Kessel Trade Wrap Up

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    An interesting question was brought up by Dave Hodge yesterday morning on TSN’s The Reporters amid the Phil Kessel whirlwind that erupted over the weekend: if Peter Chiarelli wasn’t interested in matching an offer sheet at the dollar figure to which Burke eventually signed the 21-year-old, described by Sports Illustrated’s Michael Farber as “a one in 500 chance,” why didn’t Burke submit the offer sheet and pay but a third rounder instead of an additional first round draft selection? Farber seemed convinced not only that Chiarelli wouldn’t match but that Burke’s decision to go the trade route instead of offer sheet avenue was to save face, anticipating the charges of hypocrisy he would encounter linking back to his response to Kevin Lowe’s offer sheet submission for Dustin Penner that ultimately went unmatched while in Anaheim.

    We know Farber’s wrong on at least one account here, and that being where Burke’s point of contention was with Lowe’s offer sheet submission, which Burke described at the time and since has reiterated in wake of the Kessel situation as everything to do with a perceived blindsiding by Lowe as opposed to some sort of repugnance against offer sheets themselves. To paraphrase, Burke views offer sheets as a part of the collective bargaining agreement and therefore very much in the arsenal of any general manager, but believes an honour code of sorts exists where the filing GM should give advanced notice to their counterpart of a potential offer sheet coming their way. On his second point, if true it would certainly raise a question or two as to why Burke didn’t opt for the offer sheet route, but after sending out some emails and doing some digging, I’m not sure he’s entirely correct on that point either. Here’s what I gathered in a conversation with a trusted source:

    -Burke believed Chiarelli would have matched and Burke was not prepared to “excessively” overpay in terms of dollar or term to assure otherwise due to his own present and future cap restraints. If Chiarelli were to match, he could not trade Kessel for a calendar year under the laws of the CBA, and seemingly a trade was the only way to assure Kessel became a Maple Leaf. There was no way the odds were as slim as Farber states when the return would merely be a first, second and third round pick package in the event of Chiarelli allowing the offer sheet (at $5.2 million) to go unmatched.
    -Burke used the offer sheet threat to force Chiarelli to come to the table and talk trade, but the OS route was never preferred.
    -That said, Burke would have filed an OS if need be, but while he wasn’t worried about being open to charges of hypocrisy, in his decision to acquire through trade there was consideration for his reputation in future dealings within the league.
    -There is the belief among some insiders, however, that Burke backed Chiarelli into a corner and that is being met with varying degrees of condemnation, yet the pick package is substantial to the point where one can’t really argue that Burke got him for nothing as he paid a very healthy price.
    -As reported, Chiarelli really wanted Callahan (only $2.3m per for 2 more years) and a prospect like Del Zotto or Grachev plus a pick, but the Rags turned it down. In the last minute, Dubinski was discussed but the Bruins wanted to dump some salary and the Leafs and Rangers were reticent to do that.

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    The Bottom Line on the Kessel Trade

    Brian Burke’s considerable accomplishments and strides forward in his tenure to date put him a position where he could finally break the bank on a true goal-scorer to put a much-improved club defensively, from the net out, over the top and into the playoff picture in the short and long term. In the free agent pool, he inked two defensive mainstays in Mike Komisarek and Francois Beauchemin who are at an age where they can be playing out their reasonably affordable contracts throughout their prime years. He won the hotly contested sweepstakes for both Tyler Bozak and Jonas Gustavsson, 23- and 24-years-old respectively, both of whom many would consider easily of first-round-pick value, while also adding some young and serviceable pieces up front and on the back end in the likes of Christian Hanson and Garnet Exelby. Factor in the promise of the likes of Viktor Stalberg, Nazem Kadri, Jesse Blacker, Chris Didomenico, Mikhail Stefanovich and Dale Mitchell, and the Leafs have a long-term nucleus in place, and possess a number of current elite talents, now including Phil Kessel, that will develop and enter their primes simultaneously. It is too premature to say, but I have a feeling Burke may have found a way to make a quick yet proper rebuild more than a mere fantasy in the vein of Peter Chiarelli’s Boston Bruins model and as expanded on brilliantly by Ed Slater in the Maple Leafs Annual.

    First-round picks are still first-round picks, and perhaps are as valuable as ever, but Burke’s depth is such that he should conceivably be able to recover a collection of picks if only in quantity, and his creativity is such that he may be able to then convert a few of those into a late first rounder. Even as it stands today, there has to be consideration put into the location of the two first rounders, which will very likely be beyond the top 10 and into the range of hit and [mostly] miss, to put the trade into its proper context. Let’s explore the types of names that have been drafted in the 15-20 range in the entry drafts spanning from 1998-2004:

    1998 Draft:

    #15 – Mathieu Chouinard
    #16 – Eric Chouinard
    #17 – Martin Skoula
    #18 – Dmitri Kalinin
    #19 – Robyn Regehr
    #20 – Scott Parker

    1999 Draft:

    #15 – Scott Kellman
    #16 – David Tanabe
    #17 – Barret Jackman
    #18 – Konstantin Koltsov
    #19 – Kirill Safronov
    #20 – Barrett Heisten

    2000 Draft:

    #15 – Artem Kryukov
    #16 – Marcel Hossa
    #17 – Alexei Mikhnov
    #18 – Brooks Orpik
    #19 – Krys Kolanos
    #20 – Alexander Frolov

    2001 Draft:

    #15 – Igor Knyazev
    #16 – R.J. Umberger
    #17 – Carlo Colaiacovo
    #18 – Jens Karlsson
    #19 – Shaone Morrisonn
    #20 – Marcel Goc

    2002 Draft:

    #15 – Jesse Niinimaki
    #16 – Jakub Klepis
    #17 – Boyd Gordon
    #18 – Denis Grebeshkov
    #19 – Jakub Koreis
    #20 – Daniel Paille

    2003 Draft:

    #15 – Robert Nilsson
    #16 – Steve Bernier
    #17 – Zach Parise
    #18 – Eric Fehr
    #19 – Ryan Getzlaf
    #20 – Brent Burns

    2004 Draft:

    #15 – Alexander Radulov
    #16 – Petteri Nokelainen
    #17 – Marek Schwarz
    #18 – Kyle Chipchura
    #19 – Lauri Korpikoski
    #20 – Travis Zajac

    Unless we’re talking the 2003 best-draft-of-recent-memory, which is by no means how the next draft is being tabbed, then the odds of drafting with two picks in the #15-20 range a talent that will go onto produce as Kessel did at the age of 21, proportional to the respective position, is highly stacked against your favour. Would you sacrifice two picks in this range, plus a second, to secure yourself a legitimate top 5 player who’s 21-years-old, and knowing your club’s biggest and longest-standing shortcoming is true first line talent?

    I think you know where I stand.

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