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The Toronto Maple Leafs finally pulled off a trade for Bruins restricted free agent Phil Kessel Friday night, sending two first round picks and a second round pick for the 21-year-old winger. Last year, Kessel led the Bruins with 36 goals, helping his team achieve the Eastern Conference’s best record.
After the trade, Kessel signed a five-year, $27 million contract, which is much more guaranteed money than he would have ever received with the Bruins. The B’s valued Kessel around $3-4 million, and the two sides could not agree on a deal this offseason. Soon after contract talks broke off, the Bruins and Leafs completed the deal.
Earlier in the offseason, the two teams had a miscommunication, as the Bruins thought they agreed to trade Kessel for defenseman Tomas Kaberle and a first round pick. The Leafs, on the other hand, thought they agreed to trade Kaberle for Kessel and a first-rounder, and both sides stopped talking…for a while. After the Bruins signed Derek Morris, they no longer expressed interest in Kaberle.
Kessel never saw eye-to-eye with Claude Julien, and often found himself in the dog house during his two seasons with the coach. Julien believes in a defense-first system, and the offensive-minded Kessel just didn’t fit the way the team wanted. They didn’t value Kessel the way he valued himself, and now he is gone.
Maybe Kessel was a jerk behind the scenes, but a 21-year-old winger that scores 36 goals is a rare commodity. He could have improved his off-the-ice ethics, along with his defensive abilities, with time and experience. Now, the Bruins will need to find someone to replace the 35+ goal potential, and will probably have to find that talent in-house (like Michael Ryder or Blake Wheeler?).