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In part six of his 12 burning questions series, Derek Harmsworth takes a look at Leafs sniper Phil Kessel, and whether he can hit the 40 goal plateau.
While January 31st 2010 will go down as a day Leafs fans will never forget as the Leafs acquired Dion Phaneuf, Keith Aulie, Fredrik Sjostrom, and J.S. Giguere in the span of about two hours, the date of September 18th, 2009 will also be remembered, yet highly debated, and much scrutinized.
It was on that day in September, following a preseason game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, that Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke got his man. Â After lots of rumours throughout the year, including one that involved Tomas Kaberle going the other way, Burke signed off on a deal with the Boston Bruins that landed him American born sniper Phil Kessel.
Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager, Brian Burke should have uttered one phrase to explain the situation, one simple little phrase to envelope the reasoning for the Phil Kessel trade;
â€œOur picks in our vision of where we ended up are overvalued in accordance to the available crop of prospects.â€
But in Toronto, to admit that in whatâ€™s deemed as a â€˜rebuildâ€™ would have been a PR disaster.
Despite popular opinion, he wasnâ€™t wrong.
The world is no longer flat, itâ€™s round .. like a full-cirle
The two greatest military tacticians of the past 5000 years â€“ Sun Tzu and Sgt. Slaughter â€“ both spoke on the value of knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your enemies in the field.Â To effectively assess the situational realities of the Toronto Maple Leafs it pays to look at the status of their direct competition within the Northeast division.Â Playing 24 games against teams from their own division, pride, points and position are all on the line.Â While by no means comprehensive (as yet), take a gander at the past 3 weeks of moves.
The Canadians, Senators, Bruins and Sabres all earned playoff positions last season.Â A successful, playoff calibre Leafs squad must commit themselves to dominating these frequent opponents as more than a quarter of the season will be played against them.
It may seem uncharacteristic of Â Brian Burke, historically a headline maker at the Entry Draft, to sit essentially idle on the hockey world’s biggest stage. Important to remember is that the big man can be patient when he needs to be. The Anaheim and Calgary deals of last February, when Burke waited until certain pressure points reached a head, were both examples of Burke’s willingness to sit back until the time was right to pull the trigger – despite all the temptations to hit the panic button as his team sat in the Eastern Conference basement with no first round pick to look forward to.
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.
TSN’s Darren Dreger is reporting a trade between Brian Burke and Peter Chiarelli that will see Phil Kessel join the Maple Leafs as agreed upon at this time pending a contract agreement between the Leafs and the restricted free agent.
Update: Damien Cox is reporting via twitter that the Leafs and Kessel have agreed upon a 5 year, $27 million contract, with two firsts and a second headed to Boston in return for Kessel.
Update: TSN has since confirmed the details of the contract and trade as reported earlier by Cox.
It took sometime to manifest, prolonged in the wake of shoulder surgery and stunted contract talks, but the September 10th news that negotiations between the Boston Bruins, Wade Arnott and Phil Kessel had come to an impasse reignited the rumor mill that has surrounded the Leafs and the Madison, Wisconsin sniper since Brian Burke first tabled Tomas Kaberle in the infamous draft day â€œmisunderstanding.â€
In the week that has passed since negotiations broke down, the value of Kessel has skyrocketed beyond the original RFA compensation of a 1st, 2nd and 3rd round selection in the 2010 draft.
Some interesting contrasting rumors/speculation in the Toronto media today regarding Kessel:
Damien Cox of the Toronto Star hears that Phil Kessel is very interested in joining the Maple Leafs and is already familiar with both Brian Burke and Ron Wilson through the U.S. Olympic program. However, Cox also mentions that it’s believed that Boston GM Peter Chiarelli is not overly enthused at the notion of dealing Kessel within the division but that Toronto is willing to pay more than the offer sheet compensation of three draft picks.
On the other hand, Lancy Hornby of the Toronto Sun reports that the Leafs intensified talks with the Bruins yesterday, and that Kessel could be headed this way in exchange for a “high 2010 draft pick”. Although you’d have to assume that the return would be much higher than that, the way it’s put seems to imply that it would be a single pick in return.
The Boston Globe reports that restricted free agent winger Phil Kessel will no longer be negotiating with the Boston Bruins and will likely now await either a trade or an offer sheet from a rival club. The writer suggests that Boston GM Peter Chiarelli would likely prefer going through the trade route in order to receive a package of higher value than 3 unproven draft picks as compensation for an offer sheet in the $5 million range. The article also makes an interesting point: despite missing 12 games, Kessel finished tied for 12th in NHL scoring last season and the players above him average $6.5 million in annual salary. Makes you think, doesn’t it.
With that being said, the pressure to make a deal seems to lie on the Bruins because per the CBA rules, if Kessel were to sign an offer sheet before the Bruins can find a suitable trade, they would be forced to either let him go or match and keep him. They cannot simply match an offer sheet and then seek to deal him for a package of higher value than the draft picks during the first year of his new deal. But again, sneaking behind the Bruins GM’s back to ink Kessel to an offer sheet before they have a chance to act may trigger some harsh sentiment and retaliation.
In other news, just a friendly reminder that tonight is the fourth and final game of the Leafs rookie tournament in Kitchener, which kicks off at 7pm ET against the rival Ottawa Senators. Coverage will be aired once again on Rogers TV channels 10 and 60.
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.
Some changes in information:
- Hits newsstands September 8th, available at all Indigo Chapters stores in Canada as well as wherever magazines are sold in the greater Toronto area, including Walmart, grocery stores, drug stores, newsstands, etc. Apparently the the only magazine outlet in the GTA it isnâ€™t available at is the Toronto airport.
- Should you wish to PREORDER, the SHIPPING FEE has been dropped from $11 to $5.00. Everyone who has already preordered will be credited the $6 difference.
- Pre-ordering not only guarantees you a copy but will get you one a week in advance as preorders are shipped August 25th with a 2-5 day waiting period for arrival.
- My apologies for the mistakes in my original information.
Debunking growing speculation that I’ve been kicking my feet up on the beaches of Cancun and ignoring all of you for the last month, myself alongside publishing company Maple Street Press are very pleased to introduce the inaugural Maple Leafs Annual. Before we get into the thick of it, I’d like to first of all thank MSP for offering me the opportunity to edit, and contribute to, this project. Although at times taxing, to see this Annual come together has been an extremely satisfying and mostly fun endeavour. I was put in the unique position of being able to unite the prominent and growing voices of the Leafs’ blog-o-sphere into a consolidated project, and for that I’m very thankful. The final product is one that I think all of Leafs Nation can be proud of.
A variety of discussion points to kick off the weekend including the imminent departure of Justin Pogge and the Marlies goaltending situation going into next season. Is it finally James Reimer’s time to shine? Also, a quick look at the latest flurry of moves made by the Boston Bruins, and how that may affect a potential Leaf trade for the still unsigned Phil Kessel.
The current behind the scene situation on the Tomas Kaberle – Boston Bruins negotiations is intense, according to a solid source. It looks as though Burke’s playing poker here and waiting to see if Peter Chiarelli will call his bluff or up the ante.Â The Pronger to Boston rumours remain a distinct possibility but it’s said that the Kaberle to Bruins negotiations are on higher heat.
The reputable Eklund is reporting with an always reliable “e4″ rating that the Maple Leafs are closing in on a deal with the Vancouver Canucks that will involve Nikolai Antropov heading west in exchange for a first round pick and a prospect. To no one’s surprise, Brian Burke and Mike Gillis have been carrying out negotiations for some time now, primarily on the subjects of Antropov and Tomas Kaberle. A deal is not as imminent as Eklund’s reporting, but there appears to be deal potential in Vancouver and potentially of the blockbuster variety.