Amid speculation that Brian Burke is positioning himself to extend an offer sheet – perhaps to long-rumoured target, 22-year-old winger Phil Kessel – after swapping picks to recover the Leafs’ 2010 second round pick in a deal that would seemingly make little sense otherwise, there is another possibility to consider in regards to trade negotiations.
Could Burke be setting the bar on Peter Chiarelli’s asking price for Phil Kessel? The foundered Tomas Kaberle-Phil Kessel deal at the draft indicated that the Bruins general manager is seeking value in the neighbourhood of Kaberle and a first round draft pick if he’s to move the still-unsigned RFA. Unquestionably, first, second and third round draft picks is a much better value “trade” from the Leafs standpoint. If Burke possesses merely the ability to submit an offer sheet for Kessel (which would presumably be enumerated within the $4.5 -$6 million range, and thus worth 1st, 2nd and 3rd round picks, all of which must be the Leafs’ own selections), he finds himself postured in a more advantageous position in trade negotiations. Effectively, Chiarelli now knows that he can’t ask Burke to cough up more value than a first, second and third round pick package. Perhaps it hasn’t simply been coincidental that the Kessel rumours have refused to die since draft day.
The question for you to consider, comrades, is if a 22-year-old, 36-goal-scorer is worth that trio of draft picks. Immediately the Leafs will have an undisputed top six player and likely a big part of the long-term solution to their long-standing dearth in elite wing talent. May I be the first to say “yes.” If the club could reasonably expect to lose 30 goals in offensive production with the losses of Nik Antropov, Dominic Moore and the transition into a more defensive system on the back of a blueline unit now less geared towards puck-moving and rush-joining and more about crease-clearing and shot-blocking, Kessel could offer a significant piece of replenishment for the potential ’09-10 offensive dilution (he will, however, be out of action until December and will not have a playmaking presence like Marc Savard at centre ice), as well as in the long term.
Now, it is all still technically speculation that Kessel is Burke’s target. Also-RFAs Brandon Dubinsky of the New York Rangers and Drew Stafford of the Buffalo Sabres have been rumoured assets of Burke’s interest, too. Rumblings from a source of there being “something happening with New York” have persisted for the last few weeks, and taking a glance at the offer sheet compensation scale, Dubinsky figures to slot in within the range that requires the forfeiture of a second round pick by the suiting club.
A move that may seem relatively trivial at face value appears as though it will provide Leafs Nation with all the speculative fervour it needs to ease the wait for preseason hockey.
*Please with all your might pardon the Missy Elliot title reference