After months of rumors and speculation the Boston Bruins finally made a move regarding 21-year-old restricted free agent Phil Kessel, trading the former No. 5 overall pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a pile of draft picks, including first and second-round selections in 2010 as well as a first-round pick in 2011.
Darren Dreger of TSN reports that Kessel and the Leafs have already agreed to a five-year contract extension worth $27 million.
The Maple Leafs had reportedly attempted to acquire Kessel during the NHL draft for a package that would have included defenseman Tomas Kaberle, only to have the deal never materialize. The speedy 5-foot-11 forward is coming off a career year for the Bruins, tallying 36 goals (to go with 24 assists) in 70 games for a Boston team that claimed the top spot in the Eastern Conference during the regular season. He had six goals and five assists in Boston's 11 playoff games. To put Kessel's goal total in perspective for Toronto, Jason Blake led the team with 25 goals a season ago.
Kessel is set to be out of the lineup until November due to offseason rotator cuff surgery.
The Kessel deal should be the final piece of a busy offseason for general manager Brian Burke, who has taken somewhat drastic steps to reshape the Maple Leafs lineup. He's already brought in defensemen Mike Komisarek and Francois Beauchemin, snagged Swedish goaltender Jonas "The Monster" Gustavsson, signed enforcer Colton Orr, and dealt rearguard Pavel Kubina to the Atlanta Thrashers.
Reactions are already flying in, including this from Maple Leafs blog Pension Plan Puppets on any criticism the Leafs may face for the price they paid to land their man:
The other criticism will be that the Leafs are rebuilding and therefore cannot trade a single draft pick. Already Steve Simmons has invoked the name of Owen Nolan. The massive difference would be that Phil Kessel is 21 years old. Yes, he is coming off of a pretty serious surgery but he has already returned from testicular cancer. This kid is a fighter. Burke's prowess in signing college free agents will hopefully take some of the sting out of losing the picks but at the end of the day the Leafs acquired a 21 year old 36 goal scorer that, if he was worth acquiring later on in his career, would likely not have hit the open market again.For Boston perspective on the deal, Stanley Cup of Chowder weighs in:
This means that those reports that were adamantly denied by the Kessel camp claiming he was seeking a contract worth upwards of $5 million per year were dead on. Kessel is a talented offensive player, but in the salary cap era, you just can't keep everyone. The Bruins obviously felt that there were other players that meant more to the future success of this hockey team. This is a trade that we won't be able to fully evaluate for years. Those three picks could turn into three Phil Kessels...or three Johnathan Aitkens.In 222 career games, Kessel has scored 66 goals and tallied 126 total points. His numbers have increased across the board in each of his first three seasons in the NHL.