It’s clear from the remarks below that Brendan Shanahan was the one heading up the trade negotiations with Jim Rutherford that ultimately led to today’s Phil Kessel trade.
It’s unquestionably the biggest move he’s made in charge of the Leafs to date, and the debate on the return has only just begun.
Transcript of Shanahan’s media address below.
General remarks the Phil Kessel Trade:
I said, at the end of the season, there were going to be changes. For whatever reason, we have a lot of talent on this team, but as a group, our core group, it hadn’t worked. This is about winning, and Phil is certainly a talented player. We knew changes had to come. I thank him for his six years, very productive years for him. That’s why a guy like Jim Rutherford, with a team that is poised to take a run at a Stanley Cup, had such interest. I think it’s a good fit for him. At the same time, it’s our messaging that what we were doing here as a group wasn’t working. We were setting a bit of a new direction for our club and building it differently. In order to do that you have to turn some very talented players into assets and picks, and it’s our job now to turn those into things of value for this club moving forward.
Obviously we’ve created a lot of cap space and flexibility going forward. Some of the players we’ve picked up are just starting their careers. Our job is to help them develop and turn picks into prospects and turn prospects into Leafs.
What I said at the end of the season – that this is really about a recognition on our part that what’s been going on here and the group we had here wasn’t getting the job done. We are here to build a team that is capable of winning a Stanley Cup. There are no shortcuts to go around doing that. We didn’t see that his group was going to get a whole lot better in getting us toward that goal. Going out and hiring a coach in Mike Babcock was a huge bonus. This was really about us knowing we have to build this the right way through the draft, through prospects. Sometimes that might take a bit longer. We gave up a heck of a player a very, very productive player. I thank him very much for his time here.
On the difficulty of finding the right trade:
It is tougher in this day and age to find trade partners. Teams are in different positions in their own development. It just worked out that we were looking for players in the future and Pittsburgh was looking for players that would fit their needs in the present. It took a bit of work, a lot of back and forth between Jim and I finding what we felt was a fair deal for both sides. At the end of the day, both clubs set off on what their direction was.
I think, on a trade like this, this is really about what we do with some of the assets we’ve obtained. Whether it’s players, a first round player like Kapanen, or what we do with the pick when we have it in the 2016 or 2017 — that’s really the challenge for us. We’ve been giving assets, now it’s for us to make something out of it. Usually with trades like this, it satisfies Pittsburgh needs today, and we hope with hard work it satisfies what we need tomorrow.
On why it didn’t work out for Phil and the core:
There could be lot of theories as to why it didn’t work out for this group. He had productive years. He is a talented player. This wasn’t about singling one guy or trying to pin the blame on one guy. There were teams that came after me for Phil because Phil is a talented player. I go back to the end of the season when is I said, after watching or a year, that it was our belief and our management team’s belief that the way our team was assembled going forward was going to be the type of team that was going to challenge for a Stanley Cup at some point. Changes had to be made.
On Kasperi Kapanen:
He’s one of the youngest players that was drafted a year ago. He came over this year, this past year, played a little bit in the AHL an in the playoffs. A talented guy, top-6 forward we’re hoping, I think he’s just another add to a group that we have in our stable that, given a lot of work and patience and development, we hope he can be a very productive Leaf at some point.
On the leadership change:
I think it it is evolving. This will certainly be a shock to a lot of players and a message to our group. Mike Babcock getting hired, and what he will bring to that group every day, we going to see what kind of people can either keep up or be left behind.
I don’t think this had anything to do with the last 20 or 30 games. I think that, when you recognize that a group is not going to get to the ultimate place you want it to be, you put out the message to the rest of world at the end of the season that you’re willing to make changes.
It’s a big change to our club and our direction. Even with gaining 6.8 million in cap space over the next 7 years. And, again, Phil was a big part of that dressing room. It’s a big change. Where we need to be, we are still long ways from being there. We still have a lot of work to do.
On retaining salary:
We feel we had to do that. We weren’t going to be able to do this deal without retaining some of his salary. Would you like to not retain any salary? Of course, but some of the other people we were talking to were asking for more. We thought this was the best deal that we had.
On today’s other additions:
P.A. Parenteau is coming here on a one-year deal with a lot to prove. He’s a motivated guy. I think that he’s excited about coming here.
Harrington is someone that Mark Hunter was very familiar with. Character player.
Hunwick, again, another guy that Babcock was pretty familiar with. Character guy that comes to work every day. We do like some of the individuals we’ve added to the dressing room core.