The Leafs Should Probably Not Trade Phil Kessel For Max Domi

Hi everybody. My name is Jeff and sometimes I write things on the internet, including on a site called The Leafs Nation dot com. Some of these things have previously involved dissecting the sheer insanity uttered by members of the media regarding the Toronto Maple Leafs. I’ve since decided that this is a bad idea, as it isn’t really worth my own aggravation and can sometimes lead to burned bri…. ah, screw it. What the heck is Nick Kypreos thinking?

The Pitch

As pointed out by quote hoarder extraordinaire @Hope_Smoke this morning, Kypreos has also stated his belief that if the Leafs were to move Phil Kessel, they would have to retain salary, and that he doesn’t provide enough value for his paycheque.

The Problem I

Phil Kessel is a salary-retention level talent? Are you serious? There’s not a lot of $7 million dollar and above wingers in this league, but here are the ones that are there: Alexander Ovechkin, Corey Perry, Rick Nash, Zach Parise, Alexander Semin and Daniel Sedin. 

Phil Kessel is third amongst these players in even strength points per sixty minutes this year, despite being on a down year, Perry being only slightly ahead of him, and Rick Nash shooting at double his career average percentage. Between 2011 and 2014, Kessel has the highest even strength production rate of the group. If you’re saying that Phil Kessel is a scoring winger who requires salary retention, you’re probably also saying that wingers don’t deserve to make money in the National Hockey League.

Phil Kessel also brings a lot of point production to the Leafs. He’s leading the team in points for the sixth year in a row, and if you include his time in Boston, is probably going to lead his team in goals for the seventh straight year. Phil Kessel has more even strength points than any player in the National Hockey League since 2011. He has more even strength goals in that time than anybody other than Steven Stamkos.

Some people will point out defensive efficiencies and “the eyeball test” as the reason they’d prefer to get rid of Kessel, but the reality is that his specific role on the ice is to score goals. Even with that said, the small sample size that is Peter Horachek’s tenure has seen his 5/5/5 system kick in, part of which has had Kessel more involved in the defensive zone and less incentivized to cherry pick. I’d like to see more games before saying it definitively, but I wonder how much of the struggle was related to Randy Carlyle’s assignments to him as to where to play on the ice. There usually doesn’t seem to be a lack of mental or physical bravery when Kessel fails to complete a defensive assignment, but rather a complete and total zoning issue, and I wonder if that comes down to X’s and O’s before it comes down to “compete level”.

Anyway, the main point here is that Phil Kessel is fantastic. If you’d like to read more about Kessel being fantastic, here is an argument for the value of his contract, and here is a theory about him being the best Leafs winger in ninety years.

The Problem II

The other glaring issue with this is that we’re putting way too much stock into Max Domi. I understand that the World Juniors just ended ten games ago, but this is just another case of a major problem the Canadian hockey media has.

Every year, somebody has a good tournament for Team Canada (the other countries don’t matter), and have their expected NHL value inflated appropriately. What I actually mean by appropriately is “astronomically, unrealistically high”. If they win Gold? It’s even worse.

I brought this up on Twitter while starting to write this piece and @Will__Murray, one of my favourite non-blogosphere Leafs people, created the “Boyd Devereaux Award” for this exact purpose. (Former Maple Leaf!) Devereaux was a 6th overall pick (good job, Edmonton – you never change) who scored four goals in the 1997 World Juniors, cementing himself as a legitimate NHL stud. By that, I mean he had 179 points in 627 games, never cracking the 30 point plateau. But hey, the hype train. 

Will also brought up Justin Pogge, Cody Hodgson, and Brayden Schenn

Pogge’s hype elevated him high enough for the Leafs to choose him over Tuukka Rask, and culminated in a career NHL save percentage of 0.844. Hodgson put up a whopping 16 points in 6 games in his Draft+1 World Junior appearance, leading Canucks fans to believe they had a future 90-100 point scorer. He currently has 6 points in 43 games on the Buffalo Sabres. The Schenn brothers were supposed to be the modern Niedermayers, except that they were both Scotts, far too good to be Robs. Brayden fared the best of the bunch here, but still probably maxes out as a 50 point NHL centre. Luke has become a frequent scratch in Philadelphia.

There’s a long list of these guys. I’m not saying that Max Domi is going to be one of them, but what I’m saying is to not cling your hopes and dreams to a seven game tournament. Max Domi is a very good hockey player and is doing good things with the London Knights at the moment, and as it stands, I’m pretty sure that he’ll become a top six forward in the National Hockey League eventually.

But he hasn’t played a professional hockey game yet, and he’s far from the top prospect out there. His max-out is probably not discernibly better, if better at all, than Nazem Kadri’s or William Nylander’s. But the cost to get him? Oh, just one of the best hockey players on the planet, who is already used to playing in Toronto, is practically always healthy, and has a long term, properly valued contract.

This is the kind of trade proposal that gets laughed at on HF Boards, not the type anybody in the mainstream media should be suggesting on the air.

  • Benjamin


    He is just trying to get attention. Nonetheless, IK he is just trying to get attention but Jeff made it so much better as to why he seems so much more stupid. Yes, I really want Domi to be a leaf. But he is not worth a kessel. Kessel just started his prime. Kessel equally compares to Patrick Kane. Kane is being paid 10.5m, kessel 8m? You want them to retain salary? Idiot. I would trade leivo for Domi, or Frattin. Ya… but not going higher than that. He is still in the OHL. Lets see when he gets to the AHL level how well he is. Like Jeff said, they were amazing! At the lower lvl, but… how well do they do at the elite? Or even the AHL level?

    How about we ask Yakupov?

  • Jeremy Ian

    Well, it’s nonsense like this that goads Kessel into calling reporters idiots. Who can blame him?

    Guys like Kypreos make hype; that’s good for SportsNet ratings; good for the cash flow.

    But this kind of punditry is what makes playing in Toronto so toxic.

  • STAN

    I’m beginning to evolve on Kessel.

    After watching these last three games it appears, APPEARS, as though Kessel was just doing what he was told to do by Carlyle – play high, look for two on ones, etc.

    Under real, teaching coach he seems more than willing to play low, check and be involved in an actual system that (he likely realizes) will help him and the team in the short and long run.

    All points about Kessel were dead on Jeff.

    After six gloomy, frustrating years of Wilson and Carlyle I actually have hope.

  • if this were to happen i would be asking for…


    + this years first (which will be high because of how bad Arizona is)

    + Another good prospect (like centre Ryan MacInnis)

    + this years 2nd round pick (since we currently don’t have one)

    That would be the MINIMUM I would accept for Kessel.

  • silentbob

    First, while you’re right Kessel’s job is not to play defensive hockey its to score goals, if that player is horrible defensively it can cancel out his goal/point production. Over the last 5 years Kessel is 2nd in the NHL in goals scored, behind only Stamkos. However he is also 737th out of 764 players in the league (1000+ minutes minimum) over the same 5 years for goals against per 60 minutes of icetime. Yikes.

    Second, to be fair to krypreos, I dont think he has said a good/fair trade is Kessel for Domi. He has suggested the Domi is the type of player the Leafs should target in such a deal.