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Toronto columnist: Trade Kessel

Jan 28, 2013, 12:27 PM EDT

Phil Kessel Getty Images

Toronto Star columnist Damien Cox thinks the Maple Leafs should trade their “ill-conditioned, isolated, troubled or simply massively unlucky” sniper, Phil Kessel.

The column’s timing is no surprise. Kessel doesn’t have a goal in his first five games. And while the 25-year-old’s dry streak isn’t for a lack of chances, it’s still a major topic of conversation in Toronto.

The column also comes just weeks after general manager Brian Burke – the man who acquired Kessel from Boston in a much-criticized trade – was fired.

Here’s how Cox sees it:

Kessel cost the Leafs a great deal, as much, perhaps, in prestige as in actual assets. Indeed, that deal may ultimately have cost Burke his job.

That’s not to blame Kessel for the state of the team, although as the star forward, he has to shoulder his fair share.

Personality-wise, this just hasn’t been a fit. Like Andrea Bargnani, he could be a nice secondary piece on a good team.

On a young, struggling team, however, he can’t be the front man.

Beyond that, if you’re the Leafs, you don’t want to be the team that has to figure out what to pay Kessel once his current deal ends at the conclusion of next season.

At a $5.4 million cap hit ($5.1 million in real money this season), he’s affordable given his stats and goal-scoring ability.

At $7 million, or $8 million, it will be much different. And that’s what he’ll be able to demand.

Agree or disagree with Cox’s take, don’t expect the debate to go away anytime soon. That is, unless new GM Dave Nonis comes out and says a trade isn’t going to happen. (And even then, is Nonis telling the truth?)

Of course, it should be noted Nonis just signed Kessel’s line mate, Joffrey Lupul, to a five-year, $26.25 million contract extension – a move the Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle called a “clear indication” that Nonis wants to keep Kessel.

  1. tokklyym - Jan 28, 2013 at 12:57 PM

    Kessel is much more useful to a team looking for that last piece than a team trying to build from (mostly) nothing. I agree that it’s time for the Leafs to deal him while he’s at maximum value.

    • stlsportsfan84 - Jan 28, 2013 at 2:52 PM

      Agreed on him being a great last piece. Wish the Blues could come up with a package that makes sense for both sides. He’s the type of scorer the Blues could use to put the team over the hump.

  2. nhstateline - Jan 28, 2013 at 1:12 PM

    Speaking as a Bruin fan: he is who we thought he was. He’s a very skilled guy and as noted above, a great fit for a team that needs that scoring, skating piece to get over the top. There have been mixed things said about him as a teammate here. It depended on who was talking. He be great in a medium sized Western Conference city where half the population doesn’t care about hockey (Phoenix, Anaheim) but he doesn’t really seem to thrive in these big, high media scrutiny markets. I thought the trade to Toronto was, in that way, the worst thing that could have happened to him because of that. He’d do really well in a smaller market, on the right team but he hasn’t had that present itself yet. The Leafs would be doing themselves and the young man both a favor by trying to make that happen.

    • thailer35 - Jan 28, 2013 at 1:18 PM

      Not that I’m agreeing with your overgeneralizations about places like Phoenix not caring about hockey, but…

      Kessel for Yandle?

      • hockeyflow33 - Jan 28, 2013 at 1:26 PM

        Why would Phoenix do that?

      • thailer35 - Jan 28, 2013 at 1:40 PM

        Because Yandle creates more costly turnovers than his offensive production is worth (not that any of you would know that from the 0 games you’ve ever watched of the Coyotes despite hating their existence).

      • comeonnowguys - Jan 28, 2013 at 1:44 PM

        Seriously, dude, here’s a hug.

        Also the rest of your fandom is grateful you aren’t the GM.

        OK, sorry. Here’s another hug.

      • thailer35 - Jan 28, 2013 at 1:51 PM

        While I appreciate the hugs, I wish you could all actually come sit with me at a Coyotes game in Glendale. Aside from you seeing that there are more than two of us Coyotes fans (as the joke goes), you’d also hear Yandle criticized constalty for his notorious turnovers.

        That and I could use some help explaining to many of these fans that the goal of a powerplay is not necessarily to shoot the puck as soon as it crosses the blue line. Grinds my gears every time.

      • elvispocomo - Jan 28, 2013 at 1:54 PM

        Ironic that you suggest people haven’t been watching Phoenix after talking about Yandle being a giveaway machine in a Kessel article. Guess you had the most giveaways on the Leafs last year?

        Here’s both guys’ giveaway to takeaway ratio from last year:
        Kessel – 82/39
        Yandle – 75/24

        Yandle may have had less takeaways but Kessel had more giveaways. Either way they’re both bad. You aren’t improving on the thing you think you are if you trade Kessel for Yandle.

      • thailer35 - Jan 28, 2013 at 2:01 PM

        The difference is Kessel is a forward, and Yandle’s turnovers are often in our defensive zone or to someone blowing right past him while he’s our furthest guy back. I totally get your point with their turnover numbers, but Yandle’s turnovers are of a more dire quality more often.

  3. scrouch - Jan 28, 2013 at 1:25 PM

    No team is going to pay Kessel 7-8 million on his next contract. He’s a good scorer when playing with someone who can get him the puck in good positions, but that’s it. Boston knew that and didn’t think he was worth $5M in his previous contract, which is why they traded his rights instead of signing him. If a team thinks someone is really good they won’t even trade him to someone else in their conference, let alone their division. Shows what they thought of him. Some other teams might be willing to overpay a bit, but overpaying is $5.5M, not 7-8, that’s just having no idea what he does on the ice. Like others have said, he’s good to bring in if all you need is a winger to finish plays and have everything else in place already. It’s the same thing that everyone outside of Toronto was saying when they made the trade for him. Good to have in some situations, but makes no sense to give up any future assets to put him on a rebuilding team with a really thin roster. Nashville was the other team interested and it actually would have made sense for them to bring him in because the rest of the team was really solid but they could use a little more offence.

    The Leafs will never get back what they gave away to get him but if they want to get serious about doing a real rebuild, Kessel is one asset they have who could probably bring back somethign good in return that will make them better in a few seasons. Which is where they need to be looking if they’re serious about building a good team. Don’t trade him for an asset for this season or next because they don’t have the goaltending or depth in really any position to do much of anything in the playoffs if they can even get there. They can build a good team, but they need to basically restart from scratch because Burke has left them with a super thin roster at forward, defence, and in goal, some okay prospects but no one amazing, and very few assets that can be used to acquire future prospects. Burke started with some assets and send them out in return for pending UFAs with terribly inflated contracts. At the end of the day leaving them with nothing.

  4. sergeikremlin - Jan 28, 2013 at 1:32 PM

    Gotta love the Leafs. Lets trade a guy who put up 37 goals and 82 points last year, because he hasn’t scored in 5 games and the media doesn’t like his personality. That’ll fix the team, finally!

    Chalk this one up under the ever-growing case of small sample size syndrome.

    • hockeyflow33 - Jan 28, 2013 at 1:48 PM

      That’s what the complaint was in Boston; “the only thing this guy does is score goals”. It’s ridiculous and said by guys who have no understanding of the game.

    • timsabourin - Jan 28, 2013 at 4:55 PM

      Apparently you and 24 others didn’t read the article, this has nothing to do with the Leafs’ intentions with Kessel. Just Damien Cox…nothing to see here.

  5. andrewsabourin13 - Jan 28, 2013 at 1:36 PM

    Before anyone jumps to any conclusions lets just remember it was Damien Cox who wrote the article…

    • elvispocomo - Jan 28, 2013 at 1:58 PM

      Yup, that’s one of those writers who should always have his name bolded and listed in double high font whenever someone references his articles. It’s like talking about a trade rumour from HockeyBuzz where you have to preface it with, “I know it’s Eklund, but…”

    • misterchainbluelightning - Jan 28, 2013 at 2:47 PM

      Damien Cox is a bit of an idiot. But that idiot has been right about Burke and he’s right about trading Kessel.

    • timsabourin - Jan 28, 2013 at 4:56 PM

      Yo this guy is top 2 smartest people on this site.

  6. darksidecowboy - Jan 28, 2013 at 1:45 PM

    I could see the Coyotes making a trade for Kessel to help their scoring issues, but not with Yandle and especially since he’ll be a free agent next season. I see GM Maloney maybe using one of our young defenseman like Runbland and a 2nd rounder.

    • elvispocomo - Jan 28, 2013 at 2:05 PM

      Why would Toronto do that deal though? They don’t really need Rundblad (Phaneuf, Liles and Gardniner already as offensive D-men), and a 2nd as an add on isn’t nearly good enough for a point a game player.

      You’d be closer to what Toronto would want if you included Gormley and Lessio, then maybe a 2nd on top of that.

  7. bruinsfan19 - Jan 28, 2013 at 2:00 PM

    The main reason the Bruins traded Kessel (coming from a bruins fan) was because they saw that he had no defensive play and wouldn’t have any and Claude Julien system is a defensive minded team look at Seguin he is gotten a lot better defensively than he was and for Example Parrice Bergeron the Selke winner and Kessel wouldn’t of been and isn’t a good defensive player

  8. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Jan 28, 2013 at 2:10 PM

    Trading him in the midst of this slow start would be selling incredibly low, not a smart move. But if he raises his game and the Leafs are out of contention by the deadline I’m all for us getting a few pieces back for him.

  9. beergold - Jan 28, 2013 at 2:14 PM

    Kessel was playing pond hockey on Lake Ontario during the lockout and got a breakaway. The next day Burke had to drive to Buffalo to pick him up and bring him back to Toronto.

    Trade him now and then the Pilon!

  10. gbar22 - Jan 28, 2013 at 2:19 PM

    I’m a devils fan and I’ll take him today if Toronto is dumb enough to give up on him. One would think with their ultimate goal of making the playoffs that they would keep him around (not like they can’t afford to spend to the cap) so that he becomes that second line forward on their team and they are really good. But perhaps they just want to blow the whole thing up now they’ve already lost for 8 seasons why not 12?

    • misterchainbluelightning - Jan 28, 2013 at 2:49 PM

      Obviously trading him is blowing it up.
      And the ultimate goal is not making the playoffs, it’s to win the Cup, which the Leafs are not in a position to do with Kessel.

      So is it really that dumb to trade him?

      • sunderlanding - Jan 28, 2013 at 4:09 PM

        He’s young. They can keep him and build around him. They won’t get much for him, and there is not gaurantee that trading him away will make the rebuild process any better. They’ll still get a top five pick, and with the lottery you can’t count on the first overall pick just ’cause you suck the most. Go ask Columbus.

  11. zabala81 - Jan 28, 2013 at 2:23 PM

    Cox, is bored. Tavares and ovechkin only scored their 1st goals yesterday

  12. sunderlanding - Jan 28, 2013 at 2:59 PM

    Maybe they can get two first round draft picks and a second round draft pick for him?

  13. dasportsninja - Jan 28, 2013 at 4:07 PM

    It is funny how the Toronto fans tend to Overvalue their players.

    • Mark - Jan 28, 2013 at 9:43 PM

      As opposed to fans of other teams, who are all quite rational in their evaluation about players from their team.

      • handsomepatrick - Jan 29, 2013 at 5:11 AM

        Yea great point, no matter what fans from any team or any sport, very rarely are they rational on their player evaluations. Completely different sport but boston is tossing around the idea of trading KG. My Boston friend said and i quote, “if we get anything less than 2 unprotected first round picks we would be selling ourselves short.” yea super objective.

  14. dbarnes79 - Jan 28, 2013 at 4:37 PM

    Kessel is a great player no doubt. However, I do agree that he doesn’t fit the Leafs needs right now. Kessel needs to be a player on a good team already a contender like Pittsburgh or Philly. Toronto is still building and Kessel is not a player you build around. He is the final piece.

  15. hdmet78 - Jan 29, 2013 at 6:53 AM

    Kessel is an abomination defensively. The fact that he can produce as many points as he does, yet still be a minus-10 last year and minus-20 in 2011 says it all. I think it’s silly to overreact to 5 games, but I don’t see how he will ever truly fit into Randy Carlyle’s system. Plus, he will always be a reminder of one of the worst trades in Leafs history. Might be better for all parties to cut ties and move forward.

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