Your Pre-Free Agency Kessel Speculation Roundup


Kessel trade rumours are a dead horse that keeps on getting
beaten. A Kessel trade would be the most important transaction of the summer.
As much as I’d love the topic to go away, the second sentence is as equally
true as the first, and the day before free agency opens and the entire league
shifts into transaction mode, it’s worth touching on potential developments
that matter regarding Phillip J. Kessel.

Kessel’s bonus will have an impact. Teams are still
committing to pay Kessel a lot of money after this $4M is taken care of, but
few teams have the money that MLSE does, and this will dramatically impact who
puts in an offer. Other than New York and Montreal, it’s hard to imagine teams
are willing to pay $4M, and it’s equally unlikely that the Leafs would rush a
deal just so they don’t have to pay it. This likely applies to every other part
of the Leafs core that has a bonus laden deal. It appears that Phaneuf
is also owed some money, and possibly Bozak too.

Tomorrow also means that Kessel’s old list of teams he’d
accept a trade to is now null and void. This really doesn’t mean too much to
the Leafs since I’m sure they’ve been working with Kessel and his agent at this
point already and have a revised list or assurance that he’d be sticking with
the same eight teams. What it does mean is that those of us on the outside have
less of a point of reference for where Kessel is willing to go.

From LeBrun’s
Rumblings Blog:

Food for thought: A source also told that the Calgary Flames kicked
the tires on Kessel last week at the draft, but in their talks with the Leafs,
Toronto didn’t want to retain any salary. The Leafs were willing to take on
player(s) from Calgary to alleviate Kessel’s $8-million salary, but they were
not willing to actually retain any of Kessel’s salary, the source said.

I’m willing to be proven wrong but I just can’t believe the
Leafs will ever be successful in moving Kessel unless they retain at least some
of his salary.

First, there’s the interest in Kessel from Calgary. It’s not
surprising, since they are a very good team that is doing everything they can
to make last season more than a run of luck. Burke’s obviously a fan, and
Kessel has some history with Calgary, as his Dad was a former Stampeder, but
that’s probably not enough to make him add them to his list of teams he’s
willing to go to. There’s also the issue of retaining salary, which we’ll get
to later. The Flames do have Mason Raymond, Ladislav Smid, and others which I’m
sure they’d love to jettison, so a deal could be done involving shedding
salary, which I’m sure the Leafs continue to push for.

So let’s discuss the idea of retaining salary. Admittedly, I’m
not as opposed to it as others, but I want it to come with a high premium.
Ideally, the Leafs and their trade partner get a deal in place for Kessel with
a complete blissful ignorance of what the salary cap is. Toronto’s happy with
what they get, Team B is happy with Kessel. Then consideration for what
retaining salary would like gets considered, and Team B adds to deal based on
how much salary is retained. Essentially, you are not retaining salary to get a
deal done, you are buying a better return by retaining salary and this I’m okay
with. If $2M a year gets the Leafs an additional nice piece in the deal, I’m
all for it.

On Pittsburgh’s
interest in a winger (also from LeBrun’s Rumblings Blog):

The question those teams have to ask Tuesday on the eve of
free agency is: What if the Penguins go out and sign a winger Wednesday? That
would essentially rule them out of the trade market. So if you’re St. Louis,
Carolina, Chicago or Toronto, do you make your best offer today? Or, do you see
if the Penguins strike out in free agency and then have to come back to you
with a bigger need.

Finally, the Penguins interest in Kessel. They’ve been the
team that has been rumoured the most this week, and it doesn’t look like it’s
gone away, but it looks like they’re considering a few different options. With
Burkle and Lemieux looking for an additional (majority) owner, it seems like
they will be stingy when it comes to financial implications, and waiting out
Kessel’s bonus could have been the plan all along. They never had a 2015 1st,
so there was potentially no need to get a deal done at the draft, and now that
they have selected, we can add Daniel Sprong to the list of Pittsburgh futures
that are worth acquiring.

The UFA market for scoring wingers did improve today, with
the addition of Brad Boyes and Alexander Semin, who although are nowhere near
Kessel, would provide a more affordable alternative for the Penguins, and any
other potential suitor.

While I have no desire to see this drag on to the point of
comparison to the Kaberle and Sundin situations, it may be in Toronto’s best
interest to wait until free agency has played out before making a Kessel trade.
The downside there is that there is even less money to go around and
potentially fewer suitors.

Sigh. This really is going to drag on, isn’t it?

  • silentbob

    I read the other day, I think from ESPN or Fox Sports, that the Leafs are willing to retain 2 million of Kessel’s salary, since no one is willing to take the entire contract off their hands, to get a deal done.

    For what its worth.

  • silentbob

    After the haul sweeney got for Lucic, the market rate for top 6 wingers is set. And Kessel is much more skilled and talented compared to the ogre Lucic so I expect Dubas to bring in massive haul.

  • Gary Empey

    According to Canadian legend Don Cherry, the Toronto Maple Leafs won’t trade Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf this summer. Rumours about the Leafs’ two highest paid players have been circulating since last winter. But if Cherry is to be believed, Leafs management will give Mike Babcock a chance to straighten the ship before trading them away.

    They’re not getting traded,” the Hockey Night in Canada icon told Sportsnet 590 The Fan on Tuesday.

    “First of all, you wouldn’t get fair value for them right now. [Kessel] is a 30-goal scorer. He can put the puck in the net. And Dion, I remember when he was with Calgary, he was a Norris Trophy [finalist].”

    “[Babcock] has a knack for turning guys around and straightening them out,” Cheery said. “[Kessel] will report in shape this year, not 10 pounds over and laughing that he only skated 10 times in the summer.

    “Give [Babcock] a chance with those guys, and if he can’t do anything with them, then you’re going to have to get rid of them. But they won’t be traded.”

  • Harte of a Lion

    Don Cherry has his opinion just like everyone else however since the Leafs front office is as tight as a drum when it comes to rumours, no one outside of the management team knows what is really happening.
    It may be boring but this is the way to run a team. I am certain that the trade tot acquire Kessel will be one that nobody saw coming.

    I think Babcock can get the most from Phaneuf, especially if he attempts to shelter him and reduce his ice time but I haven’t a clue what it will take to inspire Phil on his Give’O’Shit meter.
    If you think their value is low now, if Babcock can’t turn them around, they won’t be able to give them away

  • Gary Empey

    I don’t know why everyone is always so hard on Kessel. This is a team sport. Does anyone think he was coached well in Toronto so far.

    Was he every given two line mates that complimented his style.

    Kessel. After his rookie season, 2006–07, he was awarded the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.

    The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy is awarded annually to the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey.