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Kessel and Leafs haven’t talked contract, won’t negotiate in-season

Aug 27, 2013, 12:45 PM EDT

Phil Kessel AP

Toronto fans hoping to see Phil Kessel and the Maple Leafs get a contract extension done before the season may want to have a seat.

At Team USA’s Olympic orientation camp, Kessel tells reporters he hasn’t spoken with the Leafs about a new deal and says he doesn’t want to negotiate during the season. The 25-year-old forward is entering the final year of the five-year, $27 million deal he signed with Toronto back in 2009.

The pessimistic way to look at this for Leafs faithful is that GM Dave Nonis spent too much time this summer making questionable, big-money signings (and re-signings) while seemingly ignoring the future of the team. That applies to restricted free agents Nazem Kadri and Cody Franson as well as potential 2014 UFAs Kessel and Dion Phaneuf.

If you want a silver lining, perhaps Nonis is waiting to see just how much the salary cap goes up next season to know just what he’ll have to offer once the Leafs season ends.

Of course, by that point Kessel could decide he wants to test the market which means his price only goes higher.

  1. dbarnes79 - Aug 27, 2013 at 1:02 PM

    Leafs need to lock him up long term. Kessel is turning into an elite player.

    • imnotyourbuddyguy - Aug 27, 2013 at 1:19 PM

      If being horrid on D and putting up more than a point per game only once in his life qualifies as elite.


      Easily 20 players I’d take before Phil

      • stepanup - Aug 27, 2013 at 1:35 PM

        You just defined him as a franchise player, assuming every team was given one to build around. Also, he’s 25 and entering his prime.

      • sunderlanding - Aug 27, 2013 at 5:08 PM

        He’s getting better on D, and lots of goal producers start out as horrid on D. Let’s remember D is the easiest thing to teach.

      • imnotyourbuddyguy - Aug 27, 2013 at 10:03 PM

        5 years later he’s still learning?
        LOL K

      • sunderlanding - Aug 27, 2013 at 10:33 PM

        Happens with lots of players. Especially high end point producing players, or did you just start watching hockey this year? I hate to break it to you, but they usually take a couple of years to mature before they even want to learn defense.

      • imnotyourbuddyguy - Aug 28, 2013 at 2:48 AM

        Oh I’m sorry, are we talking about a 2nd or 3rd year player?
        My bad I thought were were talking about a guy with 500 NHL games under his belt.

      • sunderlanding - Aug 28, 2013 at 4:16 AM

        You should do some research on a player named Steve Yzerman.

      • imnotyourbuddyguy - Aug 28, 2013 at 11:47 AM

        You should do some research on a coach named Scott Bowman, and then stop replying until you realize Yzerman was a Center while Kessel is a Winger and then never compare apples to oranges again.

        LOL @ Steve Yzerman comparison.
        Yup, maybe if the Leafs hire the greatest coach of all time, and then threaten to trade the team Captain to Ottawa.

        Ohhhhh right, Kessel, isn’t Captain material, a Center and will never have the greatest coach ever teaching him.

        Why did you bring up Yzerman again? Ohhhh right to look dumb and get owned.

      • sunderlanding - Aug 28, 2013 at 3:44 PM

        I didn’t say Kessel was as good as Yzerman just the the situations are similar, but I guess you can’t read properly. Yzerman had more than 500 games under his belt before he learned to play defense properly, which was your original complaint. My only point is that playing over 500 games before learning to play defense isn’t that rare. Yzerman and Bowman may be better than Kessel and Carlyle, but 500 games is 500 games. Also, as a side note you can compare apples and oranges. They are both fruits. There I just did it.

      • scotloucks - Aug 27, 2013 at 8:13 PM

        Suggesting that Kessel is horrid on D suggests either you don’t ever ever watch the games or you don’t know what you are talking about.

        I’ll go with both.

      • imnotyourbuddyguy - Aug 27, 2013 at 10:05 PM

        Anyone suggesting otherwise is a clueless homer who hasn’t a clue, kinda like Kessel with backchecking & and staying with his man when he doesn’t have the puck.

      • sunderlanding - Aug 31, 2013 at 7:39 PM

        You’re obviously just here to troll the Leafs. You can’t back anything you say.

    • ethanmacleod1685 - Aug 27, 2013 at 2:01 PM

      I reckon he wants to leave Toronto

      • elrock7 - Aug 27, 2013 at 8:05 PM

        you obviously don’t follow the Leafs. He has repeatedly stated he loves the city and would like to play the rest of his career here. This is a well known fact.

        He will sign next off season, count on it!

      • Lupy Nazty Philthy - Aug 27, 2013 at 9:09 PM

        elrock7, I would love to believe it, but so many players say that and don’t follow through. Zach Parise said the exact same thing about New Jersey. First chance he had he was out.

  2. nolockoutpricks - Aug 27, 2013 at 1:07 PM

    4 get the leafs we could use u back home. building something pretty nice

  3. dueman - Aug 27, 2013 at 1:15 PM

    It just wouldn’t be a normal day in the off season without some journalist somewhere trying to stir the pot in Leaf Land! They have an entire year to get a new contract done with Kessel. Oh, and Kessel doesn’t negotiate, his agent does. He’ll be signed, simply because there is nothing to think about, you just don’t let players like him walk, period. Gotta love the media!

    • ejbigg - Aug 27, 2013 at 1:25 PM

      They said the same thing about Suter and Parise. I agree with you that this is just the media trying to stir some controversy. But that being said Kessel is a very low profile guy, it’s entirely possible he wants out of Toronto because, well, exactly for reasons like this.

      • dueman - Aug 27, 2013 at 5:55 PM

        Sure, if you ignore the fact that he loves playing for the Leafs, and that he would like to play out his career in Toronto. (His words, not mine!) This is just nonsense. Yerdon wrote the same story four clicks to the left…only in that one it’s Lundqvist possibly leaving the Rangers! It’s just August hockey journalism a it’s finest (or worst, depending on how you look at it).

    • imnotyourbuddyguy - Aug 27, 2013 at 10:06 PM

      Your typical delusional Leafs fan ladies and gentlemen

      • dueman - Aug 28, 2013 at 11:58 AM

        Your typical a$$hole folks ^

  4. stepanup - Aug 27, 2013 at 1:28 PM

    Smells like a monster contract year in the works.

  5. lbeezyse - Aug 27, 2013 at 1:37 PM

    I think it would be a mistake for the Leafs to let him walk for nothing. With that said, I hope they do & C. Fletcher is aggressive. He would fit in perfectly on the Wild.

    Pipe dream I know!

    • dueman - Aug 28, 2013 at 11:59 AM

      Yup, pipe dream.

  6. caniacx4 - Aug 27, 2013 at 3:04 PM

    Needs to come south to CAROLINA!!!

    • nolockoutpricks - Aug 27, 2013 at 3:54 PM

      no 1 wants to play in carolina. wost hockey city ever

      • beergold - Aug 27, 2013 at 5:22 PM

        except for Toronto where they plan the parade every year and the ownership hoses the fan base with a subpar on ice product. Simply put the organization doesn’t care, the rink is packed regardless. I can see him wanting to have a chance to do what he loves best, score goals, in a much less love/hate environment. What the heck he will still pull 5.5 to 6.5 a year no matter where he goes.

      • mjbabiak - Aug 27, 2013 at 5:41 PM


        more like 7.5 – 8.5.

        and trust me Toronto (and it’s fans) hasn’t planned any parades in recent years. coming from a fan, we were more than surprised to even make the playoffs last year, let alone make a series out of it.

  7. joeyashwi - Aug 27, 2013 at 3:55 PM

    Another Minnesota homecoming?

    • elrock7 - Aug 27, 2013 at 8:28 PM

      HAHA he is NOT from Minnesota

  8. denverwally - Aug 27, 2013 at 4:50 PM

    word of caution to Toronto – he wanted out of Boston due in part to escape the passion of the fans, he didn’t care for the pressure cooker. Well, you have exactly the same thing in Toronto with the added pressure of not having won a cup in about 8,000 years.

    • elrock7 - Aug 27, 2013 at 8:34 PM

      he left Boston because of cheapskate Jacobs

      • Moop - Aug 31, 2013 at 2:05 PM

        The Bruins traded Kessel because he didn’t want to play Claude Julien’s defensive system. If Jacobs had anything to do with it Kessel wouldn’t be mercilessly booed every time he plays in Boston.

  9. mistercue62 - Aug 27, 2013 at 5:32 PM

    This is decidedly nothing more than media-induced fear-mongering in a particularly slow summer for Maple Leaf news. Just look at how infrequentlly Leaf news stories have been posted in recent weeks on this website alone!

    This story does however inspire me to make at least one pledge: if Phil Kessel remains unsigned next summer and decides to fly out to ANY city other than Toronto to even discuss a contract after having all but forced Nonis’ hand in signing Tyler Bozak for WAY more money than he deserves (at the expense of Stephen Weiss and potentially their best offensive d-man, Cody Franson), I’m gonna buy a ticket & hijack the freakin’ airplane!

    • mjbabiak - Aug 27, 2013 at 5:45 PM

      I’ll help with the hijacking and I’m sure Kadri will too

    • Lupy Nazty Philthy - Aug 27, 2013 at 9:13 PM

      About Bozak, In Nonis defense he didn’t actually sign Bozak until Weiss signed in Detroit first. Weiss would have costed a lot more than Bozak too, with no guarantees he’s have any chemistry. It’s just Stephen Weiss… He’s good, but nothing to frett about not getting.

      • mistercue62 - Aug 28, 2013 at 12:07 AM

        I keep reading the word “chemistry” in relation to Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel. WHAT chemistry?? Bozak only managed to put up 28 points last season; 12 goals & 16 assists. How does 16 assists (not all of them on Kessel’s goals) suggest the existence of chemistry on ANY level? Furthermore, the only season in which Bozak played in all 82 games was 2 years ago (2010-11 season) when he managed to register just 32 points; 15 goals & 17 assists and was a -29 on the season. In fact, through 5 NHL seasons, Tyler Bozak (primarily as the Leaf’s #1 center) has only posted a paltry 53 goals & 81 assists and is a career -50; hardly numbers characteristic of a #1 center in the NHL, nor do they suggest for even a moment that he possesses any measurable amount of “chemistry” with his wingers, especially Phil Kessel, one of the most natural scorers in the league!

        I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that if Kessel had a decent #1 center to play with, he’d be scoring close to, if not in excess of 50 goals a season; Stephen Weiss could certainly have been that guy. Given the opportunity to play on the first line alongside Kessel and VanReimsdyk, Weiss would have lit it up! Furthermore, he would NOT have come in at a much higher pricetag than Bozak (whom the Leafs should have let walk) as you suggest; he ultimately signed with Detroit for just $5 million per, just $800k more than Bozak and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone with even a rudimentary level of hockey acumen to state that Stephen Weiss isn’t worth essentially the same money as Tyler Bozak.

        One more thing…with all due respect, your suggestion that Nonis only agreed to sign Bozak once Weiss had gone to Detroit is erroneous at best. The truth of the matter is that Nonis never even made Weiss an offer, despite the Leafs’ well-publicized interest in acquiring him as well as Weiss’ reported interest in playing for the Leafs (particularly alongside Phil Kessel) throughout the previous month. In fact, Nonis was hoping to have the Bozak deal completed earlier and for less money than they eventually (and reluctantly) ended up signing him for. Unfortunately, the whole Bozak situation that Nonis believed would be a relatively quiet and simple endeavor ended up turning into a long, drawn-out marathon that lasted right until the 3 o’clock deadline as Bozak & his agent blind-sided the Leafs’ management team by holding out for a lot more than Nonis was offering and expecting to have to pay for a player who would be lucky to get $2-2.5 million from pretty much ANY other team. Under any other circumstances, Nonis would likely have passed (or held firm with his rumored offer in the neighborhood of $2.5-3 million x 2-3 years), but realizing that re-signing Phil Kessel hinged on keeping his buddy Bozak under contract, Nonis’ focus ended up being on the Bozak negotiations which along with the inherent uncertainty of available $ in the wake of the still unfinished Bozak deal, virtually destroyed any chance of acquiring Stephen Weiss. Bozak’s agent was obviously aware of his client’s importance with respect to Kessel’s future with the team and held Nonis hostage for the additional $ and term.

        So here we are, fellow Leaf fans, on the verge of entering yet another season without a decent #1 center, thanks in large part to our EXISTING #1 center who has no business BEING a #1 center.. And as far as a “guarantee of chemistry” is concerned, had Stephen Weiss been signed with the Bozak $ (or any other real #1 center for that matter) and helped Kessel pot 50 goals this season, I GUARANTEE you that they would have enough “chemistry” in very short order to blow up the Air Canada Center!

        Just because they’re buddies off the ice doesn’t mean that they should be playing together on it!

      • Lupy Nazty Philthy - Aug 28, 2013 at 12:19 AM

        In the last two seasons there have only been 10 players to score at a point per game pace or better. BOTH of Tyler Bozak’s line mates are on that short list. Bozak does all the dirty work to give them room. The line works. Especially him and Kessel. They can interchange Lupul and JVR on LW.

        And it’s not like Bozak is guaranteed to stay the first line center. If Kadri keeps progressing, he could easily take over the top job.

        How Weiss would have done is debatable. Bozak’s 3 years younger, a better faceoff guy too. Weiss may be a better offensive player, but he’s a career minus player. Bozak kills penalties.

  10. Lupy Nazty Philthy - Aug 27, 2013 at 9:20 PM

    I don’t trust anything Kessel tells he media. He’ll say anything to get away from them quicker.

    Reporter: “Are you and the Leafs negotiating on a new contract?”

    Kessel: “Uhh… I dunno…ummm… I’m not even thinking about, don’t want to worry about it during the season either…uhhhh….” [points behind reporter] “Hey isn’t that Angelina Jolies?”

    Reporter: “Where?!” [looks back and Kessel’s gone]

    • dueman - Aug 28, 2013 at 12:08 PM

      Wow. You normally have intelligent things to say, what happened to you today?

      • Lupy Nazty Philthy - Aug 28, 2013 at 2:00 PM

        It’s a joke. You’ve seen Kessel in interviews. He hates them and always looks uncomfortable and awkward. Poking fun of when he got in trouble for taking off after a game without talking to the media.

      • davebabychreturns - Aug 30, 2013 at 9:21 AM

        Kessel actually has a reputation in the hockey world (as reported by credible journalists like Elliotte Friedman) for holding up very well under the intense scrutiny of the media in a major marketplace like Toronto.

        I don’t think he’ll ever be a holding court with the media, charming the pants off everyone kind of guy but the point is more that he does his job (ie. answers questions) and then doesn’t go home and read the papers and get worked up about it – unlike many, many players.

      • Lupy Nazty Philthy - Aug 30, 2013 at 5:16 PM

        I love the way Kessel handles the media. Of course there’s good media members like Friedman, but in Toronto especially there is a lot of bad ones. And I mean A LOT! I wish Kessel could deal with the bad ones in his own way.

        Kessel deals with the media because him and every player are forced to. It’s part of every NHL contract to make themselves available to the media after games. Which is the reason why Kessel got a bit of flack last year for ducking out on the media without talking to them. I thought it was funny, but business is business.

        I hope the Leafs sign Kessel forever. He’s an amazing player. One of the best offensive talents in the NHL. Look at the numbers he puts up, look at the names around him, then compare those players’ linemates. Kessel is a stud.

  11. Moop - Aug 31, 2013 at 2:08 PM

    Kessel is key to the Leafs having success for the next decade. He’s starting to become the absolute star he’s always been supposed to be and now that they’re surrounding him with talent it would be disappointing for Leafs fans to see him leave. With Kessel locked up the Leafs probably make it to the Stanley Cup, if not win one, in the next four years.

Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. P. Kane (1958)
  2. P. Kessel (1471)
  3. M. Richards (1275)
  4. N. Backstrom (1174)
  5. M. Giordano (1121)