Why the Maple Leafs should give Phil Kessel away for next to nothing

Ken Campbell
Phil Kessel (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Toronto Maple Leafs seem intent on getting a good cachet in return for their top scorer, whether it’s at the NHL draft or afterward. And good on them for doing that. Of course they should try to get all they can for Phil Kessel, who could very well go on to another destination where there’s less scrutiny and be a consistent 40-goal scorer and solid contributor.

Yes, the Leafs should try to extract as much as they can, but they should also be prepared, if they’ve decided Kessel no longer has a future in the organization, to let him go for very little. Even next to nothing. The point is, the Leafs will get something for him, but if they’ve decided they’re going to deal him, they should take the best deal available to them, even if they’re not crazy about the return. With a limited list of teams to which Kessel will accept a trade, some of those without the cap space needed to acquire him, the Leafs don’t have near as much leverage as it appears.

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Rumor Roundup: It’s official – Matt Beleskey done with the Ducks

Matt Beleskey (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Anaheim Ducks’ efforts to re-sign pending UFA winger Matt Beleskey ended in failure. Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reports the 27-year-old rejected the club’s best offer and is headed to unrestricted free agency on July first.

Murray told media members at Tuesday’s GM meetings: “We made a really fair offer. God bless him.”

Beleskey is coming off a career-best 22-goal season, along with eight goals in 16 playoff games. He’s completing a two-year deal worth an annual cap hit of $1.35 million. Given the lack of depth in this summer’s UFA pool, Beleskey could command more than $4-million annually on the open market.

It’s possible the Ducks could shop Beleskey’s rights before the July 1 free-agent deadline. If so, the Ducks could get a conditional draft pick if the winger signs with the team his rights were dealt to. It’s not much, but it will be better for the Ducks than losing him for nothing.

KESSEL TO…THE PENGUINS?
Hearing word that the Pittsburgh Penguins were among the preferred trade destinations of Toronto Maple Leafs right winger Phil Kessel raised some eyebrows in Pittsburgh. Joe Starkey of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review believes acquiring Kessel is something the Penguins should consider, though he acknowledges there are significant issues working against such a move.
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Rumor Roundup: Would the Capitals, Penguins or Islanders trade for Patrick Sharp?

Patrick Sharp. (Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

While the Chicago Blackhawks celebrate their latest Stanley Cup championship, GM Stan Bowman will begin the difficult task of determining which of his players become salary-cap casualties. The Blackhawks have more than $64 million invested in cap payroll for 2015-16. They must re-sign restricted free agents Brandon Saad and Marcus Kruger, as well as find space to re-sign or replace their unrestricted free agents.

This isn’t the first time Bowman’s faced this problem. Following the Blackhawks 2010 championship, he shipped out several salaried players to become cap compliant for the following season. While he doesn’t have to trade as many this time, he’ll still have to make the difficult choice of determining who must move.

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Is the Maple Leafs’ asking price for Phil Kessel too high? Don’t be so sure

Matt Larkin
Phil Kessel. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

We knew Phil Kessel trade rumors would swirl like a hurricane leading up to next week’s NHL draft. We also knew it would be complicated for the Leafs to pull off a deal. Kessel, after all, carries an $8-million cap hit, a reputation for questionable fitness and defensive play and an ugly stat sheet from 2014-15.

It’s not a huge surprise, then, suitors are calling Toronto’s asking price for Kessel too high. ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reports two executives have balked at the Leafs’ demands.

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Why No. 3 overall is the “swing pick” of the 2015 draft

Matt Larkin
Erie's Dylan Strome. (Photo by B Wippert/Getty Images)

Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel know precisely which sweaters they will don next Friday at the NHL draft in Miami. We all know. McDavid is an Edmonton Oiler to be, Eichel a Buffalo Sabre to be. We’re so confident, we superimposed the respective jerseys on each prospect for our Draft Preview covers.

The suspense of next week’s draft begins at No. 3 overall. The Arizona Coyotes must make a difficult choice between two or three tantalizing prospects, and what they do will set off a chain reaction beginning with the Toronto Maple Leafs one pick later.

So, which path does Desert Dogs GM Don Maloney take? There are three realistic outcomes to consider.

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Instagram photo sparks rumor that Jonathan Bernier is leaving Maple Leafs

Jared Clinton
Jonathan Bernier.  (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

The off-season can be a time for crazy rumors and trade speculation, but here’s a new one: a photo posted by Martine Forget, whose fiancé is Toronto goaltender Jonathan Bernier, of their son wearing a onesie that does not have Maple Leafs shoulder patches.

While it sounds crazy that things have come to this – speculation over an Instagram photo is an all-new brand of rumor – there actually might be more to it than just the photo, because when someone pointed out the lack of Maple Leafs emblems on the jumper, Forget said there was, “a reason, but (she) can’t tell anyone now.” Read more

Rumor Roundup: Kessel trade talk heating up entering draft weekend

Phil Kessel (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

With the Stanley Cup playoffs finally over and the NHL Draft weekend (June 26-27) drawing near, speculation continues to grow over possible trade destinations for Toronto Maple Leafs winger Phil Kessel.

The 27-year-old right winger has a limited no-trade clause listing eight teams he will accept being dealt to. TSN’s Bob McKenzie reminded everyone those teams were Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Montreal, New York Rangers, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh leading up to the March 2015 trade deadline.

Recently, there was talk of the Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues Florida Panthers or Calgary Flames possibly pursuing the Leafs star. None of them were on his list. McKenzie suggested the Leafs could ask Kessel to broaden his list if they receive strong offers from other clubs. He also speculated Kessel could submit an updated list at the end of June.

The inclusion of the Bruins on Kessel’s list prompted CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty to examine the pros and cons of bringing him back to Boston. Considering the seven years remaining on Kessel’s contract (at an annual cap hit of $8 million), that’s far too rich to fit on the cap-strapped Bruins payroll.

NBC Sports’ Jason Brough raises the possibility of Kessel making it difficult for the Leafs to move him, pointing out all the clubs on his preferred trade list carry limited cap space.

RANGERS PLANNING MOVES THIS OFF-SEASON?

The lack of goaltending depth in this summer’s free-agent market is boosting the trade stock of New York Rangers backup Cam Talbot. The New York Post’s Larry Brooks cites “well-placed sources” claiming there’s significant interest in Talbot. The 27-year-old goaltender starts a one-year, $1.45-million contract for 2015-16 and becomes eligible next July for unrestricted free agency.

David Staples of the Edmonton Journal cited a rumor out of Ottawa claiming the Oilers could part with the 16th overall selection in the upcoming draft for Talbot. The Oilers certainly need depth between the pipes so it’s no surprise they’re linked to the Rangers backup in the rumor mill. However, Staples considers parting with such a high pick an overpayment for Talbot, who has yet to establish himself as an NHL starter.

If the Rangers shop Talbot, they could face competition in the trade market from the Ottawa Senators and Vancouver Canucks. The Sens could move Craig Anderson or Robin Lehner, while the Canucks could deal Eddie Lack or Jacob Markstrom for second- or third-round picks.

Speaking of the Rangers, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman (cited by Today’s Slapshot) wondered if the Buffalo Sabres might take a run at acquiring right winger Rick Nash. Friedman admits, however, he’s not 100 percent certain the Sabres will make that move.

Sabres GM Tim Murray might be aggressive, but Nash simply isn’t a fit with his club. Though the 31-year-old’s full no-movement clause becomes a partial no-trade clause on July 1, Friedman notes Nash still has control over potential trade options. Going from a two-time Conference Finalist to a rebuilding club probably won’t be to Nash’s liking.

CANADIENS LIKELY TO SHED SALARY

On Monday, the Montreal Canadiens re-signed center Torrey Mitchell to a three-year contract extension worth an average annual cap hit of $1.2 million. Over the weekend, they also re-upped defenseman Nathan Beaulieu to a two-year deal with a $1- million average annual salary.

Those signings pushed the Canadiens cap payroll in 2015-16 to over $66.4 million. That increases the likelihood GM Marc Bergevin could shed salary via trade in the coming weeks.

Bergevin still has yet to re-sign RFA forwards Alex Galchenyuk and Brian Flynn. With the cap projected to rise to $71 million, that won’t leave much room to re-sign those two while still leaving space for other additions as required.

Sportsnet’s Eric Engels notes the Habs have over $28 million invested in defensemen, suggesting one of them could be moved. Engels cites Tom Gilbert (one year left on his contract at a cap hit of $2.8 million) or Alexei Emelin (three years remaining, $4.1-million annual cap hit) as possible trade candidates. Forward options could include Tomas Plekanec (one year left, $5 million), David Desharnais (two years, $3.5 million annually) or Lars Eller (three years, $3.5 million per).

Plekanec and Emelin could fetch the best returns, but both are carrying no-trade clauses. They could be asked to waive them, but finding suitable trade destinations could be difficult. Eller might also interest GMs willing to gamble that a change of scenery might do him good.

Rumor Roundup appears regularly 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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Former Leaf D.J. Smith one of three who’ll assist new Toronto coach Babcock

Adam Proteau
Former Oshawa Generals head coach and new Leafs assistant coach D.J. Smith (Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

The Toronto Maple Leafs Tuesday named the three men who will serve as assistants to new head coach Mike Babcock next season – and one of them is a former Leafs player and now-former coach of the most recent Memorial Cup-winner.

D.J. Smith, who played 11 games for the Leafs in the late 1990s and 45 NHL games in his playing career, joins Babcock’s staff along with Jim Hiller and Andrew Brewer. Smith had been head coach of the Ontario League’s Oshawa Generals for the past three seasons, and during the 2014-15 season, he led the team to both the OHL championship and Memorial Cup title. The year prior, the 38-year-old Smith was named the OHL’s coach of the year. Read more