So the Leafs have dealt a first and second round pick from 2010 and a first rounder from 2011 to the Boston Bruins for Phil Kessel, who will be signed to a 5 year $27 million dollar contract - averaging a $5.4 million per season cap hit.
Kessel was drafted 5th overall in the 2006 entry draft and he is turning 22 this year, making him one year older than Leafs prospect Jiri Tlusty. Kessel has already played 3 NHL seasons, skating in at least 70 games in each. Scoring 66 goals and 60 assists for 126 points in 222 games. Last year was his breakout though, where he produced 36 goals, 24 assists, and managed to finish +23 while only taking 16 minutes in penalties.
Before people jump out and say he’s a “risk” I would point out that he is one of only 7 players to produce a season with over 0.5 goals per game before their 22nd birthdays since the 2000-01 season. Those players are Ovechkin, Malkin, Staal, Kovalchuk, Thornton, Nash, and of course Kessel. That would be 3 Hart Trophy Winners, 3 Rocket Richard Trophy Winners, 3 Art Ross Trophy Winners, and 2 Stanley Cup winners. The only one on the list that hasn’t won a major trophy so far is Kessel… and he’s the youngest of the group. I’m guessing he’ll get one before he’s done.
Another point people seem fond of making is how he’s only had 1 good season. Guess what guys he’s actually in his 22nd year of life… so he’s kinda had 2 good seasons considering his age. If you compare his 20 year old season (two years ago), to everyone else in the NHL since 1990-91, you’ll find that only 61 skaters managed the goal and point production (0.23 gpg, 0.45 ppg) he did that year. 61 guys in the past 18 years of hockey. Crappy players like Daniel Sedin, Corey Perry, and Marian Hossa. How, oh how, can we have the belief that this guy is supremely likely to tank it?
Not losing a single player off the roster is a great coup on the part of Brian Burke. This team is built to succeed in the near future, and given the cap space the team has going into next season, they are primed to add some serious pieces to the puzzle to gun for a Stanley Cup.
The Leafs now have only $496,668 in cap space remaining on the upcoming season, but they have $22 million in cap space available for next year. Obviously some of that will be devoted to re-signing RFA’s, so they won’t be rebuilding from scratch, but the fact is, this team only has the following players under contract for next season (either at the NHL or AHL level):
Forwards: Phil Kessel, Jason Blake, Niklas Hagman, Mikhail Grabovski, Colton Orr, Tyler Bozak, Nazem Kadri, Viktor Stålberg, Mikhail Stefanovich, Dale Mitchell, Chris DiDomenico, Alex Berry, Robert Slaney, Richard Greenop, Stefano Giliati, Greg Scott, Darryl Boyce,
Defense: Mike Komisarek, Tomas Kaberle, Francois Beauchemin, Jeff Finger, Luke Schenn, Carl Gunnarson, Juraj Mikus, Jay Rosehill
Goal: James Reimer
That means no NHL starting goalies and a lot of room for competition amongst the forwards. By no means is it certain that many of those AHL or Junior age players will make the Leafs even a year from now. If the Leafs do decide to add a high powered forward through free agency I wouldn’t be surprised. I anticipate the Leafs ending up with around approximately $6.5 million in cap space following this season, and knowing Brian Burke it will be spent relatively wisely.
Look for Kessel to join the club in November, and slot in on the first line. By that point, the Leafs should have a solid idea of who their top centre is, and who they foresee as ideal line mates for Kessel. I’m looking forward to that day, and the rest of this season.
Burke has grabbed everything on his shopping list this off season, and he hasn’t had to do much to the prospects within the Leafs system. Let’s see where all the wheeling and dealing gets us shall we?
Is Boston likely to land gold with our draft picks? Over the past few years here are their first and second round draft picks:
2009 - Jordan Caron RW (25th)
2008 - Joe Colborne C (16th)
2008 - Maxim Sauve C (47th)
2007 - Zach Hamill C (8th)
2007 - Tommy Cross D (35th)
2006 - Phil Kessel C (5th)
2006 - Yuri Alexandrov D (37th)
2006 - Milan Lucic LW (50th)
2005 - Matt Lashoff D (22nd)
2005 - Petr Kalus RW (39th)
2004 - David Krejci C (63rd)
2004 - Martins Karsums RW (64th)
2003 - Mark Stuart D (21st)
2003 - Patrice Bergeron C (45th)
2003 - Masi Marjamaki LW (66th)
Of that group, Kessel, Lucic, Krejci, Stuart, and Bergeron all look like pretty solid players, while Colborne, Hamill, and Caron look like decent prospects - so yes it’s quite possible that the Bruins will select good players with our draft picks. Should we worry about that? Not if Kessel turns into a perennial all-star, and becomes a top level scorer in the NHL. The Leafs will get draft picks again at some point, of that we are certain. It was a calculated risk, and I’m not particularly upset that Burke took it.
In regards to the “40% of his scoring came with Marc Savard” arguments I’ve been reading, consider the following. Marc Savard has played 10 full seasons in the NHL over the past 12 years. He has broken the 60 point barrier in 4 of those seasons - all of which were his past 4 years. In those 4 years he was playing with the following line mates:
2005-06: Ilya Kovalchuk, Marian Hossa
2006-07: Glenn Murray, Marco Sturm
2007-08: Glenn Murray, Marco Sturm
2008-09: Phil Kessel, Milan Lucic
Obviously playing with Kovalchuk and Hossa would help a lot in the 05-06 season. Murray and Sturm were no slouches, but neither one posted 30+ goals. Sturm had 27 goals in 2007-08 and Murray had 28 in 2006-07. In 2008-09 Kessel had 36 goals.
So - just to recap - it was actually 45% of Kessel’s production not 40%, and he actually spent 47% of his time with Savard and Lucic. Is it really that strange that 45% of his scoring came with line mates he was out with 47% of the time? Not at all. He doesn’t suck because Savard set him up… they just were both very productive. It could be argued that Savard’s production depended on Kessel’s ability to finish just as easily as one could argue Kessel needed Savard to set up his goals.
It’s a Chicken and the Egg argument… obviously circular and pointless until we see them without the other.