Buzzing on Yahoo Sports:

Kessel signs mega 8-year deal with Leafs

The SportsXchange

Phil Kessel will be celebrating his 26th birthday Wednesday with a bunch of zeroes.

The Toronto Maple Leafs forward signed an eight-year deal reported to be worth an average of $8 million annually with a partial no-trade clause.

"I've always wanted to be here," said Kessel, who was acquired in 2009 from Boston when he signed a five-year, $27 million deal. "It's a place I wanted to play; I want to finish my career here. It's a great city, the organization's unbelievable."

The sides finalized the deal before Kessel's self-imposed deadline of the Maple Leafs' regular-season opener Tuesday night.

"You don't have to worry about it anymore," Kessel said. "This is a big season for our team. We're looking to grow as a team and improve from last year, and it was nice to get it done."

He has never scored 40 goals in a season but was expected to be one of the top free agents on the market at the end of the season.

Kessel has 185 goals and 194 assists in 504 career games. He was drafted fifth overall in the 2006 draft by the Bruins.

"If you look at his production, he is a top 10 player," Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis said. "He's been in the top 10 in scoring, he's been in the top 10 in goals. He's a player that's put himself in some pretty elite company, and he's done that himself. So I don't think it's a stretch to say that we're paying him and (giving him) the term for this type of player."

Kessel's new contract will go into effect at the beginning of next season, after his current deal expires.

He has at least 30 goals in each of his first three seasons with Toronto, and Nonis said the combination of young age and consistent improvement made such a long commitment with a limited no-trade clause reasonable.

"Elite players are going to get it," Nonis said. "Look around the League. If you're going to retain an elite player, you're going to have to give them a fairly lengthy term. What you want to make sure is that you're comfortable as you can be that the player is going to be able to perform at a high level for most, if not all of it.

"Phil being 26 years old, I'm pretty comfortable that we hopefully have the eight best years of his career."
Sign up for Yahoo Fantasy Baseball
View Comments (2)