Leafs lock up Kessel with $64 million extension

The Toronto Maple Leafs have signed Phil Kessel to an eight-year contract extension that will commence at the start of the 2014-15 NHL season, the club announced Tuesday.

The deal, in which negotiations were first reported by Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston Monday night, is worth $64 million.

“Phil Kessel is one of the premier wingers and elite goal scorers in the National Hockey League today,” said Dave Nonis, Maple Leafs senior vice president and GM, in a release. “He wanted to be a Maple Leaf long term and we’re very pleased that Phil will be a part of our core group of players in Toronto until the 2021-22 season.”

Kessel, who turns 26 Wednesday, is coming off arguably his best season as a pro, registering 20 goals and 52 points in 48 games during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign. He also added four goals and six points in seven playoff games against the Boston Bruins.

The star winger’s salary cap hit will be $5.4 million in 2013-14.

In 504 career NHL regular season games the former fifth-overall pick of the Bruins has 185 goals and 379 points.

Kessel joins a core group of forwards the Leafs have locked up. The team already has the likes of James Van Riemsdyk, Joffrey Lupul, David Clarkson and Kessel’s close friend Tyler Bozak signed until at least the 2017-18 season.

Kessel had previously said he did not want to be involved in contract negotiations during the season. The Leafs open the regular season Tuesday against the Montreal Canadiens.

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