Toronto Maple Leafs Stars Under-Performing on Contracts by 10+ Million Dollars

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 15: Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews #34 looks on against the Minnesota Wild during the second period at the Scotiabank Arena on October 15, 2019 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 15: Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews #34 looks on against the Minnesota Wild during the second period at the Scotiabank Arena on October 15, 2019 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images) /
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The star-studded forward group of the Toronto Maple Leafs continues to post sub-standard performances despite soaring scoring rates across the league.

Wednesday night’s loss to the Colorado Avalanche was the Toronto Maple Leafs 17th loss through 30 games this season, leaving the team searching for answers once again.

Past justifications for the team’s poor play have varied from their defensive core, to questionable coaching decisions, to backup goaltending.

However, after improving the team’s defense in the offseason, hiring a new head coach in Sheldon Keefe, and bypassing their backup goaltender by starting Frederik Andersen on back-to-back nights, the responsibility needs to fall on the underperforming thoroughbreds at the top of the lineup.

Toronto Maple Leafs Stars

Beginning in the summer of 2018, the Toronto Maple Leafs spent on a spree of contracts that included signing Auston Matthews ($11.63M AAV), John Tavares ($11M AAV) and Mitch Marner ($10.89M AAV) to the 3rd, 4th and 5th highest forward cap hits in the NHL, respectively.

Currently, there are 21 forwards in the league that are producing at a higher rate than Matthews, Marner or Tavares, who rank 22nd, 34th, and 47th respectively in points per game among forwards.

The 22nd, 34th and 47th highest forward cap hits, which would represent fair compensation for the production of Matthews, Marner and Tavares, are $8.28M, $7.25M and $6.75M.

Essentially, the Leafs three highest earning forwards are collectively being paid $11.24M above what their performances dictate.

Even the improved play of William Nylander this season has only lifted him to 78th in points per game among forwards, while holding the 44th highest cap hit. In the salary cap era, players need to represent positive value at their cap hit for their team to be successful.

To be sure, these players are all posting peripheral stats that strongly suggest they’ll get better results in the future, but results to date have not been good.

This has been a slowly developing feature of the 2019-20 Leafs roster, whereby the Leafs star forwards are presenting far lower value-for-dollar in comparison to years past.

To further illustrate this development, in 2016-17, the rookie trio of Matthews, Nylander and Marner finished the season ranked 17th, 35th, and 37th in league scoring, respectively.

They earned $7.3M collectively after bonuses according to capfriendly.com, a substantial difference from the $33.6M cap hit of the three highest paid Leafs forwards this season.

The continued player development of the Toronto Maple Leafs young forward group is going to be extremely important for the team to maximize the value they receive from their highest paid players.

Next. Where Does Matthews Rank Among NHL Young Stars?. dark

To put it simply, the star forwards of the Toronto Maple Leafs need to start playing up to their capabilities if they are going to turn their season around.