It went down on Canada Day, as many expected, with the former Toronto Maple Leaf sent to the Penguins along with forward Tyler Biggs and defenceman Tim Erixon in exchange for forwards Kasperi Kapanen, Nick Spaling, defenceman Scott Harrington, and a third round pick for the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. There are also conditional draft picks on the deal, so if the Penguins make the playoffs in 2016, the Maple Leafs will receive a 2016 first round pick and Pittsburgh will get a second round pick for 2016 from Toronto.
As part of the deal, Toronto agreed to pay $1.2 million of Kessel’s $8 million cap hit throughout the course of the current contract.
Some thought this deal would go down at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, but it was not to be. There was a different offer on the table that included a 2016 first rounder, Derrick Pouliot, Rob Scuderi, and Chris Kunitz for Kessel. Toronto rejected that offer.
Off the bat, this has to be great news for Phil Kessel. He joins the Penguins, leaves Toronto and have the opportunity to prove himself all over again. He won’t be the whipping boy any longer.
It’s a weird position to be in, considering the facts. From 2010 to 2014, only Steven Stamkos, Alex Ovechkin and Corey Perry have scored more goals than Kessel. He has scored 30 or more goals four times in his six seasons with Toronto, but you’d never know it if you read the papers there. He hasn’t missed a game since 2009-2010, either, despite criticisms over his conditioning.
“I don’t have any concerns,” Pittsburgh general manager Jim Rutherford said. “Everybody gets a fresh start in a new place. You hear stories about different people in different situations, but I feel very comfortable with getting Phil. I’ve done a lot of homework on this. I’ve talked with a lot of people, and I do believe a fresh start, getting out of Toronto, where he went there under the microscope from day one, he was always the guy. He was the guy who was blamed when things weren’t going well, and he doesn’t have to be the guy here. We have a bunch of them, so I believe he’s going to fit in great.”
Indeed, the quality of the franchise behind Kessel has changed considerably and Dave Feschuk’s whipping boy has a chance at the redemption he never really needed in the first place.
At its core, this is a quality player going to a quality franchise. In a way, it’s an emancipation. And for the Penguins, it’s an opportunity to add more of what they need. Sounds like a win to me.