Leafs extend Phil Kessel: 8 years, $64-million

Leafs extend Phil Kessel: 8 years, $64-million

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Dave Nonis completed arguably the best and most important contract negotiation of the offseason this morning, as the Toronto Maple Leafs locked up star right winger Phil Kessel to an 8-year contract worth $64-million.  The annual cap hit it comes to a round $8-million, shirking the annoying trend of players getting paid their Jersey number, and is the biggest and most expensive player contract ever signed by the Leafs, nearly doubling David Clarkson’s contract signed in July.

As of this writing, Phil Kessel will have the eighth highest cap hit in the National Hockey League next, behind Ovechkin, Malkin, Crosby, Perry, Staal, Giroux and Getzlaf (though that will change with 2014 free agency). This also represents one of the first long term contracts signed by an elite player under the CBA and the new 8-year contract limit, which has changed the nature of these deals insofar as extending the term of the deal and back-diving the salary in the later years is no longer an option in order to reduce cap hit.

So what have the Leafs purchased for $64-million?  Quite a lot as it turns out.  In the past two seasons, only Evgeni Malkin, Claude Giroux and Steven Stamkos have tallied more combined points than Phil Kessel’s 134. He and Stamkos are the only players to have cracked the top 10 in scoring the last two years.  Since the time of his trade to Toronto back in 2009, Kessel has scored 119 goals.  That total puts him behind only Alexander Ovechkin, Stamkos, Corey Perry, Patrick Marleau, Jarome Iginla and Ilya Kovalchuk over that span.   All of those players save for Stamkos are older than Kessel, and are signed to big-money deals themselves.

Did the Leafs get any sort of bargain on this deal? No, not really. The Leafs had the pay the piper, and were smart to do it now rather than take on the risks that are associated with leaving the winger unsigned until May.  While perhaps imprudent, had Kessel hit the open market, who’s to say a team wouldn’t have been willing to offer him close to $64-million over seven years?  While unprecedented, the new CBA regulations are (somewhat) forcing teams to pay market value for a player.  Clearly, the Leafs respect Kessel’s wishes not to negotiate during the season and got the deal done to secure its best player.

The weight of expectation certainly doesn’t get any lighter from here on out for Kessel. The same media that wanted to remind us all of the trade that brought Kessel here during each of his “slumps” will be the same ones constantly questioning whether or not Kessel is justifying his pay stubs.  It might seem all bright and cheerful, now…

 

 

But eventually, fair weather comments like these will give way to less fair criticisms should the Leafs or Kessel falter.

Regardless, Phil Kessel is going to be around for the next 9 years, and the franchise is stronger in the future with today’s efforts.  However, in the process of locking up their star and the augmentations this offseason, the Leafs will still need to be wary of the salary cap.  With the Kessel extension, the Leafs will have maybe as much as 30-million in cap space available for 12 roster spots.  That might sound like a lot of wiggle room, but the Leafs are sure to re-sign some of their significant number of pending free agents.  Re-signing more than a couple of Phaneuf, Reimer, Kulemin, Gardiner, Franson, Raymond, Ranger, Bolland or McClement and the Leafs are right back into cap hell.  On the other side of that coin, with the extension, the Leafs now have 5 of 6 positions on the top two lines secured long term, as now Kessel, Lupul, van Riemsdyk, Clarkson and Bozak are signed through 2018.

One nice way of looking at it is to think of the erasure of the Armstrong and Tucker buyouts ($2 million total) as well as the retained salary on Frattin and Scrivens (500k) almost exactly covering Kessel’s raise for next season.

Regardless, the extension was the right move, and the money could have been worse.  Let’s see what the $64-million dollar man can do tonight as he, his oversized wallet and the Toronto Maple Leafs make their 2013-14 season debut against the Montreal Canadiens.

 

228 comments
Alabama Maple Leaf
Alabama Maple Leaf

Remember all Burke is nuts rhetoric?  Funny how time always reveals the truth.  Burke gave us Kessel.  Most hated him for this.  Now Kessel has the biggest deal in Leaf History.  So can we please thank Burke now?

Mitch_S2
Mitch_S2

Gauthier off to a slow start, 2 assists through the first 5 games.

Burtonboy
Burtonboy

So LeBrun says negotiations with Phaneuf will start soon.

Burtonboy
Burtonboy

Anyone else think O'Neil is the biggest jerk on sports radio ?

Mitch_S2
Mitch_S2

I remember some dorks talking about how Nonis was always against the Kessel deal, turns out that was bullshit.

Jordan29
Jordan29

LOL imagine of Bozak started slow and we teared him for stastny

Biltmore
Biltmore

Great to hear, I may be openly kissing people on the mouth at tonight's VIP. Burke burned Boston in that trade (just had to say it). 

Burn_the_Loov_Boats
Burn_the_Loov_Boats

Good contract at the market rate: the guy is a pure-talent star.  Signing bonus is a nice twist.  Good for Kessel and good for Leafs: easier to move him if things go south.

iluvleafs
iluvleafs

@Alabama Maple Leaf We can thank Burke for Kessek, Franson, Gardiner, Lupel and Phaneuf.

Pretty good lineup.

DarthBurke
DarthBurke

@Alabama Maple Leaf Thanks Burke! Thank you Boston!!!

rustynail
rustynail

@wiski do any of them pick us to make the play offs this year?

theacs1966
theacs1966

@rustynail Since Bolland has been on 2 Cup winning teams(same team different yrs) he should know what he is talking about.

jimmyg65
jimmyg65

@Burtonboy @rustynail I agree. He NEVER says anything interesting or insightful. He sounds like a dough-head guy phoning in from Woodbridge...


Jantz
Jantz

Kettle...... black for O'Neil.

Cloud09
Cloud09

@Burtonboy @Pent_House Same shit we've been hearing since Kessel got to Toronto. After last season he pretty much has proved everyone wrong.