Well, it is official, according to TSN and straight from the mouth of the GM himself, the Leafs have completed a trade to send a first and second round pick in 2010 and a first in 2011 for winger Phil Kessel from the Boston Bruins.
Quickly after making the trade, TSN reports that Kessel also signed a 5 year $27 million extension. Kessel will be unable to play until at least November due to a rotator cuff surgery that was performed this summer.
From a Leaf perspective, this was a very steep price to pay for the 21 year old sniper. First round picks are the backbone of the cap system and the Leafs now do not have one until the 2012 season. On the flip side, Kessel has scored 36 goals at the NHL level and could have 50 goal potential in an injury free season. Kessel himself was a 5th overall pick with the Bruins and came with many question marks on his character around the time he was drafted. There is no doubting his skill and potential as a superstar in this league but does he have the drive and perserverance to realize it in Toronto? Burke et. al have bet the house on it and on Kessel being the first true top line winger the Leafs have had in a long time.
In Toronto, Kessel will no longer have a top end centreman to feed him the puck and will be playing alongside the likes of Grabovski and Stajan or possibly Bozak upon his return. I hope so far I have not suggested that Kessel is not a person of character or perserverance as many will remember the fight he had in his rookie season with testicular cancer and how he overcame it and capture the Masterton trophy. Also, while he is known to be very shy and interviewed very poorly in the draft combine, he performs a large amount of unheralded work in the community.
Phil Kessel will need to be the backbone of a young Leaf group going forward and will have to prove that he was worth the high price the Leafs paid for his services.
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Written by Mike Crupi