TORONTO // The Toronto Maple Leafs have signed Phil Kessel to a five-year deal worth US$27 million (Dh99.1m), after trading for the centre from Boston. In return, the Bruins got two first round and one second round draft picks for the restricted free agent. The Leafs signed Kessel - who scored 36 goals last season - to the new deal after completing the trade. "It's a very high price but it's one we feel makes sense for us," said the Toronto general manager Brian Burke.
"What's made it possible to expend those picks is two focuses. One is that he's a young player, he's not even 22 yet. "Second, we think with some of the players we acquired without giving up picks like Tyler Bozak, [Robert] Slaney, [Christian] Hanson and [Jonas] Gustavsson, these are players that were available on the draft [and who] would command a high price like that. "We feel by stocking the cupboard we can take some of the cans off the shelf for the future."
The Leafs dealt their first two picks in next year's draft and their first choice in 2011. Kessel, however, is not expected to make his Maple Leafs debut until the middle of November after undergoing shoulder surgery in the off-season. "We don't expect to see him for a while. He is skating but can't take any contact so it will be awhile before our fans see him. "But he brings tremendous speed, goal-scoring ability and should improve our power play," said Burke.
"Phil's a dynamic player. I've had him with the US national team. He's got great foot speed, he's a good power-play specialist, he's good in the shoot-out and he's a solid kid, so for us, it's an important day for the Leafs." Kessel, who overcame testicular cancer in 2006, scored 60 points in 70 games last season. He was selected fifth overall by the Bruins in the 2006 draft. * Reuters