One year from now, Phil Kessel will be an unrestricted free agent.
But to hear him talk about it, the situation is the furthest thing from his mind.
“I haven’t even thought about it yet,” he said on Wednesday, as per TSN. “I’ve still got another year here and we’ll see what happens.”
In February, Kessel made waves via his agent, Wade Arnott, who said the 25-year-old would like to finish his career in Toronto.
“Phil (Kessel) is still a really young man,” Arnott told the SportsNet Fan590. “He really enjoys living in Toronto and playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“This young man lives and breathes hockey. He was very excited to come here four years ago. I think if you asked Phil today, he’d love to finish his career here in Toronto.”
Kessel enjoyed a solid 2013 campaign, arguably his finest with the Leafs.
He led the team in scoring with 52 points in 48 games — his first-ever season averaging more than one point per game — and scored six points in Toronto’s opening-round playoff loss to the Bruins.
In light of that, it’ll be extremely interesting to see what his next deal looks like.
Kessel’s five-year, $27 million deal expires at the end of 2013-14, one that carries an average annual cap hit of $5.4 million.
While it makes him the club’s highest-paid forward next season, it’s in the future where things get dicey: Toronto has $19.5 million committed annually to David Clarkson, Tyler Bozak, James van Riemsdyk and Joffrey Lupul until 2018.
Compounding matters is the fact the club’s second-leading scorer last season, Nazem Kadri, is also in line for a new deal.
His entry-level contract has expired — one that netted him $1.72 million per year — and he’ll be in line for a raise given how well he played last year (44 points in 48 games), his first as a full-fledged member of the Leafs.
“Nothing yet, but I know we’re still talking,” Kadri said about contract negotiations. “As long as there’s progression, that’s the important thing.”