Speculation on the Capitals Interest in Kessel

Not surprisingly after Elliotte Friedman broke the news that the Leafs are actively fielding calls on Phil Kessel we are seeing a influx of Kessel destination speculation. First we had the Predators outed as likely suitors by Friedman, and Bob McKenzie has hinted that the Panthers and Blues may also be interested in revisiting past interest in Kessel. Today we can now add the Washington Capitals to list of teams speculated on, as Chuck Gormley of CSN Washington ponders if the world is read for Ovechkin and Kessel to be on the same team (via Spectors Hockey). 

“If the Caps hope to trade for a top-line right wing before or during the NHL draft later this month – and the key word is hope – there’s a guy named Phil Kessel being dangled just north of the border.”

That sound you hear is thousands of sportswriters preemptively writing “defensive black hole” stories about the Caps top line next season, but considering the need to spread out the scoring in Washington this interest makes some sense.

“Unless a team can dump significant salary in exchange for Kessel, the field of suitors for the Wisconsin-born sniper will be a small one.”

This isn’t exactly a new concept and given the Leafs situation, I think it’s something Toronto should be happy to take on as they still need to fill out their roster. In Washington’s case the salary dump discussion begins with Brooks Laich, who isn’t a bad player to take on. Beyond that Jason Chimera and Troy Brouwer are the other names that may make sense. I’m excluding Orpik as I’m sure being one of their big free agent signings last summer excludes him from being an immediate dump.

“As noted by Caps general manager Brian MacLellan, this year’s crop of UFA right wings is a thin one, with Marty St. Louis, Justin Williams, Michael Frolik, Antoine Vermette and Michael Ryder in the mix. However, next year’s crop of UFAs could be this summer’s trade bait and among the right wings who could be dangled are Shane Doan [$5.3 million] Radim Vrbata $5 million], Loui Eriksson [$4.25 million], Jakub Voracek [$4.25 million] and Kyle Okposo [$2.8 million].”

Clearly Kessel is the best option, especially when you factor in there’s no way in that Philly or the Islanders are trading Voracek or Okposo. St. Louis may be an interesting name for the Caps, but no one here is really in the same class as Phil.

Some Cold Water

Lyle Richardson of Spector’s Hockey reminds us that this is probably not happening, but not before putting some context to what the value of Phil Kessel is.

“don’t expect to see Kessel suiting up with the Capitals next season. For one thing, the Caps already have considerable payroll invested in Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom ($16 million combined) and they’re going to re-sign goalie Braden Holtby to a considerable deal (Think at least $6 million per season, perhaps more). They can’t afford to add Kessel’s salary. For another, it could cost them defenseman Karl Alzner or John Carlson, promising center Evgeni Kuznetsov and either a top prospect or first-round pick to pry Kessel away from Toronto, and I don’t believe the Capitals make that deal.”

A deal that could start with Kuznetsov and a 1st is damned interesting and pours a lot more gas on the Kessel situation. Even if the Caps aren’t a match, having this as a template for a deal is interesting.

Final Thoughts

We have a week of hockey left where you can pretty much guarantee a blockbuster deal isn’t going to happen. Kessel’s name is out there so far that it’s almost impossible to imagine that he’s returning to the Leafs next season. Pretty much every team has at least some interest in an elite goal scorer. It’s likely this is resolved by the draft, but with bonuses paid out on July 1st, it’s entirely possible we’re waiting a little while longer for closure.

The Caps are an interesting trade option. They have a first round pick in both the 2015 (21st OV), 2016 draft. They have interesting young players like Kuznetsov, Carlson, Burakovsky, and (sigh) Wilson. And they have a salary dump in Brooks Laich that seems less awful than what most teams would include. They also seem like a completely unobjectionable destination that no one would refuse to waive their no trade clause for. They also have a ton of cap space and could really take on Phil’s deal without even needing to do a salary dump. I am comfortable with saying the Capitals are a team worth watching for as we reach the Phil Kessel endgame, which seems like it will play out in the next month.

  • silentbob

    Capital’s 2015 1st round pick & Madison Bowey for value. Brooks Laich & Troy Brouwer are the salary dumps so the Capitals can fit Kessel in.

    Done & Done

      • silentbob

        Thats a very good return, what else do you expect to get? A 2015 or 2016 2nd round pick?

        If you look at what teams gave up for players like Nash, St Louis, Vanek, Gaborik, Kovalchuk etc… I don’t think we should be expecting a 1st AND a teams top prospect AND a 2nd top prospect AND ….. AND ….. AND for Kessel.

        Most deals also grow past just the player, I dunno if its likely that the Leafs move Kessel and only Kessel in such a deal. If we use my first post as the starting point, maybe the Leafs get another prospect and a 2nd round pick and a conditional pick but Finn or 3rd rounder or Holland something like that has to be included with Kessel. That seems to be how these deals work

        • silentbob

          Actually I think two top prospects or two very good prospects and a 1st are exactly what Kessel is worth. If they move more than just Kessel that doesn’t change his individual value, it just makes working the whole package a little more complicated.

          • silentbob

            Maybe, but if you look at what other top players have been traded for the last few years, I think you’ve over valuing Kessel. If he went to the Capitals for their 2015 1st, Bowey & Kuznetsov…. that would be a return beyond what any top tier player has been traded for the last few years, at least off the top of my head.

          • Brooksterman

            I think they’ll be looking for a return similar to what Anaheim got for Bobby Ryan or Vancouver got for Kesler ie. a 1st, a young roster player, and a prospect. It will probably be closer to the Ryan return than the Kesler return.

  • Still a little surprised no one has mentioned Pittsburgh yet. Kessel along side Crosby or Malkin would be deadly. They have the cap space to make it work but they don’t have much to offer the Leafs unless they are willing to part with Olli Maatta which I don’t see happening. They are very thin on draft picks this year but have a 1st to offer next season. Highly unlikely but still an interesting option.

  • hey buds, this one’s for you.

    I could see the Caps moving for Kessel, and I don’t think cap space is a problem. Laich it or not, the Leafs could take back Brooks Laich as a makeweight for cap reasons. That would give Washington more than enough space to add a big contract like Kessel’s.

    What else would the Leafs want in return? Some combination of Berokovsky, Vrana, and draft picks.

    One thing that I have not seen discussed much is the fact that even if Kessel is not moved for the bounty some want to see, getting his contract off the books allows the Leafs to take another bad deal from somewhere else and pick up more assets in the process. The actual trade that sees Kessel dealt will not be the entire story.