The latest on Phil Kessel, Mikhail Grabovski,  Hal Gill and more.

Phil Kessel could be in line for big bucks after this season.

Phil Kessel could be in line for big bucks after this season.

TORONTO STAR: Damien Cox speculates an eight-year deal in the $70 million range could be in the offing for Maple Leafs star Phil Kessel. All indications suggest Kessel wants to remain a Leaf and the club is determined to keep him. Cox hopes the Leafs get Kessel re-signed before Christmas, rather than having his contract status linger throughout the rest of the season. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cue the multiple “No way Kessel’s worth $8.75 million per season!” outrage from some Leafs fans. Well, if Kessel meets or exceeds his career-best numbers (37 goals, 82 points in 2011-12), he’ll almost certainly get that contract. If the Leafs won’t pay him that much, another team certainly will via free agency.  

While the Leafs might prefer waiting until June to determine just how much the salary cap will increase for 2014-15 (and it will increase), I agree with Cox that they should try to get him re-sign before Christmas.  Right now, his value is likely between $7 – $7.5 million per season, but that will surely increase if his performance continues to improve.

CSN WASHINGTON: Brian McNally believes until UFA center Mikhail Grabovski signs somewhere, he’ll continue to be linked to the Washington Capitals whether the evidence is there the Capitals want him or not. McNally suggests Grabovski would make a better second-line center for the Caps than Brooks Laich, but noted Grabovski’s rumored desire to “double-dip” (with his old contract and a new one) may be why he remains unsigned.

He also believes Grabovski might have to accept a one-year contract to build up his value, but it remains to be seen if the Capitals would be interested. McNally noted Anaheim, Florida, Nashville and Calgary still need top-six centers, but wondered if Grabovski would sign with a non-contender.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Capitals could have around $3 million remaining (once they re-sign Marcus Johansson) if they wish to sign Grabovski or somebody else. Capitals GM George McPhee earlier last month said he has no interest in the players still available in the UFA market.

THE GLOBE & MAIL: James Mirtle reports Hal Gill is among a number of NHL free agents anxious to find new homes. Others include forwards Mikhail Grabovski, Damian Brunner, Brad Boyes, Vinny Prospal, Brenden Morrow and Mason Raymond, plus defensemen Ron Hainsey, Filip Kuba, Ian White, Tom Gilbert, Ryan Whitney and Doug Murray.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The reduced salary cap has taken a toll upon second-tier free agent talent. I expect a number of these players will be signed in September, either before or during preseason.