Various sources today claim the Toronto Maple Leafs have reached an agreement with Phil Kessel on an eight-year contract. The deal could be officially announced today.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The deal is reportedly worth around $8 million per season and comes with a limited no-trade clause. It’s also expected to come with a signing bonus in the first season (2014-15) and perhaps another later on.
This contract comes as no surprise to me. While Kessel is arguably the most under-appreciated player in Maple Leafs history, he’s also been their best player since joining the club in a ballyhooed trade with the Boston Bruins. He’s led the Leafs in scoring every season, and ranked among the league’s top ten scorers over the past two seasons.
His strong performance in this spring’s playoff series against the Bruins not only showcased how much he’s become a well-rounded player, it silenced many of his critics.
Kessel is eligible for UFA status next summer. If the Leafs won’t pay top dollar to retain their best player, another club happily will next summer. If the Leafs hope to build upon last season’s success, they need Kessel as their foundation.