In an interview with Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun, Shanahan noted that all four contracts were signed on the assumption that the salary cap would rise before the COVID-19 pandemic entered an era of a flat cap. Still, Shanahan said he was happy the four players signed long-term, despite the team’s playoff failures.
“We are happy that (the big four) have been locked up. We believe in these players. We think we’re lucky to have them, ”Shanahan said. “I watched player development, Mitch killing penalties, Auston’s two-way play. It’s not just these four guys. I’ve seen our team do a lot of things (since head coach Sheldon Keefe took over) that historically winning teams have to do.
“We have to improve. The important thing is that the things Sheldon was asking them to get better. Even if he didn’t get results in 5-6-7 games against Montreal, these are essential elements in building a team. Look at Mitch. He became an elite defensive player and still finished in the Top 5 scorers. Auston led the league in goals and is playing a great all-around game. They can be strong players and still some of the best offensive players.
“What we can’t do is be frustrated now. We cannot reject the plan. We cannot fend for ourselves as individuals. We have to continue on this path, and I think the players are absolutely determined to do that here in Toronto. “
The Maple Leafs lost their first playoff series in each of the past five seasons, a streak that was extended by the team which took a 3-1 lead over the Montreal Canadiens in the spring.
Of the Maple Leafs’ main players, Marner drew the most criticism for his playoff performance, with four assists in the seven-game series.
“I look at a guy like Mitch, who from the moment he could put on skates he said he wanted to be a Maple Leaf,” Shanahan said. “He’s a great teammate, a great both ways player, he’s an elite all-star player who will probably be an Olympian, and all he wants is to deliver here in Toronto.
“Yes, he’s disappointed and frustrated. We are all. It reflects the state of mind of the whole team.
General manager Kyle Dubas has also been steadfast in his belief in the best players on the team, leading some to question whether the Leafs are facing a “last dance” scenario with their core this season.
Matthews, 24, is signed for three more seasons with a cap of $ 11.6 million, while Tavares ($ 11 million AAV) and Marner ($ 10.9 million AAV) are signed for four more seasons. Nylander has also signed for three more seasons with a cap of $ 6.96 million.