Toronto Maple Leafs: The Phil Kessel Deal Was Worth It...Really!

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Toronto Maple Leafs: The Phil Kessel Deal Was Worth It...Really!
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Phil Kessel is making Leaf fans forget about the three picks Brian Burke gave up for him...

There have been a number of controversial NHL trades over the years. The deal that sent Wayne Gretzky from the Edmonton Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings immediately comes to everyone’s mind, while others remember the Joe Thornton trade that saw Jumbo Joe traded from the Boston Bruins to the San Jose Sharks.

In their own way, each trade changed hockey. In Los Angeles, Gretzky put the Kings on the hockey map, while in San Jose, Thornton lifted the franchise from also-ran into perpetual Stanley Cup contender.

While not on the same level, the deal that saw Phil Kessel traded from the Boston Bruins to the Toronto Maple Leafs has also been deemed highly controversial—especially here in Toronto where, prior to this season, many Maple Leaf fans deemed the trade to be a disaster.

On September 9th, 2009, Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke traded a first and a second round pick in 2010, and a first rounder in 2011 in exchange for Kessel.

Kessel immediately agreed to a five-year, $27 million deal, effectively changing the course of the Maple Leafs franchise, for better or for worse.

At the time of the deal Burke stated that he felt his team would become competitive right away and, as such, was happy to pay the price, no matter how steep many felt it was.

"It's a very high price but it's one we feel makes sense for us... he's a young player, he's not even 22 yet," Burke said.

Suffice to say, given the price tag associated with the deal the jury, mainly the Leafs Nation, was split on Burke’s acquisition of Kessel, but as time has gone by, it appears as if the Toronto Maple Leafs might have actually won this deal—at least up to this point.

In his first season with the Blue and White Kessel accumulated 30 goals and 55 points. fast forward to the 2010-11 season and you’ll find that Kessel has hit the thiry-goal mark for the third straight season (once with the Bruins and 2008-09), a feat which few NHL forwards have been able to accomplish over the past three seasons.

In fact, a quick look at the NHL scoring leaders for the past three seasons shows that only eight other players have hit the thirty-goal mark in back-to-back-to back seasons since 2008-09.

When you consider the names on the list, Phill Kessel is in some very elite company.

Alexnader Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Jerome Iginla, Rick Nash, Bobby Ryan, Jeff Carter and Patrick Marleau have all put up three 30-goal seasons since 2008-09, while Ilya Kovalchuk (29), Alexander Semin and Dany Heatley (25) all have a decent chance of making it to 30-goals this season, which would put them in the same company as Kessel and company.

When everything is said and done we are talking about less than ten players having three straight 30-goal seasons—can you say elite company?

There is no hiding the fact that Kessel has his downsides. Kessel is a streaky scorer, often comes up short in the defense department and has had his character questioned from time-to-time. That said, nobody can take away the fact that he has accomplished what very few NHL players have done over the past three seasons, which is admirable.

It is no secret that the Boston Bruins used the Maple Leafs 2010 first round draft pick to select Tyler Seguin, second overall.

Through 72 games with the Bruins Seguin has registered a total of 11 goals and 22 points.

Seguin has played better of late, but he was often benched or made a healthy scratch this season as he struggled to play defense and keep his compete level up.

In comparison, through 70 games in his first NHL season with the Bruins, Kessel registered 11 goals and 29 points.

While it is impossible to compare these two seasons, it appears as if Seguin is on track (at least on paper) to mirror Kessel’s growth. That said, given the elite company Kessel has been in the past three seasons, there looks to be plenty of evidence to suggest that Kessel may have the edge on Seguin.

The Bruins used the Maple Leafs second round selection to take London Knights centre Jared Knight.

Knight looks to be developing into a strong player, registering 25 goals and 70 points in 68 games in the Ontario Hockey League this season with the aforementioned London Knights.

There are plenty of examples of point-a-game OHL players who fail to make it to the NHL, so I will forego any predictions about his future, but he looks to be projected as a second or third line player at this point.

For what it’s worth, Knight is ranked as a 7.0C by Hockey’s Future.

Through 79 games played the Maple Leafs currently sit 20th overall, which means the Bruins will likely get a top ten pick with which to draft another young prospect. While it is too early to tell which players will be available at number ten, it appears as if the Bruins will be looking at Tyler Biggs (RW), Brandon Saad (LW), Nathan Beulieu (D) or Duncan Siemans (D).

Of course, there are no guarantees that Boston keeps the pick or that any of the aforementioned players are available. It does, however, appear as if the Bruins will get a decent prospect, which may put the Bruins ahead in the Kessel deal in many people’s minds once again.

In the end both organizations are likely going to be happy with the Kessel deal.

The Maple Leafs got a sniper they can build a team around, the Bruins will get three very good prospects, with which they can help re-stock their talent cupboard, or use their prospects to acquire roster players that could potentially catapult the Bruins into Stanley Cup Champions.

For the Leafs Nation the good news is that the Phil Kessel trade appears to be a lot less one-sided than ever before, which should help Brian Burke, Phil Kessel and all the fans of the Blue and White sleep better at night for the next few years.

Until next time,

Peace!

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