The Florida Panthers seem to be talking to the Maple Leafs about possibly acquiring Phil Kessel.
With the Toronto Maple Leafs going into full ‘scorched-earth’ rebuild, there is certainly going to be a lot of attention on what happens to star forward Phil Kessel. The Leafs have already begun their full rebuild, as they traded defenseman Cody Franson and forward Mike Santorelli to Nashville for a 2015 first-round pick, prospect Brendan Leipsic and veteran Olli Jokinen.
Obviously, there will be a lot of teams who would love to add a player of Kessel’s caliber to their hockey club, but there are probably only a few teams that will be able to afford him.
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Kessel is in just the first year of a monstrous eight-year, $64 million contract he signed with the Leafs. Now, the Leafs believe Kessel is not part of the future of the team. Leafs general manager Dave Nonis has stated that both Kessel and captain Dion Pheneuf are not in the team’s future plans, but most likely won’t be moved until the offseason.
That doesn’t mean that team’s aren’t inquiring about the players right now, though.
One team that is supposedly very interested in acquiring Phil Kessel is the Florida Panthers. The Panthers are one of probably only a few teams that could afford Kessel’s huge contract. The Panthers currently have just under $11 million in cap space, so they could easily fit Kessel’s contract into their cap situation.
However, the cost of acquiring Kessel may be too steep for Florida to pay up.
The price-tag for Kessel will most likely be a first-round pick, a top end prospect and a roster player. Nonis could possibly be asking for a second draft pick as well, possibly a second or third-rounder. Seeing as the Leafs are looking to rebuild, one of those roster players will most likely have to be one of either Aaron Ekblad, Jonathan Huberdeau or Alexsander Barkov.
Then again, the Leafs could end up trading Phil Kessel for Willie Mitchell straight up — because, Leafs.
It would be very difficult for the Panthers to part with either one of those young players. I would take Ekblad completely off the table if I were Florida, which I’m sure they have.
Dave Nonis will most likely wait until the offseason to move Kessel, as he’ll have more value if he were traded during that time rather than before the deadline. Even though Kessel’s 21 goals and 26 assists so far this season look solid overall, he has struggled mightily over the Leafs’ last 25 games, as he’s only scored 4 goals during that time.
We may have to wait until the summer to see where Kessel lands, but there is no doubt that Kessel will be moved eventually.
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