USATSI_7824674_154158418_lowresThe Toronto Maple Leafs have hired Mike Babcock as their new head coach.

Word around the campfire is that Babcock signed a deal for eight years at a reported $50 million. The Maple Leafs beat out the Buffalo Sabres and Detroit Red Wings, with the St. Louis Blues also purportedly in the running. The Sabres, in fact, met with Babcock as recently as Tuesday and were apparently working out contract terms.

In the end, it looks like Toronto’s money was better than Buffalo’s money. This is an NHL record contract for a coach and it’s a front-loaded deal that pays out a lot of that $50 million at the outset. There’s talk of an out clause after about five years, too, although more details will certainly be reported when they become available. Bob McKenzie reports that the deal pays out about $8 million a year for the first three years, which puts him ahead of most players on the Leafs’ roster.

A lot of this comes down to the work of Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan, who has come an awful long way in a relatively short period of time. The front office and coaching staff has been cleaned out. Assistant general manager Kyle Dubas has been an important hire, as has new director of player personnel Mark Hunter. And now Babcock leads the coaching staff.

“I think today he is a great president,” president and CEO of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment Tim Leiweke said. “This is a vision he had early on. We’re grateful to Detroit for giving us permission to talk to Mike. This is really Brendan. It was an outstanding effort on his behalf, an outstanding vision. Our president became a great president today, and I’m proud of him.”

For the former Red Wings bench boss to give Toronto his proverbial stamp of approval says something about where things are going. Babcock wants to win, make no mistake about it, and you have to believe he thinks he can do so with the Leafs. Maybe not right away and certainly not overnight, but the tools are starting to look like they’re in place.

Babcock has 12 years of NHL coaching experience with the Red Wings and Anaheim Ducks. He’s 527-285-119 with 19 ties. Toronto will have to pony up a third round draft pick at some point in the next three years as compensation for hiring Babcock.

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