Jesse Puljujarvi, the fourth overall pick at this year’s draft, has already signed his entry-level deal.
So too has the No. 3 pick, Pierre-Luc Dubois, and the No. 2 pick, Patrik Laine.
In fact, only one of the top four picks in this year’s draft has yet to sign:
Toronto’s Auston Matthews, the first overall selection.
It’s been reported that Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello, as old-school an executive as there is, remains steadfast in his belief against performance bonuses. This dates back to his time in New Jersey, like when he infamously refused to negotiate a performance bonus for Adam Larsson, the fourth overall pick in 2011.
For more on the current stalemate with Matthews, here’s Kevin McGran of the Toronto Star:
“This one, to me, feels foolish,” an NHL source not involved in the talks told The Star. “I don’t know what Lou’s reward is if he wins for the amount of risk you take by going this direction.”
The Leafs not only risk alienating Matthews and his camp — souring future talks when Matthews will have more leverage — but they may be sending a negative message to players around the league about how the team treats stars, he said.
“I hope Lou’s not holding his breath,” said an executive with a rival club. “I’ve got a lot of respect for Lou, but I would not be wagering the house on (the Leafs) being able to hold that line.”
The Star reported that Matthews is looking for an entry-level deal with $2.85 million in performances bonuses, on par with what Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel — the top two picks in last year’s draft — received from Edmonton and Buffalo, respectively.
This is somewhat uncharted territory for the Leafs organization.
Matthews is the most ballyhooed prospect the club’s had in years, and it’s also Lamoriello’s first major draft pick as GM. Remember, he wasn’t around when the club took Mitch Marner fourth overall last year, and the performance-laden deal Marner signed was orchestrated prior to LouLam coming aboard.
Now, to be clear, there’s still no reason for panic. The Leafs are months away from training camp and we’re still six weeks out from the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, in which Matthews will be suiting up for Team North America.
But with every passing day, the situation will be monitored just little bit closer.