The Toronto Maple Leafs are like, well, a Toronto maple leaf, they both wilt in the Winter. At least that has been the case this season. So much so, that Toronto’s star player, Phil Kessel, is being thrown around the rumor mil. It’s been no secret that Phil has had it hard this season, being tabbed as uncoachable by some, which only added fuel to the rumor fire.
The latest and most intriguing rumor has Kessel going to the Panthers. It would be a massive step for the organization, finally they would be Philling the seats in Florida. Roberto Luongo is not getting any younger, the time to compete is starting now for the Florida Panthers, and adding a player like Phil Kessel into their young promising lineup would certainly go a long way. With Toronto seemingly blowing up the team and going into full on rebuild mode, why on earth would Phil Kessel want to stay around for that?
Get Me Outta Here
It has been said that Kessel would prefer to play somewhere else, somewhere the spotlight isn’t on him 24 hours a day. It’s no secret Toronto is a very demanding place to play, the biggest hockey market there is. While Kessel has been performing admirably in those conditions, imagine what he could do if he were comfortable with his surroundings.
The recent trading of Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli look to be just the beginning of Toronto’s try at a rebuild. Kessel wants to win that Stanley Cup, and it looks like that won’t be happening in Toronto any time soon. While Florida, a MUCH quieter hockey market, is on the rise and will be for some time. A LOT closer to being a consistent playoff team than most think too.
Florida A Perfect Fit
Panthers are interested in Kessel but aren’t going to give up young stud #flapanthers
— Harvey Fialkov (@hfialkov) February 16, 2015
Kessel is known to spend his summers down in Florida where he owns a home, enjoying the weather and outdoor life on the water. These two teams seem like perfect trade partners, if this is indeed the route Toronto wants to take. Florida has a plethora of young talent at the forward and defensive positions, while Kessel could be that missing piece to push the Panthers into the playoffs.
Everyone and their aunty knows that Toronto are desperate at the center position, and have been for quite some time now. The problem is, according to Fialkov the Panthers don’t want to trade any of their young core. Which therein lies a problem. Part of the Panthers young core includes Huberdeau, Barkov, and Bjugstad, who are probably the players the Maple Leafs would target in a return for Kessel. Just one of them obviously, not all three. (You wish Toronto!)
However, we have seen it all too often, if a player of Kessel’s caliber wants to be traded elsewhere, he usually ends up getting his wish. So if the Panthers’ core players are off the block, I’d say any potential trade would be built around their 1st round pick plus whatever else it takes to grab him.
“I asked Phil point blank would he like to play for the Panthers, and his face lit up,” Fialkov explained. “He has a summer home in South Florida.”
Too Good to be True?
If a trade were to get done between the two teams, Phil Kessel would instantly become the Florida Panthers’ best shooter since Pavel Bure. The Florida Panther franchise has been waiting patiently for a time like this, a time where the team is full of promise and stars of the game are more enticed by the idea of living and playing in South Florida. It begs the question is it too good to be true? Also, if the Panthers will not trade their young studs, what would they be giving up?
It may sound too good for Panthers fans, but it makes all the sense in the world. This would be a massive statement to the rest of the NHL that the Florida Panthers are becoming a force rather than the old easy game on the calendar. Phil Kessel has never really played with a true number 1 center in Toronto, it’s safe to say that the Panthers with Phil would become an immediate threat alongside the likes of young stud centers Barkov and Bjugstad.
Sebastian Noble is currently in his third year with The Hockey Writers covering the Colorado Avalanche and Florida Panthers. Liverpool, England, and of course Colorado Avalanche & Florida Panthers supporter. You can follow him on Twitter @SebastianHNoble