After months of slight nervousness, the Pittsburgh Penguins have finally clinched their expected spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, meaning that the conditions have been finalized for the trade that sent former Leafs star Phil Kessel to the Steel City.
Interestingly, Kessel has been a key part of the team’s playoff push. While firing head coach Mike Johnston in December and replacing him with Mike Sullivan was probably the most impactful move for the team, new systems and philosophies are only as useful as the players’ execution of them. Interesting, Kessel has thrived since going back to being the star player on his line, scoring 36 points (15 goals and 21 assists) in 41 games since the beginning of the Calendar Year.
With the spot confirmed, the Leafs will send Pittsburgh’s second round pick back to them in exchange for Pittsburgh’s first-rounder. The second round pick was originally sent to the Leafs in exchange for Daniel Winnik in 2014/15.
That finalizes the full deal as follows:
To Pittsburgh: Phil Kessel ($1.2M/year retained), Tim Erixon, Tyler Biggs, PIT 2016 2nd Round Pick
To Toronto: Kasperi Kapanen, Scott Harrington, Nick Spaling, PIT 2016 1st Round Pick, NJD 2016 3rd Round Pick
This means that Toronto will have a pair of picks in the first, second, third, fourth, and sixth round, with single picks in rounds five and seven. Obviously, there’s still a lot of time until draft day, so this number could fluctuate.
At the end of day, Leafs fans will no doubt be happy with increasing their return on investment. With that said, those looking for the best return possible will now immediately go from having Pittsburgh as their second team to their most hated team, as the best case scenario will now be a first-round exit from the Black and “Vegas Gold” franchise. With 2009 Conn Smythe Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin still on the road to injury recovery, that scenario might not be overly unrealistic, either.