12 total years by the end of that contract. And like I've expressed before, I love playing in Toronto. I love my teammates and everything that comes with being a Maple Leaf. It's been a real honour to be a part of this organization. And it's something I definitely don't take for granted."

Matthews was picked by Toronto first overall in the 2016 NHL Draft and quickly cemented himself as one of the most beloved and impactful Maple Leafs in franchise history. In his 481 regular-season games, Matthews' 299 goals tie him with Maple Leafs legend Rick Vaive for fifth all-time.

With all-time scoring leader Mats Sundin's 420-goal record on the horizon, Matthews spoke about what it would mean to him to pass the Hall of Famer for the most goals scored in franchise history.

"I think it's something that definitely pops up in the back of your mind every once in a while you see it online or whatever," Matthews said. "Obviously, my biggest priority as a Maple Leaf is to be the best teammate, the best player that I can be. And I, obviously, do what I can to take this team where we're trying to go."

"So I think all the other accolades, I think, just kind of comes with being a part of the organization.... We're all chasing one goal in particular and that's definitely the most important."

Matthews was not alone in his contract negotiation as Treliving, who joined the Maple Leafs in May following the departure of Kyle Dubas, now leaves his own mark on the franchise.

The 54-year-old was handed a full plate when he was announced as the newest general manager in Toronto - most notably the contract status of Matthews and William Nylander, who is in the final year of his deal as well.

"When I first met with all of you at the press conference, to me number one was starting to build the relationship with Auston," Treliving said. "There was a lot of change that happened. And I think for Auston, who's been here a long time, I think before he just rushed in and start committing to a contract - you've got to get to know the people that we're committing to."

"I really enjoyed this process," Treliving continued. "And the process of getting to know Auston. He's a remarkable young man. What I've really learned through this process (is) how smart he is. He takes in a lot of information. He's an independent thinker. He's very cerebral."

Though the ink has dried on Matthews' contract, Treliving's work is not done as his team gears up for the 2023-24 season.

"I'm not going to comment on contracts until they're done", Treliving said in response to a question on the current status of Nylander's contract.

"We will continue to work as William is a terrific player. He's a star and you know, I want you to want to keep your good players and so we have time. William's got a year left on his contract and we'll continue to work away at it and hopefully, have some good news."