It's been a terrible start to the year for Leafs sniper Phil Kessel, and the longer and longer he goes without a goal scored, the more and more you will be hearing the star right winger's name in trade talks.
Kessel is an extremely consistent—well, usually—30-goal scorer in the NHL with blazing speed. His skill with the puck would be an asset to any organization.
With that said, Kessel is nearing the end of his contract with only another year left on his deal.
Kessel also has a no-trade clause that is set to kick in July 1st, so trading Kessel before the April 3rd trade deadline might be a prudent and smart move by GM Dave Nonis and the Leafs.
It's evident Kessel isn't a superstar player in the Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Evgeni Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk mold. He's more of a James Neal, Daniel Sedin, secondary-scoring type who plays much better next to a superstar linemate.
If the Leafs do intend on going the young route and rebuilding, the best move is to deal some of their higher-priced talent like Kessel or Dion Phaneuf and build from within. Of course, the first order of business is to find a franchise goalie, then work their way out.
With Kessel's contract set to expire in 2013-14, if he managed another 70 to 85-point season, look for Kessel's market to reach around $7 to $8.5 million a year, a price in which I would not pay for what Kessel provides.
Here's a look at 10 players the Leafs might target to replace Kessel.