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Will Auston Matthews ever leave the Maple Leafs to come home to play for the Phoenix Coyotes?

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This is the mirage of the Arizona desert, some insist it is the real thing.

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Auston Matthews leaves the Maple Leafs as a free agent at the end of 2023-24 when he recovers the last pesos of his annual salary of $ 11,240,650, leaping straight into the welcoming arms of his hometown, the Coyotes.

There is no argument that this is his desired destination – if he was a mere civilian. It was there that he learned the game and has a spiritual presence as his greatest hockey export. There is also the allure of being among his own family, including his mother’s Mexican roots whom he loves to visit, his childhood friends, the great weather, and the many other perks of a beautiful part of the world. .

But if he hates the annual handshake line when the Leafs are eliminated from the playoffs, consider that the Coyotes have a lot more rebuilding ahead of them just to get that far, let alone convincing potential UFAs that they have a. viable market.

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Maybe some prospects will come true or the Coyotes will be lucky in the next lottery, but there seem to be too many other question marks – the future of property in Glendale, a new arena, problems that even staunch Coyotes ally Gary Bettman could never solve without moving the franchise.

While the idea that Matthews will not end his days as Leaf has gained momentum with every outing of the first round and the worry every time fans examine the image of Toronto’s inflated salary cap, watching it the rekindle this regular season in another Rocket

The Richard Trophy Race takes a look at how the Leafs can win a Stanley Cup without him.

Despite his tender 24 years, Matthews has become an integral part of the Toronto franchise, possibly its future captain and certainly the brightest star in a constellation whose post-season success is long overdue.
If the Leafs ever win a Cup, that could be an incentive to look south. Right now it’s a desert dream.

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IN THE ‘ZONA

Matthews and teammate Michael Bunting were eagerly awaiting Wednesday’s game at Gila River Arena. Bunting was drafted there in the fourth round in 2014, but was better known with his Tucson farm team than the big club, until the Scarborough native scored 10 goals in 21 games last season before becoming a free agent.

“He’s been talking about this game for a long time,” Matthews teased. “It should be a pretty big video tribute for him and all that.”
“He’s as excited as I am to perform in front of his friends and family where you grew up. They are extremely proud and I always had this game circled on the schedule. This is a big problem for me.

Bunting said Auston’s aura is huge in the state, just as Matthews was a huge fan during Shane Doan’s day.

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“He’s building the hockey community there,” Bunting said. “He’s one of the best in the world and he’s from Arizona and gives the kids someone to look up to. He lets them know that anything is possible, even if you are in the wilderness and hockey is not the most important thing.

“(Wednesday) will be a bittersweet experience. I made a lot of friends there. Just playing in front of the fans and my first game in the NHL is a memory I will never forget. I spent six or seven years there and it is my second home.

While he’s not quite at the level of former Matthews left winger Zach Hyman yet, Bunting is certainly making the most of his luck.

“We hang out a bit off the ice and bring that chemistry to the ice. I try to open up and get some pucks out for him. Every night he brings his best game so I know I have to bring mine. His work ethic is incredible in practice. He’s one of the best in the world and he’s still working on his craft.

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BULK SHEETS

Dr Phil Samis, a member of the 1948 Stanley Cup champions and the oldest living Leaf, died Tuesday at the age of 94 in Napanee, Ont. … Before facing the Coyotes, the last report from Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe was that Mitch Marner and Pierre Engvall were still in COVID-19 protocol… William Nylander was amazed by this breakaway pass from Morgan Rielly to Vegas on Tuesday to open the scoring in Tuesday’s shootout win over the Golden Knights in Las Vegas: “Unbelievable,” he said. “A ball and a saucer at the same time, on their guy’s stick and flat on my tape.” He’s on fire. He’s been here a long time and leads the way every night “… Jack Campbell, who rested on Wednesday so Petr Mrazek could make his first start since December 11:” I’m just excited for Petr to come in there and do his thing. Said Campbell, whose save percentage of .935 is the league’s second in goaltending with at least 20 games… The Marlies won their fourth straight game Wednesday, a 4-2 home decision over the Belleville Senators. After Joseph Woll had a busy Monday afternoon against Springfield, Erik Kallgren made 37 saves to improve his record to 7-4 with a .922 save percentage. Pointers for Toronto were Semyon Der-Arguchintsev, Filip Kral, Bobby McMann and Antti Suomela.

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