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Ritter's Rant: 10 Reasons The Leafs Did Well In Landing Phil Kessel

Mark RitterSenior Writer ISeptember 20, 2009

TORONTO - MARCH 25:  Phil Kessel #81 of the Boston Bruins battles for the puck with Darcy Tucker #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs during their NHL game at the Air Canada Centre March 25, 2008 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo By Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

Written By: Mark "The Hard Hitter" Ritter

Here are 10 things I know about the recent acquisition of Phil Kessel from the Boston Bruins by the Toronto Maple Leafs:

1. The deal was a good one for both sides. The Leafs, who desperately needed a top-six prospect, got their man. The Bruins, who desperately needed some salary cap space, relieved the pressure of a poorly managed cap.

2. When you shake down what the Leafs gave up for Kessel, you have to keep in mind what they didn’t give up—All-Star defenseman Tomas Kaberle. At first glance, a first and second round draft pick in 2010 and a first rounder in 2011 seems a steep price for the Leafs to pay, but I’d rather give up "what-ifs" to keep the proven Kaberle.

3. Keep in mind that the 2010 NHL entry draft is not expected to be very deep and, with the additions that Leafs general manager Brian Burke made in the offseason, it’s safe to say the Leafs will not be a bottom feeder the next two seasons. Therefore, the value of the 2010 and 2011 picks are limited at best. 

The Leafs are going to be better with Kessel in the lineup, not worse.

4. Phil Kessel was Boston’s first-round draft pick in the 2006 NHL entry draft, fifth overall—a lottery pick! There is no way in H-E-double hockey sticks that the Leafs’ 2010 or 2011 first-rounders will be a lottery pick, so the Leafs net out well here. Essentially, the Leafs give up two late first-rounders for a lottery pick.

I make that deal every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

5. Kessel may be damaged goods, but he should bounce back nicely and, at just 21 years old and already a 36-goal scorer with a trapping team, he should be a dominant player for years to come and a legitimate 40-goal threat throughout his entire contract with the Leafs.

6. The fact that Toronto, just one of many teams that wanted Kessel, came away with the forward shows that the Leafs made the right move by selecting Burke as GM. For the record, amidst great competition from other NHL teams, Burke has managed to bring in highly-touted prospects Jonas Gustavsson, Tyler Bozak, Christian Hanson and now, Kessel.

Any way you slice it, that’s one heck of a good job.

7. There is some concern that the absence of highly skilled, play-making center Marc Savard will have a negative effect on Kessel. That may be so, but the Leafs have a few decent prospects coming up in the organization. So even if Kessel doesn’t light it up in 2010, he may very well click with a player like Nazim Kadri in 2011.

8. At $27 million over five years, the Leafs will get good value for Kessel’s services. In the event that nobody steps up to be Kessel’s center, his salary of just over $5 million per season leaves Toronto with plenty of cap room to go out and sign a free agent center if need be. By the way, Marc Savard is a free agent in 2010-11.

9. Kessel has huge upside and is already a proven playoff performer. Kessel has 15 points in 15 career playoff games. The last player the Leafs had that managed one point per game in the playoffs? Mats Sundin.

10. Finally, it shows Burke has the twig and berries to do something.

I recall the backlash that former Leafs GM Cliff Fletcher received when he pulled off a deal with the Quebec Nordiques/Colorado Avalanche, trading fan favorite Wendel Clark for Mats Sundin. Bottom line, to get a player of value you need to give up value. In order to get better, you have to assume some risk.

Burke may not be right here, but doing nothing is wrong.

The Bottom line:

Outside of the Bruins organization, nobody knows Phil Kessel better than Burke and the Leafs Head Coach Ron Wilson. Both of these men are a part of USA hockey. As such, they are privy to a ton of information on Kessel, including player profile, attitude, ability and hockey sense, which is extremely valuable when you are about to acquire a player.

Burke knows what he is doing and he knows Kessel. This wasn’t a GM taking a "flyer" on a player. This was a well-researched acquisition and one that should pay dividends for years to come.

Until next time,

Peace!

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