As the NHL draft approaches, speculation continues to heat up regarding Phil Kessel. The 27-year-old winger has been the cornerstone of this franchise since he was acquired from the Boston Bruins in 2009, but as the team heads in a new direction, they might consider cashing in their biggest asset. But it takes two to make a transaction, which left us wondering; how do fans of other teams feel about adding him to their roster?
We looked at some of the Kessel threads in team-specific subreddits, many of whom pride themselves as “more intelligent” communities, to see how they felt he would fit, and what they would give up.
There were a lot of eyebrows when Kessel’s former team showed up on his no-trade list, but the presumption is that he wants to have as much control over a move as possible, and listed a bunch of teams that either can’t afford him, or wouldn’t want him.
If the Bruins fanbase was controlling the team, Kessel definitely excelled at the later. Offers for Kessel ranged from “HAHAHAHAHAHA”, to “Please no”, “don’t want him go away!!!!, “f***ing no”, to “Dear sweet baby Jesus, no”. Few described why they had hesitance in acquiring the star right winger, though A-Honkey-21 described him as “a selfish dick nose who gives up if it’s not going his way”.
There was some interest, however. One fan stated that he would “consider” a one for one swap involving 38 year old Zdeno Chara, while another was intrigued by the idea of acquiring Kessel at 75% salary retention. “F*** it” said the commenter wearing Carl Soderberg flair. “That mean’s he’ll cost $2 million a year? I guess I would let him back on the team. [Full Thread]
A little known fact about Phil Kessel? He grew up cheering for the Colorado Avalanche. I feel like a move here would make University of Denver alumni and close friend Tyler Bozak very jealous, but that would just add more intrigue to the whole situation. You know, if it wasn’t for the fact that Avs fans really don’t want this to happen.
“Eight million for a guy whose career high is 37 goals and 82 points?” asked our first Avs fan rhetorically. “Way too high. No thanks, I’d rather that money go towards two or three players that aren’t lazy.” I put their theory to the test, and I looked at every player who scored 35 goals and 80 points multiple times by the age of 30 in the cap era, to see how much they made in their first contract with UFA years. Sure enough, the average cap hit was 7.8 million, which makes Phil Kessel at least 2.5% overpaid. Granted, this ignores cap inflation (which would bring the average closer to 9M) and players who had front-loaded cap circumvention contracts (half the list), but I’m lazier than Phil Kessel, so I won’t bother presenting the data.
“I’ve heard that part of his no-trade clause is that he can only be sent to teams that wear darker colours”, said a noted insider. “They are slimming, and more flattering to his weight”. He went on to suggest that a fair trade would be a 1-for-1 that sens Ryan O’Reilly to Toronto, on the condition that the Leafs retain $2 Million of Kessel’s salary. The thread’s creator was ripped to shreds by his fellow fans by suggesting that the Avalanche offer up Gabriel Landeskog. [Full Thread]
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Columbus faithful aren’t particularly interested in Kessel. In fact, their discussion only started because a Leafs fan stopped by to ask how they felt about a deal involving Kirby Rychel, the 8th Overall Pick, and a cap dump. Responses were typically negative, with fans saying that the Leafs have absolutely nothing to offer the team.
One offered a solution. “If you’re taking back Clarkson as the cap dump, I’d probably do it.” such a move would probably lead to riots on Bay Street, but the original Leafs fan felt that it was a reasonable offer and that it would be worth the assets coming in. [Full Thread]
This is the scenario that brings Phil closest to his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. As we all know, the Wild have an obsession with overpaying vaguely local stars to join the team, so if anybody could be looked to for a situation like this, it’s them. Their fanbase echoes that sentiment.
“Honestly, it would take Jared Spurgeon, a first round pick and either Charlie Coyle or Mikael Granlund at the minimum.” said one fan, though he admits that the Wild’s cap situation makes this unrealistic. “We’d also proably have to get Toronto to take Niklas Backstrom just to clear enough cap space, which would require Backs waiting his NMC.” A fellow fan chimed in, suggesting an offer of Granlund, Suprgeon, and a pick.
Of course, there were dissenters. One person felt that he would provide the same frequent disappearances as Tomas Vanek, though somebody else was quick to point out that Kessel has a higher playoff points-per-game than Patrick Kane, and plays with Tyler Bozak. Ultimately the biggest issue that Minnesota’s fans had were the contracts of their own team, with a cheeky individual comparing management’s love for No-Trade Clauses to condoms being given out at pride. [Full Thread]
The Leafs trading their star player to their biggest rival? Sounds crazy, but if the price is right, anything could happen. With that said, fans of the bleu, blanc, et rouge understand that such a move would come with an inflated cost. Perhaps one person summed it up best: “It’s not for us. Division rivals. Shanny will make us bleed.”
WIth that said, the actual proposals made centred around an offer of 32-year-old Tomas Plekanec and a first round pick. Much debate was had over whether to add 2014 first round pick Nikita Scherbak to the offer, with many fearful of a Ryan McDonagh scenario.
There was some pure dissent in the process. A person who I can only assume is a respected member of the Leafs organization described Kessel as “a cancer” (great choice of words, buddy) who isn’t liked by his teammates, and ultimately did nothing for the blue and white. [Full Thread]
New Jersey Devils
You know the Devils are in need of a certain type of player when now-former GM Lou Lamoriello calls out the deficiency in a public setting. Specifically, the team needs scoring forwards, and the fanbase know it too. Yet, somehow, Kessel isn’t the type of scoring forward they’re looking for.
“Oh dear god, no, Shero don’t.” said one fan. “I need a restraining order against that contract”, followed another. The general train of thought from the critics is that at 27 years old, Kessel is too old to be a viable player when the Devils are ready to succeed again, which to be honest, is the same conversation that many Leafs fans are having at the moment. It’s a little silly, but ultimately unavoidable.
That’s not to say that there was zero interest. An offter was of Eric Gelinas and a mid-to-late round draft pick was suggested. An optimistic fellow noted that Kessel is the goal scoring right winger that the Devils desparately need, and thaty they were more than happy to give up to give up anything the Leafs want for him, other than Cory Schneider, Adam Larsson, or this years first round pick. added Adam Henrique and Damon Severson to the list, leaving the Leafs to pick from a talent pool including..
Moving on. [Full Thread]
Despite the team being on Kessel’s NTC exemption list, and the team’s unabashed love for ridiculous trades and trasactions, not a single fan had an offer for him. Not one. A few admitted that it was a situation that just didn’t make sense for the black and orange, but resposnes were generally negative.
“No. No no no no no.” said our first Flyers fan. “I know everyone circle-jerks about poor little Kessel, but he is very clearly shitty for a locker room.” his original comment called Kessel “cancerous” before another fan pointed out the contextual insensitivty of what he had said. Another admitted that Kessel “isn’t a bad player”, but felt that he would be the second coming of Vincent Lecavalier if he arrived in Philadelphia. But one commenter hit the hardest, effectively ending Kessel’s career by emploring everybody to check out his plus/minus. [Full Thread]
Other team subreddits talked about Kessel as well, but not to the same extent.
The Washington Capitals crew were an odd balance of “GUYS, WE CAN HAVE OVECHKIN-BACKSTROM-KESSEL” and “well, how do we pay for that?” – a member brought up an interesting proposal of Madison Bowey, Brooks Laich, Riley Barber, and a 1st round pick, but most wanted their team to look at lower-cost options. Pittsburgh Penguins fans were in the same boat.
St. Louis Blues fans typically liked the idea of having him, but found that most of their offers included a combination of TJ Oshie, David Backes, and Patrik Berglund, and realized that they’re in the same age window and as such, not optimal for the Leafs’ rebuild. Nashville Predators fans felt that centre was a more crucial focus, while New York Islanders fans were, for once in their recent lives, confident in the front office’s core group and felt that patience was the better solution.
The most repeated concerns from fans of many teams appears to be cap space. Simply put, teams haven’t been able to control themselves over the years, and now that the salary cap is starting to level out, things are beginning to feel tight. The issue that currently exists is that fans are taking their own team’s situations and the fact that Kessel is on the market, and turning it into “he’s overpaid”, and lessening his value as such.
It’ll be interesting to see if a similar situation happens in real life. Most GMs will be quick to try it, even if just to get a leg up in negotations, but whether the Leafs allow them to go through with it or not is the bigger question.