Last night it came out that the negotiations between the Toronto Maple Leafs and star forward Phil Kessel had intensified. Now the contract talks are almost finalized, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger and Bob McKenzie.
UPDATE (11:48 a.m. ET)
It’s finalized. The Leafs have announced Kessel’s signed an eight-year deal, with various outlets confirming the $64 million price tag. The Globe and Mail reports it has a no-movement and limited no-trade clause.
At that cap hit, Toronto would have about $42 million committed to 11 players in 2014-15 based on Cap Geek’s numbers. That doesn’t factor in the restricted free agents they will have to deal with over the offseason, including Cody Franson and goaltender James Reimer.
The other half of Toronto’s goaltending tandem, Jonathan Bernier, as well as forward Nazem Kadri are set to become restricted free agents in the summer of 2015.
Signing Kessel now spares the Maple Leafs and Kessel a season of intense trade speculation, but it also obviously means securing a vital member of the team. Kessel has emerged as a point-per-game player over his tenure in Toronto and has managed to stay relatively healthy.
The Wisconsin-native reached the 30-goal mark for four straight seasons before the shortened campaign. In 2013, he tied for seventh in the NHL with 52 points.
Toronto’s next order of business is reportedly captain Dion Phaneuf. Those negotiations might be tough though, as Phaneuf wants $6.5 million annually at a minimum, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger.