Dreger: Leafs among teams ready to make a run at Kessel

Darren Dreger

9/11/2009 4:34:21 PM

The Toronto Maple Leafs are believed to be the frontrunner in a multi-team fight for Phil Kessel.

While the option of signing Kessel to an offer sheet remains for the Leafs and the other teams in the mix, the morely likely scenario is a trade.

Sources say the trade offers for the 21-year-old winger are in excess of what the Bruins would receive as compensation if Kessel were to sign an offer sheet. In other words, Boston is contemplating a trade that will return a more impressive package than the compensatory one that includes a first, a second and third-round draft picks.

The Leafs, New York Rangers and the Nashville Predators are the three most aggressive bidders, but at least two other teams are also believed to be in the hunt.

At this point there is nothing imminent, but Kessel's future is a hot topic in Boston.

The Boston Globe reported Friday that Kessel has made it clear his priority is to sign an offer sheet with another NHL team and he doesn't intend on negotiating with the Bruins any longer.

Kessel's agent, Wade Arnott refutes this, saying they have never stopped talking to the Bruins and Kessel's priority is to play in the NHL - if not with Boston, then with the team that successfully acquires him.

"The story in the Boston media is a complete fabrication," Arnott told TSN. "Having said that, we are at an impasse with the Bruins."

Arnott insists Kessel hasn't taken a hard stance, but acknowledges that - based on the impasse - the young forward's days in Boston are likely over.

Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli now has to decide whether he wants to embrace the significant interest and trade him within the next few days, or risk what is likely to be his rivals' next offer sheet.