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The best types of trades are the ones that work out for both teams: a win-win if you will.
Phil Kessel and the Pittsburgh Penguins have an opportunity to hoist Lord Stanley’s mug at the CONSOL Energy Center tonight in Pennsylvania – and I couldn’t be happier for Phil.
Throughout his career in Toronto – and his career in general for that matter – Kessel has taken on undeserved criticism for being unable to lead his team to the promise land. If he hasn’t done so already, Kessel will be able to once and for all silence his critics – sorry Simmons – by showing he can be a crucial part of a team that can win.
Kessel has 21 points (10G, 11A) in 22 playoff games thus far (the same amount he had in his first 22 playoff games), and is one of the front-runners for the Conn Smythe if the playoffs were to end tonight.
On July 1st, 2015, Phil Kessel, Tyler Biggs, Tim Erixon and Pittsburgh’s 2nd round pick were shipped to Pittsburgh in exchange for Kasperi Kapanen, Scott Harrington, Nick Spaling, and first and third-round picks in 2016. The Leafs also retained $1.25 million for the duration of Kessel’s contract.
Now before Leafs fans jump the gun and declare this trade a loss for the Leafs, let me remind you that this trade was never going to be one that the Leafs were going to win in the first couple of years. Kessel is 28 years old and in the prime of his career. He is going to be the best player in this trade. That being said, Phil is signed through ’20-21, with a cap hit of 6.8 million. Will we still be saying the same thing when Phil is 31 with 4 more years left on his deal? When the Leafs are hopefully going to be ready to be perennial playoff threats?
On the other hand, the boys in blue were able to finish last this season and have placed themselves in a position to land a true number one center for the first time since Mats Sundin – something the city has desperately desired, even with Kessel’s presence. Not only that, by shedding Phil (and others,) we were able to garner some valuable assets: Highly touted prospect Kasperi Kapanen, Scott Harrington, and what looks to be the 30th overall pick and 91st overall pick in this year’s draft (we have some bad luck with draft picks involving Phil). In hindsight, could we have gotten more for Phil? Perhaps, but it was clear from both parties that it was time to move on. The best part of that deal might just be that we were able to move the truculent Tyler Biggs and Tim Erixon to create room for better prospects (just kidding.)
With Kyle Dubas, Mark Hunter, and the rest of the revamped front office taking a different approach to drafting, the Leafs looked poised to build a dynasty ready to compete for years to come. Without moving Phil, the Leafs would not be in the position they are today. Right now, with a little bit of luck on their side, Brendan Shanahan and the rest of the Toronto Maple Leafs staff are kicking back with the first overall selection, a prospect pool deeper than we have ever seen, and are smiling ear-to-ear because they know the same thing that I do: the page has been turned. It doesn’t matter what Kessel does for the next 7 years. That isn’t going to change anything. All that matters is that the Leafs are now in position to build a dynasty the proper way – something we have desired since the lockout in ’04-05.
As many smart minds have said in the past, the best types of trades in hockey are the ones that work out for both sides. These were two franchises heading in opposite directions, and it seems that the trade has worked out for both sides. So thank you Phil Kessel, and good luck. When you win, perhaps you can stop by and bring the Stanley Cup (and perhaps the Conn Smythe) to a place you will always consider home:
I want to thank all of the Toronto fans for all the support you have shown me.I will miss you and this city and always consider Toronto home
— Phil Kessel (@PKessel81) August 23, 2015