The Toronto Maple Leafs have traded right wing Phil Kessel to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Details to follow.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: TSN reports the Leafs send Kessel, Tyler Biggs, Tim Erixon and a second round pick to the Penguins for center Nick Spaling, Kasperi Kapanen and Scott Harrington plus a first round pick and a third round pick in 2016. The Leafs are eating $1.25 million per season of Kessel’s salary.
It’s interesting the Penguins didn’t have to give up one of their good young blueliners (Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot) in return. They’re getting one of the NHL’s top offensive players in Kessel. He should end up skating alongside Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. Either way, he’s finally playing alongside the first-line center he’s been lacking for years. If Kessel meshes well with either guy, he’ll be a significant addition to their offensive attack.
Kessel’s still carrying a large cap hit for the Penguins, which could create issues for them going forward. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Penguins attempt to shed some salary this summer.
The Leafs rebuild now begins in earnest, giving up a proven scorer for a checking-line center in Spaling plus two promising young players and a first rounder. As much as Kessel was derided for indifferent play and seeming unwillingness to play a two-way style, he was the Leafs top scorer for six straight years. That’s a lot of offense to lose, and it won’t be easily replaced. Kapanen has promise but he’s obviously not ready yet. This puts more pressure on James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, Nazem Kadri and Joffrey Lupul to pick up the load. Perhaps the Leafs will add another scorer via free agency or another trade.