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Leafs' Kessel doesn’t want to negotiate during season

Former Toronto Maple Leafs right winger Phil Kessel reacts near the end of the Leafs loss to the Boston Bruins in NHL action in Toronto on Feb. 2, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Phil Kessel doesn’t expect to sign a contract extension with the Toronto Maple Leafs any time soon.

The Leafs forward told reporters at the U.S. Olympic Camp Tuesday that he has not discussed a new contract with the team and he does not want to negotiate during the season.

Kessel, 25, is in the final year of his contract and is scheduled to become an unrestricted agent after the 2013-14 season.

The American sniper led the Leafs in scoring last season with a team-high 20 goals, 32 assists and 52 points in 48 games. He also added four goals and two assists in seven post-season games.
He played a major role in helping the Leafs end their post-season drought as the club made their first playoff appearance since 2003-04.

With a new division and a full 82-game season, Kessel told the Sporting News on Monday it will be more difficult for Toronto to return to the playoffs in 2013-14.

But Kessel also said he’s pleased with the Leafs’ current roster and isn’t worrying about the ongoing Nazem Kadri negotiations.

“I don’t think it’s a big deal,” Kessel told Sporting News. “I think he’ll be signed here shortly. If he’s not, he’ll be (signed) close to camp. I don’t know—we don’t really talk about that stuff. I give him a hard time once in a while, but it’s not a big deal.”