Ridiculous Photo by Jon Steitzer
Phil Kessel has been the most talked-about trade piece in Toronto (and possibly the entire NHL) since the start of the off-season, when rumors began to circulate that the Leafs were willing to move the 27 year old winger.
The takes have ranged from exciting to heartbreaking, and they seem to get more outrageous by the day – which is where this piece by Dave Molinari of the Post-Gazette comes into play.
The Pittsburgh Penguins reporter suggests that the Pittsburgh Penguins, who only hold one draft pick in the first four rounds of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, could be at least a casually interested party in regards to a Kessel acquisition.
“Perhaps because there are so few top-six wingers in play now, the Penguins are believed to have at least a kick-the-tires level of interest in Toronto’s Phil Kessel.
Kessel, 27, is one of the NHL’s top goal-scorers — he has 247 in 668 games with the Maple Leafs and Boston — but comes with an $8 million salary-cap hit on a contract that runs through the 2021-22 season.”
This comes in the wake of a report by Elliotte Friedman on Sunday, implying that the Leafs were willing to take on a bad contract in exchange for Kessel.
Molinari suggests that the best way to try and work the deal – at least, for Pittsburgh – would be to attempt to bribe Toronto to retain salary.
In that kind of situation, it doesn’t seem likely Toronto would pull the trigger for anything less than a prospect like Kasperi Kapanen; youth for Toronto and salary retained for Pittsburgh. Don’t expect this to be a realistic option, though – apparently Molinari doesn’t read The Leafs Nation, because we confirmed yesterday that the Leafs aren’t looking to retain salary (just take other contracts on). It’s also insanely counterproductive for Pittsburgh, something we’re *assuming* they aren’t trying to be.
Another option, of course, would be for Toronto to take on one of Pittsburgh’s massive contracts.
The Leafs have implied (refer back to the salary retention piece above) that they don’t want to take on a deal more bloated than Kessel’s, but Pittsburgh still has some mid-range contracts that aren’t horrendous, but certainly aren’t pretty for the value offered. Namely, Rob Scuderi.
In the instance that the Leafs targeting contracts lighter than Kessel’s is valid, though, things could really get out of hand.
At 29, centre Evgeni Malkin is a bit older and a bit pricier than Phil Kessel, but going from a $9.5M AAV to only $8M AAV would still free up desperately needed cap space for the floundering Penguins to solidify their blue line via free agency. It’s also a change of pace for both Malkin and Kessel, two players who some suggest need just that – but with Toronto unlikely to want Malkin anyways, it’s hard to imagine this is a deal that we’ll actually see at the deadline.
Ultimately, Kessel is kind of an absurd trade target for Pittsburgh, and the Metropolitan Division club would be wise to avoid touching this with a ten foot pole. Giving Pittsburgh preemptive credit for making smart trades post-Ray Shero, though, is kind of like expecting Kessel himself to magically transform into a Selke finalist; it’s best just not to take on those kinds of expectations.