The Bear Cave

September 19, 2009 8:50 AM

Kessel Saga Ends with Trade to Toronto

The wait is officially over, and the questions surrounding Phil Kessel's status with the Boston Bruins can finally be put to bed. On Friday night, the Bruins pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Kessel to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for a pair of first round draft picks (2010 & 2011), as well as a second round pick (2010). All three of the picks originally belonged to the Maple Leafs, meaning that the order will be dependent on where Toronto finishes in the standings in each of the next two seasons.

Phil Kessel spent each of his first three seasons in the NHL with the Boston Bruins, as the team selected him with the fifth overall pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. The Madison, WI native broke into the league that fall, suiting up in 70 regular season games for Boston, while also battling cancer. In that time, Kessel had 11 goals, 18 assists, and 29 points. The following season saw a slight improvement in production, mainly in the goal category. The Bruins' forward recorded his second consecutive 18-assist campaign, but lit the lamp eight more times to raise his point total from 29 to 37. This past year was a career season for the 21-year old, as he reached career highs in goals (36), assists (24), and points (60), despite playing in just 70 of Boston's 82 regular season contests. Kessel has also been a consistent producer during the playoffs, averaging exactly one point per game in 15 postseason battles.

The loss of Kessel to the Maple Leafs definitely won't be an easy one for the Bruins, as 36 goals will be removed from the lineup. However, as the summer progressed, it became more evident that a move like this would happen. While 36 is a high total, Boston does have six of its 20-goal scorers from last season returning, as well as Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron, Marco Sturm, and Zdeno Chara, who are all capable of reaching that mark.

The other positive aspect to this trade is that Boston will be in great shape in terms of building for the future. Assuming there are no further moves, the Bruins will have four picks during the first two rounds of next summer's draft - a perfect opportunity to add depth to the prospect pool. With an already young team, and players such as Joe Colborne and Jordan Caron still a few years away, a deeper pool of prospects should help to make this team a legitimate contender both now and for years to come.

With all of that being said, there is one significant downfall to the deal. Kessel signed a five-year deal worth $27 million with the Toronto Maple Leafs, meaning that he will be playing for a divisional rival. The Bruins will be forced to face their former player six times during each of those five regular seasons, and possibly more if both squads are able to reach the playoffs.

Looking at the trade from a Toronto perspective, fans in Ontario have to be pleased with the job that Brian Burke has done over the past couple of years. Entering last season, it looked as though the Maple Leafs would be competing for the services of John Tavares. 12 months later, the team could potentially contend for a playoff spot this season, or next season at the latest. Along with Kessel, Burke has brought in Francois Beauchemin and Mike Komisarek to bolster Luke Schenn's crop of defensemen, while also adding the likes of Wayne Primeau and Colton Orr to add some physicality to protect his scorers.

Because he is still recovering from an injury, Phil Kessel will miss the beginning of the 2009-10 season. The Maple Leafs make consecutive visits to Boston on December 5th and 10th, giving the former Bruin a couple of months to be able to return in time. If he misses both of those tilts, Toronto's final appearance of the season comes on March 4th. While Boston fans will certainly be grateful of what Kessel did while wearing the spoked "B", one has to believe that this summer has left a bit of a sour taste in some mouths around New England.

Saturday will be a busy day at the TD Garden, as there will be a press conference with Peter Chiarelli at 11:00, followed by the Bruins' first home preseason game against the New York Rangers at 4:00.

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