The Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League signed a player nobody had ever heard of named Auston Matthews. There were no rumors or whispers but everything changed on draft day when the Maple Leafs selected AP All-American first overall, and drafted the highest scoring new NHL rookie since 2004. As the first American first overall, he was widely expected to follow the path of his idol and leave the US after his rookie season for Europe, where the top talent can accumulate bags of money and win the Stanley Cup. It was a big risk for the New York Rangers, who could not afford to lose him. The stakes were high on draft day and nobody understood the complexity of Matthews’ contract, because -- like every other contract -- it was negotiated in secrecy via his agent before the draft. The plan was to expand his deal at the end of his rookie contract, after which his agent’s top priority would be getting him a new contract from the NBA. The Toronto Maple Leafs, and not the LA Kings, had the first option to extend the contract by five years with a valuation of $13.3 million. Whether Matthews stayed in the NHL or went to the NBA was decided by just a few hours, and on Tuesday, April 22, all eyes were upon Matthews and the first overall pick which could change the face of the league forever.
Drafting Matthews basically guaranteed that the 2017-18 season would be the first in NHL history (since the turn of the century) in which every team did not have at least one former first overall pick on their roster. Even before draft picks like Jack Johnson, Brad Richards, Joe Thornton, Ryan Smyth, Jaleel Whiteside, Erik Karlsson, Paul Stastny, Mark Giordano, Cam Fowler, Mikhail Grabovski, Ryan Getzlaf, John Tavares, Rick Nash, Bo Horvat, Alex Galchenyuk, Shea Weber, Gabriel Landeskog, Patrick Kane, Dylan Larkin, Filip Forsberg, and the aforementioned Matthews have been traded, traded, or not re-signed since that first pick. Which made Matthews the realization of a dream for some, and the first step in the departure for others. The LA Kings had no intention of paying him $13.3 million for a 20-year league minimum contract. No team wanted him. Matthews, for his part, had no intention of playing for the LA Kings. d2c66b5586