Rabid Habs

Montreal Canadiens Trade Target: Phil Kessel

Phil Kessel

Now that the Stanley Cup winner is known and that the Tampa Bay Lightning has been officially eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks, the trade rumors will abound leading up to the 2015 NHL Entry Draft that will be held in Sunrise, Florida on June 26-27, 2015.

While most teams have been pretty quiet during the NHL playoffs, Montreal Canadiens’ general manager, Marc Bergevin, has been fairly active in recent weeks. First, he re-signed underrated UFA rearguard Jeff Petry to a six-year deal worth $33 million. Then, he re-signed RFA Nathan Beaulieu to a cap-friendly bridge contract worth only $2 million over the next two seasons. Finally, Bergevin re-signed Greenfield Park native Torrey Mitchell to a three-year pact worth $3.6 million.

Now, the only notable player who is looking for a new contract is RFA forward Alex Galchenyuk. Will Bergevin sign him to a long-term pact a la Brendan Gallagher or to a shorter-term contract like the one signed by PK Subban ($5,75 million over two years) prior to signing his bank-breaking $72 million pact?

With the cap hit expected to be around $71 million for the 2015-2016 campaign, the Canadiens have approximately $5 million left to re-sign Galchenyuk, as well as several RFAs such as Jarred Tinordi, Brian Flynn and Christian Thomas, which means the team will need to shed salaries if they want to acquire a top-six forward to improve a struggling offensive corps.

Let’s pretend for a minute that Bergevin is able to unload some dead wood before or at the draft, and that he has some financial leeway to acquire a top-six winger. A name that has been mentioned in trade rumors is that of disgruntled sniper Phil Kessel of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The scapegoat of the Toronto media has been officially dangled as trade bait in order to accelerate the Maple Leafs rebuild. While Kessel has a limited no-trade clause as per Bob McKenzie, he has a list of eight teams to which he would accept a trade to. Surprisingly, the Canadiens made that list!

Kessel is often pegged as a lazy forward with a propensity to cheat offensively, resulting in poor defensive awareness, but the fact of the matter is that the Leafs were not a very good defensive team in recent years, a tendency that should change with the arrival of Mike Babcock at the helm of the team.

Kessel’s $8 million cap hit will be hard to fit under the salary cap, but the Leafs could swallow part of it (maybe 1/4 or $2M/year) to facilitate a trade as the team is currently well under the expected salary cap of $71 million.

Even though the speedy right winger had a down year, potting only 25 goals and 36 assists for 61 points and a -34 rating in 82 games, Kessel would still have ranked second among Habs forwards in scoring only behind Max Pacioretty.

Something you forget about “Phil the thrill” is that he is as durable as they come, having not missed a single game over the last five seasons, recording 151 goals and 188 helpers for 339 points in 376 games or a .90 point-per-game pace, which is very solid in the defensive-minded NHL.

Did you know that only Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos and Corey Perry have scored more goals than Phil Kessel this past decade?

The big problem with a trade to Montreal, is that it doesn’t make sense money-wise and that head coach Michel Therrien is not known to be fond of offensive-minded players who have a tendency to neglect the defensive aspect of their game.

Still, you cannot win games when you only score a little over two goals per game on average, even when your goaltender is named Carey Price. Bergevin needs to surround his sniper, Max Pacioretty, with more offensive weapons in order to go deeper in the playoffs. Look at the Blackhawks and all the weapons they have to produce offensively!

The 27-year-old Kessel still has seven years remaining on his deal, so he would spend his prime wearing the Bleu Blanc Rouge uniform should he be traded to Montreal.

What is a fair return for a sniper in his prime one would ask?

Toronto will probably ask for an NHL-ready player such as Lars Eller who would give them more depth at center. They would also ask for a blue-chip prospect such as netminder Zachary Fucale as well as a first round pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft (Montreal has the 26th overall pick). Finally, the Canadiens would need to send a bad contract the other way, so a player like Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau and his $4 million cap hit could go the other way. 

Still, Shanahan will probably ask for young talented forwards like Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher, but I highly doubt Marc Bergevin will trade either of them. However, I think a youngster like Jarred Tinordi could be added to sweeten the deal as the Leafs are looking for young blue liners to continue their rebuild.

Imagine a first line of Max Pacioretty, Alex-Galchenyuk and Phil Kessel.

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Follow me on Twitter @FredPoulin98

4 Comments

  1. Mark

    June 16, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    If he is disgruntled in Toronto due to media pressure, he will be no better off in Montreal. No question, he can score, but a few weeks of defensive stupidity and lack of back checking and the fans would absolutely crucify Kessel. Besides, PA, Eller are not what Toronto is looking for and we already have a young goalie with upside in Bernier. It’s not a great fit…

  2. Nancy King

    June 16, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    Kessel is not the answer. Couldn’t / wouldn’t do what Julien / Boston asked. Same for Wilson& Carlyle Toronto. Wouldn’t be defensive, be fit or move to the other side when asked. Wouldn’t meet with press or help in the room. Montreal plays a defensive system just like Boston and Toronto tried to. So, why would anyone think that the same thing wouldn’t happen in Mtl? The Org. would be mad, the coaches would be mad…and the press? Kessel’s ability did not help him on either Team, his inability killed him on both.

    A small market with 1 or 2 beat reporters…is where Kessel belongs. His pattern and history clearly shows that.

    The only thing it would do…is put a smile on TML’s and their fans faces…”making MTL nuts, instead of us!”

  3. Sats Mundin (@SatsMundin)

    June 16, 2015 at 8:51 pm

    L O L. If you think these spare parts would get you Kessel you need to lay off the meth

  4. Michael Bresciani

    June 21, 2015 at 3:59 am

    The only Leafs that looked good in a Habs uniform were Vincent Damphousse, Frank Mahovlich and Doug Gilmour.

    Someone will overpay for Kessel, I just hope it’s not Bergevin and the Habs.