Six Landing Spots for Phil Kessel
Dany Heatley has now been traded, but Phil Kessel is on the market. Here's a look at where the latter could end up by the start of the regular season.
Edmonton Oilers - The Oilers surprise us sometimes. The Western Canadian rebels have signed restricted free agents to offer sheets and leaped into the Heatley sweepstakes. Since free agents don't line up to sign there -- a darn shame, if you ask me -- the Oilers must acquire any big guns like Kessel through trades.
GM Steve Tambellini has cap space and some good, young, inexpensive players he can move. Boston GM Peter Chiarelli can also say to the young American, "Okay, Phil. You wanted out? Best wishes in Alberta." When Kessel scores in bunches on the fast track in Edmonton, at least it will be in a galaxy far from Beantown.
Nashville Predators - The Predators have the assets and interest, so they cannot be left off this list. Making a move for Kessel would be a bold stroke for the Predators, who could use one to break through as a serious contender in the West.
Toronto Maple Leafs - Bossman Brian Burke is in a jam. He's talked big -- man, I love this guy -- but hasn't delivered. He was public in his passion for John Tavares (he couldn't move up in the draft). He blustered about how every player on his team could be traded (actually, not really). Burke has been very successful wooing free agents from the NHL, college and Europe with Maple Leafs loonies.
Still, he's John Wayne without making the big score. The Leafs are without question a leading contender for Kessel. The biggest reason why it may not happen? Burke has been so loud about it, Chiarelli may be telling himself he'll trade Kessel anywhere except Toronto. Still, if it's his best offer, the Boston GM can't refuse.
New York Islanders - Garth Snow's rebuilding club may not have the key NHL player to satisfy Boston, a contender in the present. Kyle Okposo -- with his large shoulders and relentless approach, he looks and plays like a Bruin -- is not available. What the Islanders do have is about $137 million in cap space and enough collegiate and junior prospects and future draft selections to make two Kessel trades if they wanted to.
Acquiring Kessel wouldn't exactly blow the Islanders' rebuilding program. He turns 22 the day before the team's season opener. The Islanders drafted his brother Blake, a defenseman at the University of New Hampshire, in the sixth round of the 2007 draft. So they've got that going for them, which is nice.
New York Rangers - GM Glen Sather does not have much cap space. He also does not have a true No. 1 center, making a team with Marian Gaborik and potentially Phil Kessel on it ripe for a lot of bagel analogies. Still, since the beginning of time, the Rangers have always been in the mix for star players. As Sather proved with his Houdini-esque, somebody-had-pictures unloading of cap anchor Scott Gomez on Montreal (for assets!), you can't count him out of the Kessel Watch.
Boston Bruins - History illustrates that in nine out of 10 perceived stalemates like this, the team and its young star eventually realize they need each other. Here is Chiarelli last week: "I want Phil to be on our team. If it means moving players, I'll do it. If it means matching offer sheets, I'll do it."
This may take a while -- and could get nastier -- but don't be surprised if Kessel and the Bruins renew their vows.