Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Where Does Kessel Go?

As we start winding down to the beginning of training camps around the league, its time to start intensifying some rumours, especially those about players who may be left unsigned heading into camp. The top player on this list is Phil Kessel of the Bruins, who is likely going to get shuffled out of Beantown because of salary cap concerns and the Bruins' choice to sign a few other key players and leave the 21-year old goal scorer out in the cold.

Of course, out in the cold does seem to be a little harsh, but the Bruins won't likely be able to match the demands of a young player who scored 36 goals in 2009 with the cap situation already being up at $53.9 million for 19 players. That could really limit the team's depth going forward.

According to Eklund at HockeyBuzz.com, three teams are in the race for Kessel's services and I thought I would have a look at those teams, just for shits and giggles.

The Kings are apparently in the mix, just like they have been for Dany Heatley, which seems to be a common theme for some teams in the league. If a team is out for a goal scorer, they were out for a 50-goal scorer in Heatley first and then would take on a cheaper 36-goal scorer in Kessel, if Plan A didn't work. Since Plan A isn't working for anyone at the moment, the shift could be on completely for Kessel, as a team should be able to give up less for him.

Nothing solid has come out of Kings' camp this summer, but names have been thrown around. Alexander Frolov continues to be a name tossed around the Mill this summer, but as it was pointed out in my comments from my last post, Frolov may be hard to unload this summer as well.

The Kings are deep in their prospect pool and it would be likely that the Bruins would want to tap into that for any move of Kessel to the West Coast. The Bruins don't need much for roster players right now, so a prospect move would seem more appropriate.

The Kings' cap situation: 19 players signed at an approximate cap rate of $47.5 million.

The Oilers' cap situation of having 22 players signed on for an approximate cap hit of $55.7 million changes the landscape of negotiations for the Bruins, if they are at all talking. The Bruins would not be looking for roster players, theoretically, for Kessel, as they are also tight to the cap ceiling as well, but the Oilers would be looking to offset that new contract with someone else's deal.

The Oilers were in the works for Heatley as well this summer, which would have been the perfect deal to consumate since the Senators were looking for roster players and the Oilers would have to part with them in order to bring in new contracts.

That all being said, any deal between Boston and Edmonton may have to be a little bit more mathematically challenging than just a straight-up swap. There would have to be another player moved out of Boston, while there would have to be a big name out of Edmonton and then a pile of prospects. The idea of this does seem to be a little far-fetched, unless both teams had a little bit more or a third team involved going in.

The last team that is knee-deep in the mix for Kessel is the Maple Leafs, which does seem quite odd, as Kessel isn't quite a Brian Burke player. That isn't to say that the Leafs couldn't take on a guy like Kessel, because with a lot of the youth that they have signed on over the past six month, they have plenty of space to use up underneath the cap ceiling.

Currently, the Leafs are sitting with 21 players on their roster for $48.7 million (plus $1.7 million in buyouts), which could easily take on Kessel's deal and also add some of their youth to the team, which they are counting on as well for their 23-man roster.

The Leafs prospect pool is not terribly deep, but it does have some prize players in there. It would seem to be an even longer shot to see the Leafs part with some of their key prospects for a player that isn't described as big or really all that tough. Sure, he'll put goals on the board, but that isn't what Brian Burke seems to be about, so I would be very weary of any rumour involving the Leafs.

I would have to believe that the Bruins are looking for more than any team is able to give at this point and they have no sense of desperation, especially since Kessel is a restricted free agent this summer.

It makes me wonder if the Bruins have a leg to stand on here, trying to get Kessel to sign a 1-year deal for a lot less, with promises that he'll be dealt during the year and he can show his stuff off to potential suitors.

The Bruins could be in pretty tough looking for the perfect deal for Kessel, as they only have a limited number of teams that would likely deal with them or actually can deal with them (cap-wise).

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