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Phil Kessel, Bruins trade buzz

After a slow start, Phil Kessel of the Toronto Maple Leafs has come to live in the past three games. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

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After a slow start, Phil Kessel of the Toronto Maple Leafs has come to live in the past three games. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

The opening two weeks found Phil Kessel struggling to regain his offensive form.

Through his first nine games, Kessel managed only four assists, sparking concern among Toronto Maple Leafs fans and prompting questions by the Toronto media over his future with the franchise.

Last Friday, the Globe & Mail's James Mirtle reported Leafs GM Dave Nonis wasn't shopping Kessel, but it's believed he's willing to listen to offers.

Mirtle also noted Kessel's contract expires July 2014, making him an unrestricted free agent. Nonis can open contract extension talks this July, but Kessel's agent, Wade Arnott, said his client's focus is currently on this season.

The Toronto Sun's Mike Zeisberger also weighed in on Kessel's status, citing a recent online poll in which half the respondents believe the winger should be dealt.

If Kessel were to be traded, Zeisberger doubts it would happen this season, believing a better return could be had by waiting until either this summer or next season's trade deadline. He feels Nonis would have to be bowled over by an offer to move the 25-year-old now.

Kessel also seems to have regained his scoring touch, collecting six points in his last three games, including his first two goals of the season. The Leafs also won those games and entered this week sitting fifth overall in the Eastern Conference.

Given the Maple Leafs current playoff drought, patience is understandably thin among the denizens of Leafs Nation, which explains the recent calls to trade Kessel.

Nonis, however, won't be swayed by public opinion. Kessel is the Leafs most talented scorer and arguably their best player. While it remains to be seen if he has a future in Toronto beyond 2014, Nonis won't move him now.

If the Leafs are out of the playoff chase by the trade deadline, Nonis could entertain offers for Kessel. The more likely scenario is the pair will meet at season's end to determine the winger's plans beyond next season.

RIGHT WING GOALIE GONE; SIGNING LEFT WINGER NOW POSSIBLE

The Boston Bruins could soon make a move to bolster their forward depth.

Last Thursday, the Bruins dumped some salary by trading goaltender Tim Thomas to the New York Islanders in exchange for a conditional second round pick in 2014 or 2015.

Thomas was suspended by the Bruins for sitting out this season. As he's over 35, his $5 million annual average salary still counted against their salary cap.

By moving him to the Islanders, the Bruins removed his salary from their books, providing GM Peter Chiarelli with flexibility to bring in additional depth. Thomas isn't expected to report to the Islanders, but his addition to their roster was merely to ensure they remain above the cap minimum for the rest of this season.

The Boston Globe's Fluto Shinzawa reported the Bruins would like to add “more punch at left wing on the third line”. He noted injuries to Brad Marchand, Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton underscored the Bruins need for depth in a shortened season.

Chiarelli could wait until the approach of the April 3 trade deadline, but told Shinzawa he wanted to be in a position where he could afford to make a move if the opportunity presents itself now.

One move could be signing free agent left winger Jay Pandolfo, who is currently on a professional tryout contract with the Bruins. CSNNE.com's Joe Haggarty reported Sunday Pandolfo travelled with the Bruins on their recent road trip, a possible indicator he's about to ink a one-year deal.

Rumor Roundup appears weekdays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).

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