Maple Leafs Facing Deadline To Decide Future Of Auston Matthews & Mitch Marner

As the dust settles on another lost season for the Toronto Maple Leafs, the future of the "core four" comes into question once again. And for the dynamic duo at the top of that core, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, the Leafs have a huge decision to make—with a deadline of July 1st fast approaching. 

For both Matthews and Marner, that date marks the occasion of their full no-trade clauses kicking into effect. That means that after July 1st, 2023, both players are locked in as Leafs (as long as they want to be) until their contracts expire (next summer for Matthews and the year after for Marner). After that, the Leafs could lose them both for nothing. 

Management must decide if that's a risk they're willing to take. If the playoff failures continue through the next two seasons, it's quite possible that both players would head elsewhere for a fresh start in free agency, leaving the Leafs holding the bag. 

Does Toronto really try to head off that possible eventuality by trading either of their superstars in the next seven weeks? That would obviously be a franchise-altering move, and could even trigger a "blow it all up" apocalypse-type situation for the Leafs.

Some fans in Leafs Nation are probably pushing for it, after the pair combined for one goal in their five-game second-round elimination at the hands of the Florida Panthers.

One card the team will surely play before the no-trades go into effect is to gauge Matthews' interest in signing an extension, which he is eligible for on that July 1st date. Another member of the core group, William Nylander, is also eligible for an extension then, as well as getting his own 10-team no-movement clause. 

If Matthews balks at extension talks, it could be a scary time for Toronto as they wait it out until he hits free agency next summer. 

 Photo: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports