Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 9/30/13
Phil Kessel’s wish may still come true. Sportsnet.ca has learned that negotiations on a contract extension between the star winger’s agent and the Toronto Maple Leafs were taking place ahead of Tuesday’s regular season opener in Montreal. With the player unwilling to engage in talks once the schedule is underway the sides held discussions to see if a last-minute deal could be reached before that happened. As of Monday night it was unclear whether they would be able to agree on a long-term extension in time. Kessel who turns 26 on Wednesday is entering the final season of a contract that pays him $5.4-million annually. Unrestricted free agency looms in July if a new deal doesn’t materialize before then. It will take a major financial commitment from the organization to get it done – perhaps as much as $8-million per season over eight years the maximum allowable term under the collective bargaining agreement. Kessel has led the Maple Leafs in points in each of the four seasons since being acquired from the Boston Bruins hitting the 30-goal plateau the first three years and scoring 20 during the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign. He also added four goals during the first-round playoff loss to the Bruins last spring. His stated preference is to remain in a city where he has grown increasingly more comfortable. Kessel returned to Toronto a month earlier than normal this past off-season and believes the team isn’t all that far off becoming a contender. “We have a great group of guys here – we have fun” Kessel said at the start of training camp. “The fans are great I enjoy the city. There are great restaurants. And I’ve got some good friends outside of the team too that I like to hang out with. “That’s why I like it here.” The Leafs have some major decisions to make in the coming months. In addition to Kessel captain Dion Phaneuf is among a group of eight players that are eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer. There are three key restricted free agents to deal with as well.
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