Toronto Maple Leafs Trade Ideas: 10 Teams That Could Use Phil Kessel
Listen, Phil Kessel is not being dealt from the Toronto Maple Leafs. So for those of you that wish such a fate upon the 23-year-old, don't get too excited.
Brian Burke is not going to go trading the player he spent so much to acquire. He is not going to tell the world that he made a mistake in sacrificing future picks for current talent. Just not going to happen.
And this is not saying that the following teams would be willing to make a pitch for Kessel.
This is simply hypothetical.
Teams are always in need of something, so this is just taking a look at 10 teams that could use the services of a player such as Kessel. Places he might fit in nicely, if you will.
This isn't to decide whether he is, or is not the right fit in Toronto, because it's far too soon to make such a call. This isn't to say what would be coming back in return for the goal-challenged winger either, that can be left up to you.
But since he's struggling mightily—more than he ever has at any point in his career—he's bound to be the talk of the town. And until he snaps out of this slump, like it or not, he will undoubtedly be the No. 1 topic when it comes to the Leafs.
So to follow that trend, here are 10 teams that could use Kessel, and hypothetically afford to swing a deal for him this season.
Can hear the uproar already.
In case you haven't heard, the Pittsburgh Penguins have some slight injury issues. And by slight, we're of course talking about what is essentially they're entire offense in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Crosby is out with a concussion, and won't be back until, well, we're not really sure. While Malkin is done for the season with torn knee ligaments.
Or to put it this way; through 41 games Crosby had 66 points. Through the 58 games the team has played, no other member of the Penguins has more than 44 points.
Crosby had 32 goals. Malkin had 15. Other than Chris Kunitz (18) no one on the club has more than 11.
If Phil Kessel was to join the Penguins, his 19 goals would be second on the team—a better position than he currently sits on the Leafs.
The Penguins, when healthy, are loaded up the middle (Crosby, Malkin, Jordan Staal), but when it comes to the wing they've got little in the way of offense.
Slumping or not, Kessel would add a little flare to the right side.
And he certainly wouldn't have the no-center-to-play-with excuse in Pittsburgh.
Los Angeles Kings
This was supposed to be the season that the Los Angeles Kings took the next step in becoming a legitimate contender in the West. But instead, they took a step back and find themselves battling for a playoff spot—on the outside looking in.
Putting Kessel on the wing with, say, Anze Kopitar—his linemate at last month's All-Star Game—might add some much-needed scoring to a team that has struggled at times to do so.
They're a team loaded at defense and great goaltending (fewest goals against in the NHL), which is a good thing, because Kessel isn't what you would call a two-way player, and might benefit from playing on a solid defensive team—unlike the one that currently employs him.
Bright lights aren't really Kessel's forte either, but this is about teams that could use Kessel, not the other way around.
They came out of the gate on absolute fire, but since the midway point of the season the Thrashers have fallen back to earth a bit, and find themselves on the outside of the playoff picture.
They're a young, talented team, but seem to be at least one player away from really making some noise in the Eastern Conference. Kessel might work well in this scenario, as he tends to be at his best when those around him aren't completely relying on him.
It might be a similar situation to the Leafs, as he might be looked at as the go-to guy, but with up-and-coming stars like Evander Kane, there would be help to provide some scoring punch—which he clearly needs, as one of the more streaky scorers we've seen in recent years.
St. Louis Blues
If for no other reason than St. Louis seems like the landing spot for young players that the Leafs have seemingly given up on, the Blues could use a little extra talent up front that Kessel could provide.
They're a team that has players in roles that may be more than their skills would suggest they can handle, and yet as a group they tend to still be in the playoff conversation at the end.
Throw Kessel into the mix and you've got a team with an even more talented offense, along with a steadily improving blue line, and a goalie that can flat out steal a game (or a playoff series). That's the kind of team that can win a game on any given night.
Not a team that's trying to avoid the basement of the Western Conference.
They've got the franchise goaltender.
They've got the young, stud defenseman.
But when it comes to the offense of the Buffalo Sabres, questions still remain as to who they can fully rely on every night to get the job done—not that Kessel is the most reliable game-to-game scorer, but he would help.
One night the Sabres are a lethal offensive unit, and the next they look lost around the opposing net. Until they can get some sort of consistency, they probably won't be the scary playoff team of a few years ago.
Add Kessel into the contingent of streaky scorers, hope their slumps rotate evenly, and you've got yourself a solid offense.
That's so crazy it just might work. Or work better, at least.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Columbus Blue Jackets are the typical blue-collar team. A hard-working, get-the-job-done group of players that, other than Rick Nash, don't really have a big-name guy.
Nash is the heart and soul of the club, and always has been the offensive leader, but it wouldn't hurt if they were able to add some more skill up front.
Other than Nash (26 goals) and RJ Umberger (19 goals), the scoring is spread out across the board.
Put Kessel on the other wing across from Nash, and you just never know the chemistry that might come out of it. The first time Kessel would be playing with an actual top-line player since his days with Marc Savard.
Other than Nash, Kessel would probably appreciate the Columbus media as well.
Brad Richards is the dream free-agent signing of every Leafs fan. Bringing in a lethal scorer and passer like Richards would not only kick-start an often-times powerless offense, but he's exactly the kind of center Kessel needs to become the 40-goal guy he's expected to eventually be.
But that probably isn't going to happen.
Now, picture the Stars with Kessel's added talent on their already powerful offense, and you've got yourself a serious contender in the West.
They have been somewhat of a surprise this season, as many would not have pegged them as being third in the conference after the All-Star break, but there they sit, as one of the best teams in the NHL right now.
Toss another scorer into the mix, and they won't just be surprising people in the regular season.
As one of the lowest-scoring teams in the NHL, the Florida Panthers need help.
This is a recording.
Kessel would help in that department.
And it's pretty much as simple as that.
The Calgary Flames have no money to spare—seriously, none—but if they could somehow swing a deal that would free up enough space to land Kessel, they could use the help.
Yes, they've surged up the standings after their poor start to the season, but the Flames are made up of a lot of old parts. Substituting some younger talent into the mix would be in their best interest.
Experience often wins out in the playoffs, but youth doesn't hurt when it comes to the speed and skill department.
For a team that is allowing Peter Forsberg to make yet another attempt at a return to the NHL, questions arise as to whether that roster spot couldn't be filled with a younger, less supposed-to-be-retired sort of player.
Kessel might be, shall we say, slightly less of a doomed experiment.
The Avalanche currently sit 14th in West, and though they're only nine points out of eighth, it's a long shot that they squeak into the tightly contested conference playoff picture.
Adding Kessel might boost their chances just a little.
But as mentioned before, Brian Burke would more likely trade the entire team to Iceland than admit defeat and get rid of his prized possession.
So the scoreless streak lives on, and until it ends, we'll have an excuse to look at lists like this.