The Toronto Maple Leafs have signed talented winger Phil Kessel to an eight-year contract extension, the team announced Tuesday. According to Darren Dreger's report from before the deal was made official, Kessel's contract, which will begin in 2014-15, is worth around $8 million per season.
Kessel deal is 8 years,aprox $8 mil per. Believed to include ltd no-trade. It's not complete..not signed, but announcement expected today.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) October 1, 2013
“Phil Kessel is one of the premier wingers and elite goal scorers in the National Hockey League today,” said Maple Leafs general Manager Dave Nonis in a team release. “He wanted to be a Maple Leaf long term and we're very pleased that Phil will be a part of our core group of players in Toronto until the 2021-22 season.”
Kessel indeed has been one of the league's best goal scorers over the last five seasons.
He posted 52 points including 20 goals in the lockout-shortened season. That would have put him on pace for a career year in a normal 82-game campaign. In each of the four previous seasons, Kessel topped 30 goals, three of which came while with the Maple Leafs.
Furthermore, as the Maple Leafs shared in Tuesday's announcement:
Over the last two seasons, Kessel has accumulated 134 points (57 goals, 77 assists) in 130 games. Only Steve Stamkos (154), Evgeni Malkin (142) and Claude Giroux (141) have more points in that stretch. Only three players have more goals than Kessel's 89 over the last three seasons: Stamkos (134), Corey Perry (102) and Alex Ovechkin (102).
Though Kessel has been oft-criticized for his defensive deficiencies and had added pressure due to the value the Maple Leafs gave up to acquire the sniper from the Boston Bruins (two first-round draft picks --Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton -- plus a second-rounder), he has simply produced. You have to score goals to win hockey games, and Kessel scores a lot of them.
It is a rich contract, likely one of the 15 most expensive in the league, but guaranteed 30-plus goal scorers are rare in this game, especially ones that can seemingly produce with anyone on his line. Tyler Bozak isn't exactly an elite first-line center.
The Maple Leafs sniper hadn't necessarily delivered a deadline to the Leafs to get this done, but he kind of did. Saying he wouldn't negotiate during the season put Toronto on the clock to act before the puck drops Tuesday night. Had he made it through the season and into unrestricted free agency, the bidding war for Kessel's services would have been intense and the Leafs would have risked losing their most important player.
Additionally, Kessel turns 27 Wednesday, meaning his best years very well could be ahead of him. This deal looks like a real winner for the Maple Leafs, especially when the salary cap starts going back up.