Toronto Maple Leafs: Phil Kessel and the 3 Players the Leafs Should Not Trade

Jon ReidCorrespondent IIDecember 9, 2012

NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 23: Phil Kessel #81 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on March 23, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey. The Maple Leafs defeated the Devils 4-3 in the shootout.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Just about two weeks ago, I published a piece on the Toronto Maple Leafs' five most untouchable prospects.

This week, we'll take a look at the three roster players the Leafs must hold on to.


Phil Kessel

First up is the Toronto Maple Leafs' best goal scorer.

Despite never having a true No. 1 (or even No. 2) center since being brought in by Brian Burke before the 2009-10 NHL season, Kessel has never failed to score fewer than 30 goals.

In fact, he's one of just a few players to have notched 30 goals or more in each of the last four NHL seasons.

He's one of the league's best goal scorers, and one can only imagine how many times he'd light the red lamp should he ever have the opportunity to play on the same line as a true playmaking center.

For those who advocate trading Kessel because of his apparent lack of defensive play, consider what this team would be like offensively without Phil Kessel—and potentially without free agent Joffrey Lupul.

Nothing good can come from losing Phil Kessel.


Mikhail Grabovski

After re-signing Mikhail Grabovski this past season to a fairly large contract, it is now clear that the Toronto Maple Leafs have no intention of moving the 28-year-old Belarussian center.

Handing over $5 million per season to a second-line guy who only put up 51 points last season may not seem like the best idea, but you must keep in mind that his assist total took a major hit offensively thanks to the play of linemate Nikolai Kulemin.

Even with Kulemin's drop off the face of the earth in terms of goal scoring, Grabovski's assist total dropped by just one to 28 in 2011-12.

Should Kulemin ever regain his scoring touch, it is not unreasonable to expect Grabovski to be able to tally 40 assists in addition to scoring 20-plus goals himself.

That kind of production is well worth the cash, and it should be reassuring for Leafs fans that he'll be around for the next few seasons.


Carl Gunnarsson

There are a few reasons why the Leafs need to hold on to Carl Gunnarsson and not include him in any trade that isn't a blockbuster move.

First, there is the fact that he's a perfect defenseman to have on your second or third pairing.

He can move the puck efficiently, skates smoothly and is defensively accountable at the same time.

Sure, he's not the biggest defenseman around, but he's very useful and plays his role very well.

The second reason to avoid trading Gunnarsson is that it would be hard to get a fair return from another club.

Gunnarsson isn't a flashy guy or one who stands out every game.

He's also not a salary burden to Toronto, so there's no need to dump him for next to nothing.

At this juncture trading, Gunnarsson would likely result in a poor return for the Leafs and it would weaken an already-feeble defense core.