Instant Analysis: Phil Kessel Is A Toronto Maple Leaf
Phil Kessel gives the Maple Leafs a far better shot at the post season. Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
In a deal that has long been talked about, Brian Burke and Peter Chiarelli have made a swap involving 21-year-old sniper Phil Kessel.
The Trade: The Toronto Maple Leafs acquire C/RW Phil Kessel from the Boston Bruins in exchange for first round picks in 2010 & 2011, and a second round pick in 2010
The Signing: Toronto agrees to a 5 year deal worth 27 million, which works out to 5.4 per season.
Toronto Maple Leafs Acquisition:
Still only 21 years old, Kessel finished 12th in league goal scoring last year with 36. He shoots right, is 5′11”, 180 pounds, and is known as a sniper who can fly down the wing and shoot the puck with accuracy. He is valued as a finisher, and is believed to have the talent to eclipse 40 goals. Last season he competed on a line with Marc Savard and Milan Lucic, which was Boston’s top offensive unit. One of the notable concerns about Phil is his medical history — he was successfully treated for testicular cancer when he was just 18. There have also been many things said about Phil’s lack of maturity, compete level, and willingness to play an all-around game. However, he managed to produce last year at an elite level, and he possesses the kind of skill that Brian Burke covets in a top-6 forward. Considering that Ron Wilson and Brian Burke are the two managerial heads of USA Hockey, Kessel should have motivation enough to keep his attitude in check.
Here’s how Kessel’s contract (using the 09-10 cap hit) stacks up against other players with comparable goal totals:
Nash: 40 Goals – 5.4 Million
E. Staal: 40 Goals – 8.25 Million
Hossa: 40 Goals – 5.275 Million
Vanek: 40 Goals – 7.14 Million
Cammalleri: 39 Goals – 6 Million
Heatley: 39 Goals – 7.5 Million
Marleau: 38 Goals – 6.3 Million
Eriksson: 36 Goals – 1.6 Million (RFA Upcoming)
Kessel: 36 Goals – 5.4 Million
Malkin: 35 Goals – 8.7 Million
Iginla: 35 Goals – 7 Million
Semin: 34 Goals – 4.6 Million (RFA Upcoming)
Gagne: 34 Goals – 5.25 Million
Toews: 34 Goals – 2.8 Million (RFA Upcoming)
Franzen: 34 Goals – 3.9 Million
Crosby: 33 Goals: 8.7 Million
Boyes: 33 Goals – 4 Million
Arnott: 33 Goals – 4.5 Million
The trade makes the Leafs a better team, no matter which version of Phil Kessel they get. He has garnered a reputation for having attitude problems, but his skillset is undeniable. Kessel immediately becomes the Leafs’ most skilled forward, and a piece they will build their offense around as they move towards contention in the Eastern Conference. When he arrives back from injury, Kessel should be at least tested on a line with Grabovski and Ponikarovsky. Additionally, Nazem Kadri has drawn Marc Savard comparisons, so perhaps Burke is already anticipating a Kadri-Kessel connection in the near future. The acquisition addresses the Leafs’ most pressing concern which was the need for a top-6 forward with high-end skill. Toronto, who most prognosticators have pegged to finish between 8-12th place in the East, should now be considered a threat to nab one of the bottom three playoff spots in their conference.
The Leafs’ team speed, which was already one of their notable strengths, may have just reached elite level status. Flyers Jason Blake, Tyler Bozak, Mikhail Grabovski, and Phil Kessel have the potential to dizzy the opposition if they can develop a transitional attack.
For the Bruins, losing their highest scoring winger from a year ago will hurt, but they hope to recoup the loss with steps forward from some of their younger talent. Blake Wheeler, David Krejci, and Milan Lucic have definite growth potential, and all three will be counted on with Kessel’s departure. The Bruins will still win the Northeast Division and challenge for the Cup, which is a testament to their tremendous depth at forward.