Kessel Negotiations Won Before Even Finished

Jeff Veillette (Jeffler)
September 30 2013 09:43PM

So, as you're probably well aware of (if you arent..), Phil Kessel is closing in on an extension with the Toronto Maple Leafs before tomorrow's opening night puck drop. The speculation is that he'll take in and around $8 million per year over 8 years, locking him up until he's 34 years old. People are debating whether this is the right choice.

What? This is crazy. If he's asking for $8.5 million right now, the Leafs would win these negotiations without even negotiating. Anything now is gravy. 

Lets look at prior history. Specifically, high production wingers going into their first contract with UFA years, between the ages of 25-28 in their contract years, in the salary cap era. You get the following players, with their contracts, and their adjusted contracts (cap inflation and removal of "circumvention" years after year 8)

Player Contract Contract Year Adjusted Contract
Phil Kessel TO BE DETERMINED 2012/13 TO BE DETERMINED
Patrick Marleau 2 years @ 6.3 M 2007/08 2 years @ 7.14 M
Henrik Zetterberg 12 years @ 6.083 M 2008/09 8 years @ 8.58 M
Marian Gaborik 5 years @ 7.5 M 2008/09 5 years @ 8.49 M
Zach Parise 12 years @ 7.538 M 2011/12 8 years @ 9.16 M
Dany Heatley 6 years @ 7.5 M 2006/07 6 years @ 9.59 M
Rick Nash 8 years @ 7.8 M 2009/10 8 years @ 8.44 M
Daniel Sedin 5 years @ 6.1 M 2008/09 5 years @ 6.91 M
Corey Perry 8 years @ 8.625 M 2011/12 8 years @ 8.625 M
Ilya Kovalchuk 15 years @ 6.67 M 2009/10 8 years @ 10.69 M

An average contract in this class comes out to 6 years @ 8.625 million. Seeing as all of them other than Gaborik and Parise signed with the teams they were with, it's not crazy to assume that the average would be much higher with free agency shift arounds.

Here's a comparison of their production in their contract years:

Player Contract Year Age GP G A PTS PM PIM S S% TOI
Phil Kessel 2012/13 25 48 20 32 52 -3 18 161 12.4 951
Patrick Marleau 2007/08 28 78 19 29 48 9 33 185 10.3 1422
Henrik Zetterberg 2008/09 28 77 31 42 73 13 36 309 10 1531
Marian Gaborik 2008/09 26 17 13 10 23 3 2 68 19.1 340
Zach Parise 2011/12 27 82 31 38 69 -5 32 293 10.6 1762
Dany Heatley 2006/07 26 82 50 55 105 31 74 310 16.1 1725
Rick Nash 2009/10 25 76 33 34 67 -2 58 254 13 1591
Daniel Sedin 2008/09 28 82 31 51 82 24 36 285 10.9 1541
Corey Perry 2011/12 26 80 37 23 60 -7 127 277 13.4 1710
Ilya Kovalchuk 2009/10 26 76 41 44 85 10 53 290 14.1 1675

And adjusted to 82 games @ 20 minutes per game:

Player Contract Year Age GP G A PTS PM PIM S S% TOI
Phil Kessel 2012/13 25 82 34 55 89 -5 31 277 12.4 1640
Patrick Marleau 2007/08 28 82 21 33 54 10 38 213 10.3 1640
Henrik Zetterberg 2008/09 28 82 33 45 78 13 38 330 10 1640
Marian Gaborik 2008/09 26 82 62 48 110 14 9 328 19.1 1640
Zach Parise 2011/12 27 82 28 35 63 -4 29 272 10.6 1640
Dany Heatley 2006/07 26 82 47 52 99 29 70 294 16.1 1640
Rick Nash 2009/10 25 82 34 35 69 -2 59 261 13 1640
Daniel Sedin 2008/09 28 82 32 54 86 25 38 303 10.9 1640
Corey Perry 2011/12 26 82 35 22 57 -6 121 265 13.4 1640
Ilya Kovalchuk 2009/10 26 82 40 43 83 9 51 283 14.1 1640

His production is right up amongst the best, only being outscored by Gaborik and his 17 game sample size, and Heatley, who who was the trigger man on one of the most stacked lines in modern hockey, rather than playing with Tyler Bozak. On top of that, this is a man who's health has been fantastic since coming here, not missing a single game in Toronto since he hit the ice for the first time.

Simply put, Phil Kessel is in elite company for this contract negotiation scenario. He's asking for a more than reasonable amount right off the hop, because honestly, he could easily get over 9M on July 1st. The fact he isn't even asking for that is huge. Start celebrating.

7cb905bdffc4d09e93770ff4a1889462
I bring news about the Toronto Marlies, opinions about the Toronto Maple Leafs, and a bunch of ridiculous thoughts about everything else.
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#1 Matt
September 30 2013, 10:14PM
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Raw, warranted optimist. I LOVE IT.

Also: well written. Goodnight, team.

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#2 Nick
October 01 2013, 06:50AM
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Jeramy wrote:

Steve Dangle keeps saying "Belov was so good in KHL Edmonton will love him but Kulemin was great in KHL and he sucks :/

you are a silly person. Kulemin is basically the leafs most versatile forward. He has a good shot, speed, puck possession, strength and is defensively responsible. one of their better checkers, with a 30 goal season under his belt (so even though he is in a CHECKING role, he can still score once in a while) You can't ask for a better third line than Bolland, McLement and Kulemin, except for the Blackhawks 2010 third line (Bolland, Ladd, Versteeg)

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#3 MaxPower417
October 01 2013, 09:16AM
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Lets be real. Kessel is signing for 8.1 mil for 8 years.

And unlike Bozak signing for 4.2....That's awesome.

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#4 Jeramy
September 30 2013, 10:30PM
Trash it!
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Steve Dangle keeps saying "Belov was so good in KHL Edmonton will love him but Kulemin was great in KHL and he sucks :/

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#5 STAN
October 01 2013, 11:26AM
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Excellent numbers metrics (nice work), but 20 or 30 wrongs don't make a right.

8 seasons is just too much for any athlete in any sport. Injuries, motivation, incentives are out the window when you hand a young man guaranteed money and virtually no chance he'll be traded.

At least Burke had a decent rule that he'd never offer a guy more than 5 seasons (personally, I'd make it 3 seasons), making the case that FAR too many things could and do go wrong over 8, 10, 12, 15 years.

Prime examples - DiPietro, Luongo, Gomez, Redden, Holik, Drury, LeCavalier. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

You could also make a good case against the squandering of money by the GMs who inked Parise, Suter, Richards, Nash and Heatley.

That said, the profligate NHL culture ain't goin' away any time soon. Broadcasters can't get enough of sports and neither can corporations who pay the outlandish rates of advertising, which we should remind ourselves, comes out of our pockets… one war or another.

Perhaps 5 years the NHL will look back on the first 18 years of the new century as the time when sanity prevailed… because decent players like Kessel will be demanding and getting $25-$30 milolion…. per season… and players clothing will be covered from head to toe with ads and logos, just like race drivers and many sports leagues outside North America..

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