The Toronto Maple Leafs have reportedly finally done what we were all expecting them to do. With the 2013-14 season now just a few weeks away from getting officially underway, they still haven’t appeared to put anymore consideration into firing up talks for a Phil Kessel contract extension.
Kessel is set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. While his name has been involved in trade rumors at different points in the last couple of years, and the Maple Leafs do have a bundle of offensive talent, there’s little doubt that Kessel is the type of player you do not let get away.
The Leafs have long coveted a player of Kessel’s caliber and skill set. He’s a perennial 30-goal scorer and a force out on the wing, something of a rarity in this league, and an even rarer sight for the Maple Leafs as an organization. Which is why it makes zero sense to let him walk.
Which is why it’s even more important that the two sides get contract negotiations underway now. Kessel has already said that he will not negotiate a contract extension after the season officially gets underway, leaving the Maple Leafs little time to hammer out a deal, especially when they’re still concerned about a deal for Cody Franson.
If the Leafs are unable to negotiate a new deal with Phil Kessel before the season gets underway, they run the risk of losing him to free agency next summer. He’s already stated his intrigue over becoming a UFA, which could mean trouble if the Leafs let him get that close to actually becoming one.
Getting contract negotiations underway should be the priority for the Maple Leafs. The closer he gets to free agency, the closer he potentially gets to leaving as a free agent next summer. Given his intrigue over becoming an unrestricted free agent, a status he has never held in his career, the Leafs need to keep Phil Kessel as far away from the market as possible. If they don’t, next summer’s free agency frenzy will get exponentially more interesting.