Claus Andersen/Getty Images
Kessel's contract expires at the end of the 2013-14 season.
Since being traded to the Leafs in 2009, Phil Kessel ranks 11th in the league in goals per game according to Hockey-Reference.com—ahead of players like Zach Parise, Daniel Sedin, Jonathan Toews and John Tavares.
Despite what Bruins fans would like you to think, Kessel is a dominant player. He'll never win the Selke Trophy nor will he likely ever have a letter on his jersey, but he scores goals—a lot of them.
In an era when goal scoring is at a premium and close games are the norm, having a guy as potent as Kessel is a luxury most teams aren't privileged to but are always seeking to acquire.
If Kessel is allowed to test the free-agent market next season, he will no doubt be offered a substantial contract—a contract the Leafs would be at risk of not being able to match or simply not given the opportunity to match.
Eliminating this risk by signing Kessel to a long-term contract should be a major priority this offseason.
In the event that an extension can't be reached this summer, the Leafs should explore trading their leading scorer. The reason? After finishing in the top seven in scoring for the second year in a row and scoring four goals and two assists in seven playoff games despite Zdeno Chara being draped all over him, Kessel's value has never been higher.
The gaudy package they sent to the Bruins in exchange for the 25-year-old right winger may look like peanuts compared to what the Leafs could get in return now that he's proven to be one of the game's most lethal offensive threats.
Trading Kessel would be a step back initially for the Leafs, but it could pay off down the road and would be preferable to losing him for nothing.
I'm looking at you, Mats.