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May 20, 2015

Babcock gets 8-year, $50 million deal from Maple Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs won the Mike Babcock sweepstakes on Wednesday by beating out a handful of teams that tried to land the highly-coveted head coach who spent the last 10 NHL seasons with the Detroit Red Wings.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed in a statement by the Maple Leafs but the team reportedly offered Babcock a mammoth eight-year contract worth $50 million that would make him the National Hockey League's highest-paid coach.

Babcock, considered one of the most accomplished active coaches in the league, succeeds Peter Horachek, who filled in on an interim basis after Randy Carlyle was fired in January when Toronto fell out of playoff contention.

A number of teams courted Babcock but it reportedly came down to a bidding war between Toronto, Buffalo and Detroit. His contract with Detroit expires next month and the team offered him a five-year deal worth $20 million while Buffalo reportedly offered $30 million over six years.

Because Babcock is still under contract with the Red Wings, Toronto have to give up a third-round draft pick within the next three years as compensation to Detroit for signing the coach.

Detroit never missed the playoffs under Babcock, and they won a Stanley Cup in 2008. Babcock was also behind the bench for the Canadian men's teams that won the ice hockey gold medals at the last two Olympics.

The 52-year-old coach compiled a .649 winning percentage in Detroit where he guided the Red Wings to five division titles, two appearances in the Stanley Cup Finals, and three trips to the penultimate round of the playoffs.

Babcock also spent two seasons (2002-04) with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, where in his first season as head coach he led the Ducks to their maiden appearance in the Stanley Cup finals.

That season saw Anaheim record a then franchise-best 40 wins and 95 points, making them the most improved team in the NHL as they finished 26 points ahead of their 2001-02 total.

Babcock will have his hands full in Toronto where he will be expected to turn around a franchise that has missed the playoffs in nine of the past 10 seasons.

If the contract details are accurate, Babcock will be the highest paid NHL coach by a landslide, easily surpassing Chicago bench boss Joel Quenneville, who earns $2.95 million annually.