Numbers Game: Maple Leafs Land Kessel

Scott Cullen
9/18/2009 10:58:56 PM
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The dance between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs ended with the Leafs getting the young sniper they wanted and paying a hefty price in draft picks to get him.

Numbers Game takes a look at the Phil Kessel trade.

The Maple Leafs Get: RW Phil Kessel.

Kessel, who turns 22 the day after the season opens, is a rising star who scored 36 goals in 70 games with Boston last season.  There were eight players under the age of 25 in the NHL last season that scored at least .50 goals per game and Kessel was the youngest of them by two years.

Granted, going to Toronto, Kessel isn't going to have a playmaker like Marc Savard setting him up, but there will be other opportunities for Kessel.  For example, as a naturally-skilled goal-scorer, Kessel should be on the first power play unit, which wasn't the case last year in Boston and he would figure to get better than 16:33 of ice time per game.  As a result, the move to Toronto shouldn't impact Kessel's scoring output on a per-game basis too negatively.

However, given the Leafs' prospects this season, it would seem highly unlikely that Kessel will match the plus-23 rating he had in Boston last season.  Additionally, Kessel isn't going to be ready to play at the start of the season, as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery, so that will decrease his overall fantasy value.

Over the long-term, the Maple Leafs have signed Kessel to a five-year, $27-million contract, making a significant commitment to Kessel as a first-line forward.  The fifth overall pick in 2006, Kessel has a high offensive ceiling. 

Having scored 36 goals last year, it's certainly reasonable to expect better than 40 goals at some point during the life of the contract, though he may be closer to 20-to-25 this year, depending on how soon he's ready to play.  

Bringing Kessel to Toronto will also help some of the Leafs' playmakers.  Someone like Matt Stajan, for example, could really benefit from having a real finisher on his wing.

The Bruins Get: A first-round pick in 2010, first-round pick in 2011 and a second-round pick in 2010.

Getting two first-round picks and a second-round pick in return for Kessel, the Bruins will be able to re-generate their roster and have enough depth on the team currently to contend even without Kessel.

If the Maple Leafs, with Kessel, are considered to be -- at best -- a middle of the pack team in 2009-2010, and perhaps better the following season, there would be a little better than a 60% chance that the first-round picks would play 100-plus games in the NHL.

A second-round pick is would fall closer to a 30% chance of playing 100-plus games in the NHL, so the Bruins should get a couple of roster players out of this, eventually.

With Kessel departing, the Bruins will have a prime opening on the line with Marc Savard and Milan Lucic; an opening that could go to second-year winger Blake Wheeler or perhaps more proven scorers like Michael Ryder, Mark Recchi or a back-from-injury Marco Sturm.  Whomever lands the spot would undoubtedly end up with better fantasy value as a result.

Jammed up against the cap, the Bruins made the best of an untenable situation, getting more than the standard restricted free agent value in return for a player who, while young and talented, isn't without his flaws and can be replaced due to the depth already on the Boston roster.

Since the Maple Leafs haven't been in position to draft exceptional talent, dealing for Kessel gives them a chance at an elite-level talent, a player who should score better than 40 goals at some point and those players aren't acquired easily. 

Yes, the cost of three draft picks is significant, but if Kessel's presence helps the Leafs at least get into the middle tier of the standings, those players aren't as likely to become first-line talents.  The cost of Kessel's contract, while substantial, isn't a gross overpayment if Kessel is going to put up 35-plus goals per season.

Scott Cullen can be reached at


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