1) With the Heatley trade/saga come and gone the remaining big name still out there who is purported to be available is Bruins forward Phil Kessel. The 21 year old just completed his entry level deal with the team and has limited bargaining power other than withholding his services. His asking price of nearly 5 million is not a possibility now that the Bruins have almost no cap space.
2) Of course this leads to the obvious question, did the Bruins never intend to sign Phil or did they sign other players and lose/use up the cap space necessary to sign Kessel as an insurance in case he didn't accept their offer(s)? It would seem plausible that the B's never intended to sign the native and have played hard ball knowing that as the season drew closer they'd be able to extract a nice return in a trade. Risky business for sure Boston!
3) The next question is: Is Kessel worth it? In our opinion its a clear Yes! Despite having lost most of a season with cancer, the forward has improved every year in the NHL. He scored 11 goals in his first NHL season, 19 in his second, 36 in his third. He's just starting to define the kind of player he is capable of becoming. How many 20 year olds not named Ovechkin or Crosby have scored 35+ goals recently? The biggest negative surrounding Kessel seem to be his persona/personality. He's been defined as aloof and shy on one hand and disliked by others. We have asked around and it sounds like its more a case of immaturity than a defect in his personality. In fact we have heard from reliable sources that Kessel is no where near as introverted as he was as a rookie. 'He may finally be growing into his skin', is how one scout put it . Its not like he tried to beat up an old cab driver. His off-ice 'issues' were why he wasn't picked 1st overall in the 2006 NHL draft despite probably having the best offensive upside. He has since fallen behind his fellow 2006 draftees Staal, Backstrom and Towes, but if last season's stats are any indication the best is by far yet to come from Kessel and in the end may be the most productive from his deeply talented draft class.
4) So what happens next? Well first off it should be noted that Kessel had off season shoulder surgery. From all reports we have read/heard it went well and a full recovery is expected, so that shouldn't be an issue. However its unlikely that Kessel will be ready to play in a game before November so there really is no need to rush a deal. However it should also be noted that IF Kessel is not signed by an NHL team prior to December 1st, he can NOT play this season. Its for that reason that we believe that a trade is more likely sooner than later. So, to where?
5) The Maple Leafs have positioned themselves to be able to attempt an offer sheet. With so little cap space the Bruins would have big trouble matching. It would depend what the Leafs offered Kessel to determine what compensation the Bruins would receive back. At this point with the Leafs not expected to make the post season their 1st round pick could turn out to be a nice chip for the B's to acquire. Brian Burke has also been in contact directly with the Bruins trying to land the forward by means of a conventional trade to avoid the mess and bad feelings of an offer sheet. (Something Burke knows quite a bit about!)
6) Other teams allegedly in the running are the Rangers and Predators. The Blueshirts have some decent defensive prospects/young NHL players, but would Sather be willing to part with a Dubinsky/Staal, etc for Kessel? With their limited cap space it would be a difficult fit anyway so a move to The Big Apple seems far fetched. Now Nashville is a more likely scenario. In fact our sources tell us the Preds are the leading team in the Kessel sweepstakes. Still another respected source of our says to not over look or be surprised to hear the Wild involved in trade talks as they are pushing hard to get Kessel. A dark horse also remains the Coyotes, but their ownership issues could preclude Maloney from getting too involved. Our most respected source tells us that this situation could be resolved even BEFORE the season starts on October 1st. " Look for movement on this very soon".
7) We will refrain from making an opinion about the Bruins decision to rid themselves of Kessel until we see what they get back. We wouldn't trade him, but the Bruins are already a very talented/deep team, and may feel he's disposable for other asset(s). We'll wait to see what those asset(s) are before making final judgment.
As always, we will stay on top of this and any other issues that arise and relay all the latest to our readers!