The Leafs acquired Phil Kessel from the Boston Bruins for two first round picks, a second round pick and a reported five year $27.2 million deal that carries a $5.2M cap hit.
Kessel is coming off shoulder surgery and will be out until November, possibly December.
By the numbers, Kessel has put up:
That's a very nice progression with all signs pointing in the right direction.
That breakthrough year came while playing with gifted centre Marc Savard. It should be noted that Kessel's goals for 60 (GF/60) drops by about 40% when he’s not on the ice with Savard, from 1.246 down to 0.782 and the Leafs don't have any forwards with those type of set-up skills.
A few other things to keep in mind. Kessel plays soft. Monsieur Duvet soft. He had six hits in the entire 2008-09 season (that's not a typo). That works out to about one hit every 12 games.
He doesn't play the PK either.
Sure none of this will matter if he's scoring 30+ goals. But if that surgery didn't go well or if he's lost his soft hands, he doesn't bring much else to the rink. And that's a worry when the Leafs have committed over 10% of their cap to Kessel for the next five years, more if the cap shrinks as it's expected to do.
- Can Kessel come back from off-season surgery?
- Can Kessel continue to grow as a player or was his 36 goal year an aberration?
- Will the Leafs finish outside of the top 10, or could their first rounder be in lottery contention?
Ok, maybe just three big questions.
I'm not crazy about this deal and it's mostly because of timing. The Leafs have kept just three first round picks since 2000 (Tlusty, Schenn, Kadri) and the organization isn't exactly loaded with prospects.
Yes, Burke has done a nice job adding Hanson, Bozak and Stalberg to the club, but those players will be UFAs in two years whereas draft picks are RFAs after three or four.
The Leafs may have just gotten more competitive, but depth and salary control are the keys to building an elite club. Two things the Leafs gave up to land Kessel.