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Maple Leafs lock up Kessel with eight-year, $64-M deal

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MONTREAL -- Phil Kessel got his wish to make it a long stay with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

What general manager Dave Nonis called "short and productive" negotiations ended with Kessel signing a US$64-million, eight-year contract on Tuesday.

The deal has a salary cap hit of $8 million per season. It begins in 2014-15 and runs through the 2021-22 season.

"I'll be on the hook for some team dinners here or there, but I don't mind," Kessel said at a news conference before Tuesday night's season opener at Montreal. "I always wanted to be (in Toronto).

"This is the place I want to play. I want to finish my career here. It's a great city, the organization's unbelievable and I'm really excited to continue here."

The contract includes a limited no-trade clause. Kessel has one season left on his previous deal at $5.4 million.

Nonis said negotiations started last week when Kessel, who could have become an unrestricted free agent next July, told him he wanted to remain a Leaf.

"There weren't negotiations early in camp," said Nonis. "I wanted to hear him tell me he wanted to be a Toronto Maple Leaf and once he did, we were able to work quickly and reach an agreement."

Kessel reportedly wanted either to sign a deal before the season or wait until the summer.

The speedy right-winger had 20 goals and 52 points in 48 games last season. He has 379 points (185-194) in 504 regular-season games over seven seasons with Toronto and Boston.

The six-foot, 202-pound native of Madison, Wis., has 21 points (13-8) in 22 career playoff games. He had four goals, including two game-winners, in Toronto's seven-game, first-round playoff loss to the Bruins last season.

"I think Phil made some great strides in that series," Nonis said. "He had a great year. He's had several great years. That's the one thing I think people overlook."

Kessel also played for the United States at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

The two-time all-star, who turns 26 today, was drafted by the Bruins with the fifth overall pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.

He was dealt to Toronto four years ago for two first-round picks and a second-round selection.


-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 2, 2013 C4

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