Report: Kessel Trade Talks Are Heating Up Again, But Babcock Wants Him Back?

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Photo Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports

More trade chatter surrounding the Toronto Maple Leafs just ahead of Free Agency from Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos and TSN’s Darren Dreger…

You have to imagine that after the Chicago Blackhawks sent Brandon Saad packing to Columbus yesterday that the Pittsburgh Penguins would need to revisit their backup plans. It makes a lot of sense that they’d circle back to Phil Kessel. 

The good news for the Leafs is that the Penguins certainly have some interesting pieces and prospects that would greatly help the rebuild effort. I’d be surprised if Toronto couldn’t negotiate a package that included pieces like Derrick Pouliot, Kasperi Kapanen, Scott Harrington and high picks.

A lot of fans, and maybe some members of the Leafs’ front office, are ready to move on from Kessel. That’s not to say that they don’t recognize Kessel as an elite goal scoring talent, but at his age and on that contract, it makes less and less sense to keep him through a lengthy rebuild.

It appears that the biggest obstacle in trading Kessel might not be his contract, but Mike Babcock. I’d love to see what kind of magic Toronto’s new head coach could work with Kessel, but I’m not sure if that’s a luxury the Leafs can afford to wait and see on. Kessel will be in his early 30s when the rebuild is thought to be complete, and as much as I love the guy, he won’t provide enough long after that to warrant keeping him.