Talking Every Casual B’s Fan Down From the Cliff: How Boston Won the Kessel Deal

Kessel out of Boston, into Toronto.

Kessel out of Boston, into Toronto. Courtesy of Flickr Images.

All throughout the offseason, every Bruins fan was waiting for the other shoe to drop. Once rumors began to circulate about Phil Kessel moving across the border to Toronto in June, every Boston fan awaited the B’s to make a move, or worse, another team swooping in with an offer sheet stealing Kessel away with the Bruins getting nothing in return. Almost two weeks before the start of the regular season and fans finally have some closure on one the biggest Boston storylines of the offseason. On Friday, September 18, Kessel was traded to Toronto for a 2010 1st and 2nd round pick and a 2011 first round pick. The Bruins receive no additional players and remain with $1.7 million in cap space for the upcoming season and a (somewhat) set roster. Those, are the facts.

These, are the opinions.

I’ve been reading about Phil Kessel in The Boston Globe almost everyday, or at least it certainly seemed like it. “Get rid of him!” one reader will comment. “Sign Kessel, more of the same from the Bruins,” another reader will write. Hockey ‘scribes’, as they call themselves, subtly call for a trade and target Kessel basing his play on his selfishness and immaturity. Readers groan and discuss amongst the uncertainty of what will truly happen. At the end of the day, ‘scribes’ and internet message board dwellers know little, if at all any of the truth.

For what it’s worth, I liked Kessel. I loved his speed, his ability to score goals, and even (to an extent) his cockiness. I didn’t like his price-point, however. For a one-dimensional player who has been called out for his lack of defensive ability, $5 million a season seemed a bit pricey, no? And how long would he be on the shelf for? Until November? December? Nothing was guaranteed. Throughout the offseason, I dreaded losing Kessel, or at least I thought I did. What I was really anxious about was losing Kessel and getting nothing in return. Exactly what didn’t happen. Not only were the B’s able to rid themselves of a young player who has yet to prove himself to be a consistent player, Boston kept their cap space and acquire a set of first round picks and a second rounder from Toronto for the next two years. Picks turn into prospects, after all. Boston, believe it or not, won this trade.

Kessel wasn’t happy in Boston and would have been a distraction for the team if this situation was left unresolved any longer. At the end of the day, Kessel was a salary cap casualty, the odd-man out in a post-CBA NHL. Toronto picked up a young player with speed and the ability to score goals, a player who no doubt will be the best forward on the Maple Leafs. They could afford to overpay him, the Bruins could not. And while Kessel will be hyped up for Toronto, one must wonder if Toronto’s center Matt Stajan, will be able to produce the same amount of passes to Phil as Bruins’ playmaker Marc Savard, once did. Savard is known for being one of the NHL’s top playmakers and Kessel benefited greatly by playing on his wing, and being his main target, last season.

Kessel is also a streaky player. Last season, he had a six-game, seven goal streak from November 26 – December 8. After his bout with mononucleosis in January however, Kessel was held scoreless for almost a month starting on his return to the ice on January 29, until February 22. A bit of a stretch for a coveted goal scorer.

Take a look at his multi-goal games, which he had five of. How many of those games were against playoff contending teams? Zero. How many of those games were against teams over .500? Two, and they were both the Ottawa Senators, one game over .500, ranked 11th in the Eastern Conference. Against playoff teams, Kessel scored seven goals. That’s it, seven. His only hat trick came against the New York Islanders on the last game of the season on goaltending tandem, Yann Danis and Joey MacDonald. Not so staggering statistics once you take a step back.

So why are B’s fans up in arms that we traded away Kessel? Is it his speed (which he’s been benched for because of his lack of back-checking)? Is it the amount of goals he scored (again, seven, against playoff teams; 11 and 19 goals in his previous two seasons without Savard on his line)? Is this a player really worth a supposed $5.4 million a year? No, it’s not.

The Bruins now have two first round picks in 2010 and 2011; their own and now Toronto’s. With the way that the Bruins draft prospects, the B’s should be in a good place for the next few years. Boston already has an ample amount of impressive prospects waiting in the wings down in Providence. Notables include, Zach Hamill, a 2007 8th overall pick, Brad Marchand, a 3rd round selection in 2006, and soon, Boston will be seeing Joe Colbourne, the team’s first round pick in 2008, make his way to the Garden. At the very least, Boston now have many options in first round draft picks to lure a player to Boston when the season is starting to wind down at the trade deadline. All for Phil Kessel, a fifth overall selection in 2006. Not too bad to double down on your investment, a player who will most likely miss the first two months of the season.

I’m going to miss Phil Kessel. I enjoyed the pairing of he and Savard. But in the end, the Bruins won this deal, acquiring two firsts and a second rounder for a young, somewhat inconsistent player, isn’t half bad. It will suck to watch Kessel in a Leafs jersey for the next five years and wonder what could have been, but at the tune of $5.4 million a year, I’m sure Boston will be just fine with the team they’ll have.

No matter what any message-boarder, ‘hockey scribe,’ or blogger will tell you, all that matters is that you’re either a fan of the team in good times and in bad, or you’re not a fan at all.

Mike Miccoli

Mike Miccoli

Mike Miccoli covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers and has been a credentialed member of the media for all Bruins' home games for the past five years. As a former player, coach and official, Miccoli has been around the game of hockey since the age of three. Along with his work on THW, Miccoli has also been published in the New England Hockey Journal, Improper Bostonian magazine and on BostInno. You can follow him at
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  1. Boston is playing well so far,,,

    But so far the writer is way off with his assesment on Kessel.

  2. - Mark – I would also take Toews or Ryan over Kessel but Kessel is in that class and those two weren’t available and for good reason. I wouldn’t compare Kessel to Toews or Ryan, I’d compare him more to a young Dany Heatley meaning a guy who can score goals because he is a pure shooter. Toews isn’t a pure goal scorer but is more like a Crosby or Sakic so obviously I’d take him over Kessel. Again though, the Leafs are still building and having a 21 year old pure goal scorer on your team is good for now and for the future. Imagine somebody like Kadri turns into a Jonathan Toews. The combination would be lethal. Still the chances of one of those mid round first rounders turning into 36 goal scorers is remote if you study the statistics.

  3. Great article, Mike. I agree with everything here, the B’s won this trade big time.

    -Mike (above) I’d hardly call this a “horribly, horribly biased” piece.
    -Chris (above) I can think of a few better, more well-rounded young players off the top of my head.
    1. Jonathan Toews (21)
    2. Bobby Ryan (22)
    3. Niklas Backstrom (21)
    I’ll take players like these on my team, 100 out of 100 times over Kessel.

  4. You are forgetting one very important fact; Phil Kessel is 21. Most 21 year olds are one dimensional. Sidney Crosby is the only one I can think of that isn’t. Alexander Ovechkin is one of the worst in his own end and he’s 23. The 5 mil is for potential as much as it is for past accomplishments because under Ron Wilson a reasonable level of improvement in other areas of the game can be expected between the age of 21 and 26 as it proves to be for almost every offensive forward in the NHL. Also, Phil Kessel is a goal scorer. If I get to chose what part of the game my top line winger is good at I choose goal scoring because anybody can be taught to check while very few people can shoot the puck like Kessel. Did Kessel benefit from Savard? Absolutely. But he didn’t get 36 tap ins and Kessel has scored goals wherever he played. The trade is good for Boston too because they have drafted so well in the past the can acquire legitimate prospects and will still be a force in the league; the Leafs will benefit far more from having Kessel than the Bruins will miss him but the Leafs will definitely miss the draft picks. I also believe that Burke will get a few picks back at the deadline and draft. 1st rounders? I hope so but they’re a tough sell. 2nd rounders? I bet he gets multiple 2nds for some of his pending free agents. Bottom line: Kessel is 21 (same age as Leafs prospect Jiri Tlusty) not 31 and he will improve as he reaches his prime (which he hasn’t yet).

  5. Tremendous article. Factual and fun. Great to see Mike back on the B’s page.

    Trying to figure out how this is ‘horribly, horribly biased.’ Mike is a Bruins columnist and sort of an old school writer whom can blend the facts with his opinions in the article. All of the stats Mike presented are correct. He even came out and said he’ll miss Kessel. IMO, Kessel will be great for the Leafs, but not worth the money.

    And Steve, here’s a little addendum to your stat…you need to make the playoffs first. :)

  6. To be perfectly fair I think at this point you'd have to say both teams won the trade. Chiarelli got a great return for Kessel that gives him a lot of flexibility and/or potential youth coming back into the system 0ver the next few years and Burke got an exceptional, sort of proven talent with the potential to be an impact first line player for years to come. The Leafs definitely took the majority of the risk though and time will tell if the Leafs can play those picks into the teens this year and next and if Kesseo can continue on his great growth curve coming off serious shoulder surgery. I'm sure, just like the Rask-Raycroft deal, we'll all be joyfully or painfully looking back on this trade in 3-e years time. Until then, sorry for the novel;

  7. Here is a stat for Kess vs playoff teams……6 goals in 12 games….in the playoff’s, when it counts.

  8. Horribly, horribly biased. Phil is 21 being streaky is not a major concern considering how dynamic he is, but you can keep telling yourself that it was better to let him go when 81 is lighting up Timmy T for the blue and white

  9. To be perfectly fair I think at this point you’d have to say both teams won the trade. Chiarelli got a great return for Kessel that gives him a lot of flexibility and/or potential youth coming back into the system over the next few years and Burke got an exceptional, sort of proven talent with the potential to be an impact first line player for years to come. The Leafs definitely took the majority of the risk though and time will tell if the Leafs can play those picks into the teens this year and next and if Kessel can continue on his great growth curve coming off serious shoulder surgery. I’m sure, just like the Rask-Raycroft deal, we’ll all be joyfully or painfully looking back on this trade in 3-4 years time. Until then, sorry for the novel

  10. Great, great article MIke. You hit the nail on the head with every point you made. I too, will miss Kessel, but at $5 mil + a season, Burkie can have him. Chia Pete will make good on those draft picks one way or another and now has room; without over paying for Kessel, to re-sign some big names next year in what will certainly be a much lower cap year.

  11. I’m glad to see the franchise finally making calculated choices on trading. While kessel electrified the fan base every once and a while with a highlight reel goal. Its promising that the team is left with cap room to make a trade once the deadline comes, and reassuring that a high value player wasnt shipped out of town for a couple hot dogs and a case of Lebat blue. way to go bs!

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