“That’s bull about [Matthews] being upset about the captaincy,” Orr said at the Staal Foundation Open in Thunder Bay, Ontario. “That’s so wrong.
“They’re a good team and they’re going to be a very good team. John puts them closer to their goal. That’s what Auston is concerned about.”
Tavares, a 27-year-old center, was captain of the New York Islanders the past five seasons. The Maple Leafs have not had a captain since defenseman Dion Phaneuf was traded to the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 9, 2016.
Speculation in Toronto suggested Matthews was being groomed for the captaincy prior to Tavares’ signing, but Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas said July 1 there was no rush to name one.
Orr said Matthews is fine with that approach.
“Whatever the Leafs do, I know Auston … It’s the way it is,” Orr said. “There are a lot of pretty good players in the League who were never captains. As a matter of fact, I was on the internet the other day looking and there were a lot of very good players that never wore the ‘C.’
“You are a leader on the ice. Auston, with or without a ‘C’ or an ‘A,’ or John, with or without a ‘C’ or an ‘A,’ they are going to lead on the ice. That’s what it is all about. This thing about a rift is so silly. It is wrong and not true.”
To Orr’s point: When Tavares was introduced after signing with the Maple Leafs, he said Matthews was one of the first players to reach out to him about signing in Toronto during the free agency interview period.
“John is a great hockey player,” Orr said. “Auston is a very good hockey player. They’re going to be great teammates.
“I’ve spoken to Auston. He’s thrilled. He is thrilled John is coming. His goal is to be on a Stanley Cup team. Obviously having John on the team is going to help.”
Orr said the captaincy issue is another situation involving Matthews that has been overblown, similar to a reported dispute with coach Mike Babcock that surfaced after Toronto was eliminated in the Eastern Conference First Round by the Boston Bruins.
“All of this stuff about ice time … show me a player that doesn’t want more ice time,” said Orr, who was a two-time Stanley Cup champion, eight-time Norris Trophy winner and three-time Hart Trophy winner during 10 seasons with the Bruins. “The coach? Not getting along with the coach? I know a lot of players that may not be fond of their coach. That’s a bunch of bull. Auston is thrilled. …
“This bull about being upset about this or that, the captaincy, that’s so wrong. Shouldn’t be happening.”
The No. 1 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, Matthews has 132 points (74 goals, 58 assists) in 144 games during his first two NHL seasons. He is entering the final season of his three-year, entry-level contract and can become a restricted free agent after the season. He became eligible to sign a contract extension July 1.
Matthews left CAA, which represents Tavares, for Orr Hockey Group in June. Orr’s group also represents Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid, the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft who signed an eight-year, $100 million extension July 5, 2017, prior to his third NHL season.
“I don’t think it’s about the money,” Orr said. “The kid is going to be a heck of a player. It’s like John Tavares in free agency. It’s nothing about money. It’s where he wanted to play. He wants to play in Toronto.
“If [an extension] doesn’t happen this year before the season starts, he still has a year left, and he’ll fulfill his contract and we’ll see what happens after that. Hopefully they will get it done. He likes Toronto and he wants to stay in Toronto. I’m sure they’ll get it done.”
Whatever happens, the negotiations will not become a public spectacle, Orr said.
“You’re not going to read much about it,” he said. “Our guys will be trying to get it done and hopefully we will. But you’re not going to be reading something about it every day. You can guess all you want. When it happens, it will be announced. We’re not having a big thing about it.
“The job is to get the job done, make the Leafs happy, make Auston happy and let’s go. That is what it is about.”