Phil Kessel inks 8-year, $64M contract with Leafs

Only Steven Stamkos, Sidney Crosby and Martin St. Louis had more multi-point games than Phil...

Only Steven Stamkos, Sidney Crosby and Martin St. Louis had more multi-point games than Phil Kessel's 16 last season with the Maple Leafs. (Micheal Peake, QMI Agency)

ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:02 PM ET

The negotiations opened perhaps a little sooner than general manager Dave Nonis expected, but the words were right on cue.

And it was the content of that talk, as much as the talent Phil Kessel has shown in his limited but explosive career, that set the table for the flashy winger to become a Maple Leaf for a long, long time.

The eight-year, $64-million deal Kessel and the team finalized on Tuesday, mere hours before puck drop of the 2013-14 season here against the Habs, is steep in both price and in term.

It will make Kessel the richest Leaf in history and the eighth-highest-paid player in the NHL by cost against the league salary cap. But in today’s cap-ruled world, it’s the going rate for superstars on both counts.

What ultimately sold GM Nonis on making it happen — and expediting the process to ensure it wouldn’t be a distraction heading into the season — was when Kessel looked him in the eye and warbled his version of Maple Leaf Forever.

“We weren’t about to throw money at any player, including Phil, until I was comfortable that he wanted to be in Toronto,” Nonis said on Tuesday morning, outlining the process that he says began a week ago. “He brought up to me how important it was to stay and that’s when we started negotiations.

“I wanted him to tell me he wanted to be a Toronto Maple Leaf. Once he did, we worked quickly and we were able to reach a new agreement.”


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