Talking to sources this evening, I’ve managed to partially reconstruct — there is obviously much more to it than what is posted here — how the trade for Phil Kessel ultimately came about, and the origin of many of the rumours that circulated prior to the deal finally going down.
The Bruins wanted at least one player in a deal, but no suitable player-based deal could ultimately be found with any of Nashville, New York, or Toronto. Â At the end of the day, Bruins’ GM Peter Chiarelli opted to accept a package of picks that was originally offered by the Leafs nearly a full week before the deal was finally consummated.
Here’s how it is said to have happened.
- As trade rumours began to circulate, Chiarelli stated he would match any offer sheet, as players who could help in the short term, especially on the blueline, were Boston’s primary concern.
- Rumours of the Leafs willing to offer picks beyond offer sheet value began to circulate.
- Boston indicated they were interested in picks beyond offer sheet value (who wouldn’t be interested in two 1sts for a player?), but maintained their preference was draft picks plus at least one player to satisfy their blueline requirement. Â They are believed to have been seeking two 1sts plus White, at this point.
- The Leafs felt that was far too much, and countered with an offer of two 1sts plus a 2nd, perceiving White’s value to be beyond that of a player who might be available in round two of the next draft.
- Boston reiterated their desire for at least one player, plus either two 1st rounders or a 1st rounder plus a very good prospect.
- Note: Â the Bruins’ desire for a player as part of the deal explains why they sat on the offer of two 1sts plus a 2nd for a week (the offer was originally reported by ESPN on Sept 12th).
- During the past week, the Leafs worked feverishly to put together a player + pick package to satisfy Boston. Â Accordingly, rumours involving a 1st round pick along with names such as White, Tlusty, Kulemin, and others began to circulate. Â Speculation arose over a salary dump headed to Toronto as part of the deal to ease Boston’s cap situation.
- At the same time, Nashville stepped into the picture with an offer whose centerpiece was highly-regarded defensive prospect Jonathan Blum, a 1st, and the rights to Alexander Radulov (currently playing in the KHL). Â Boston showed some interest, particularly in Blum, but balked at taking on Radulov and his rather messy contract situation.
- Late in the week, the Leafs were confident they had a player + pick deal worked out that would satisfy the Bruins. Â The rumoured deal was White, the choice of Kulemin or Tlusty, a 1st and a 3rd for Kessel and the choice of either a 2nd or a salary dump (Sturm or Kobasew).
- Realizing a deal between Toronto and Boston was close, Nashville — unwilling to part with top prospect Colin Wilson in place of Radulov — pulled Blum out of their offer and replaced him with a young, high-value defender: Ryan Suter.
- Also realizing that Toronto was very close to landing Kessel, the New York Rangers offered up a deal that is said to have included the rights to Brandon Dubinsky, a 1st and a top defensive prospect (rumoured to be Sanguinetti or Del Zotto).
- Working to finalize his team’s deal with Boston, Leafs GM Brian Burke began to sense the Leafs’ offer might not match up against the late deals offered by Nsh and NYR (especially Nsh), and began to consider going back to a deal involving two 1sts.
- There was some question about whether a deal with Nashville would realistically happen, as Suter would put Boston over the cap and force them to have to make another move, but Burke decided it was not worth taking the risk that Boston was bluffing.
- Burke, wanting to ensure he could get his man, went back to Chiarelli and informed him the deal for three picks (two firsts + a second) was still on the table, contingent on Kessel agreeing to terms with the Leafs.
- At that point, Chiarelli weighed his options.Â Â Two 1st round picks versus a deal that would push his team into a cap situation (Nsh), or a deal that would put his team right up against the cap (NYR), involving another yet-to-be-signed RFA (Dubinsky is said to be seeking 1.5m, roughly the amount of cap space Boston has remaining).
- Chiarelli took the picks, knowing he would have to forego getting the defender he wanted (and a potential salary dump) in the deal. Â From his perspective, it was a win considering the return was higher than offer sheet value, and there were no cap ramifications as there would have been with the Nashville and New York deals.
- Kessel and the Leafs came to an agreement rather quickly (dollar figures had been discussed throughout the week between the Leafs and Kessel’s agent, so the agreement was somewhat of a formality).
- Burke signed off on the deal, reporters got wind of it, the transaction was approved by the league office and Phil Kessel was — finally — a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
- Despite the hefty price tag, Burke walked away comfortable with the deal, fully confident that he can re-stock the draft pick cupboard in future transactions.