On Tuesday, a day before his 26th birthday, Phil Kessel was given the best gift he's ever received: an 8-year, $64 million contract extension with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"I'll be on the hook for some team dinners, here and there, but I don't mind," he said during a press conference announcing the extension.
Entering training camp, Leafs general manager Dave Nonis was hounded by questions from the media about an extension for Kessel. Of course, Nonis had other cap-related issues that needed his immediate attention first. But last week, as Kessel was being given a three-game preseason suspension for chopping the redwood tree that is John Scott, Nonis was told by his star player he wanted to stay in Toronto. That was when negotiations kicked off.
Kessel didn't want talks to go on during the regular season, so rather than risk his players getting unhappy and looking forward to unrestricted free agent status come the summer, Nonis made the full-court press and got the deal done.
"It's a day you don't have to worry about anything anymore," said Kessel. "This is a big season for our team. We're looking to grow as a team, improve from last year. It's nice to get it done."
According to CBC's Elliotte Friedman and James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail, Kessel's deal includes a no movement and limited no-trade clause. There's a list of eight teams he can be traded to and during the length of the deal, he cannot be placed on waivers or loaned out.
It's a rich deal, but as the Leafs trumpeted in their press release, only Steven Stamkos, Evgeni Malkin and Claude Giroux have more points than Kessel over the last two seasons. (Imagine if he had a decent center...)
With the cap likely going up next summer and the Leafs being a team that can print their own cash, $8 million a season for Kessel can be considered a bargain in a way when you look at his production over time, as Jeffler points out on Leafs Nation.
He's done nothing but produce since coming over from Boston and despite his quiet nature, Nonis is comfortable with this move going forward.
"We wouldn't have looked to extend Phil if we didn't think he was a great fit in Toronto."
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy