Did the Toronto Maple Leafs Hire Shane Doan to Keep Auston Matthews?

Toronto Maple Leafs, Shane Doan. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Toronto Maple Leafs, Shane Doan. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

One of the bright spots of the Arizona Coyotes’ tenure in Arizona was former captain Shane Doan.

Doan was the top player in franchise history, played his entire career with the team, and was an ambassador for the team that was in love with the area. The Coyotes even drafted his son, who plays for Arizona State University, to keep the Doan tradition alive.

It was slightly surprising when Doan took a job with the Toronto Maple Leafs as a special advisor. He was previously chief hockey development officer for the Coyotes until last September and had a previous stint with the NHL league offices.

Toronto seemingly has a much better short-term future than the rebuilding Coyotes, but it’s also facing some franchise-altering decisions this offseason.

Doan has joined the Maple Leafs to get Auston Matthews extended.

By now, you’ve heard that Auston Matthews is eligible for a contract extension on July 1st, and that’s the top priority of the new regime in Toronto’s front office. Could Doan have been brought on board to convince Matthews to stay?

That’s a notion that ESPN brought up in their “Way-Too-Early edition for 2023-24” power ranking this week:

"The Leafs will pull out all the stops to keep Matthews happy and in the fold (it’s no coincidence they targeted Shane Doan as an advisor), but the key is actually getting that new deal over the line."

That seemed like a bit of a stretch, but the same sentiment was discussed by Elliotte Friedman in the latest “32 Thoughts” podcast.

"Last week, Treliving hired long-time Coyotes player and executive Shane Doan to work as a special advisor to Treliving. Matthews, a resident of Scottsdale, Arizona, said Doan was one of his idols growing up.Friedman said it’s not clear what role, if any, Doan has in the negotiation process. But he did say that there is recognition from both the team and the Matthews’ camp to figure out something as soon as possible so Toronto can move on to other business to take care of."

Let’s assume Toronto hired Shane Doan only to convince Matthews to stay. While I’m sure Matthews has a great deal of respect for his childhood idol, players are motivated by money, job security, and a chance to win.

Toronto reportedly wants to give Matthews the max eight-year contract, giving him all the job security the current CBA will allow. Toronto will move mountains to give their franchise player as close to a blank check as they can, taking care of the money part.

We’ve already made enough jokes about the Maple Leafs’ lack of winning over the past half of a century. You would think improving the roster and having some clarity about the coaching staff would seemingly do more to help in the “let’s win now” department than a pep talk from Shane Doan.

That’s not to discount what Doan can bring to the table. Suggesting his hiring is merely a persuasion tactic for Matthews is an entirely different story.

Let’s also assume Doan goes off on this long soliloquy of how Toronto is in a great place to win a championship, that the future’s bright, and that one day Matthews can lead them there and have his jersey hung in the Scotiabank Arena rafters. What credibility does Doan have?

Doan didn’t build the team or shape this team. His tenure in Toronto is barely a few weeks old. If anyone should be talking about the state of the team, it’s Matthews to Doan instead of the other way around.

Part of this speculation might be Doan’s rather ubiquitous title. What does “special advisor” even mean? It’s a very undefined role, one that seemingly every team uses as a means to keep franchise legends around as a ceremonial figurehead in the front office to bounce questions off of, make appearances, be a part of the team, etc. Jarome Iginla just did the same with the Calgary Flames.

Iginla was the Flames’ most historic player since the 1988 Stanley Cup-winning team. Calgary is his hockey “home”. Meanwhile, Doan’s hockey “home” is in Arizona. The only connection Doan and Matthews seemingly have is the Arizona connection. That’s why this theory behind his hiring just might make sense.

Matthews reportedly wants a deal of less than eight years, which can be seen in two ways. Maybe he doesn’t want to overcommit his tenure in Toronto. On the other hand, maybe he’s doing that to try to get a bigger payday when the NHL cap finally goes up a substantial amount, which won’t be this season.

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Either way, Maple Leafs fans know their teams’ future revolves around Matthews. If hiring Doan does the trick, so be it.