Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston has referred to Phil Kessel as the most polarizing athlete in Toronto. I disagree. They are other people more deserving of this title, including the likes of Andrea Bargnani and Brett Lawrie.
Unlike them, Kessel does not encourage the same level of contrasting emotions of love and hate. Now, if Johnston had said the situation regarding Kessel being traded was polarizing, then he would have been onto something.
For a start, opinion is equally divided on if Kessel should be traded now or re-signed before he becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of next season. But that’s only the beginning.
For anyone calling Kessel a proven natural goalscorer, someone else is saying he’s not consistent or tough enough. If you mention the need to trade him to bring in a top-line centre, another person stresses any such centre needs a person of Kessel’s abilities to help them thrive.
Mention how Kessel and Joffrey Lupul have a chemistry that has developed into a potentially explosive partnership and you will get the rebuttal that this is irrelevant if Lupul keeps getting injured.
What makes this whole scenario more of a conundrum is that the public can’t even agree on if the media coverage of Kessel is a good thing. Some fans can’t get enough, wanting to read every single bit of detail possible, while others blame the media for creating and stirring up the whole trade rumour in the first place.
But if a trade is going to happen, then what’s the asking price going to be for Kessel? Again, it really depends on who you ask, but you would expect a decent return for a player who is still only 25 and pretty much guarantees you 30 goals a season. One prominent rumour is that the Leafs want a top three forward and first round draft pick.
Ironically, that first round pick is one area the Leafs are likely guaranteed to fall short of what the Bruins obtained from them for Kessel. Boston had the good fortune to get two high first round draft picks (and one second round pick) for Kessel by virtue of the Leafs finishing poorly in the standings.
Unfortunately, the odds are that it will be one of the top teams coming in for Kessel to help fortify their line-up, meaning any such draft compensation will not be nearly as fruitful for the Leafs.
Which brings us to the main question of where, if anywhere, Kessel will end up? Unfortunately, the answer is no clearer than whether or not he should even be traded in the first place. It figures that he would make a great complimentary player on any team with legitimate hopes of winning the Stanley Cup.
But by far the most intriguing rumour involves the Canucks and Roberto Luongo. Aided by Kessel apparently wanting out of Toronto, this would pave the way for the Leafs to finally get Luongo to solidify their inconsistent goaltending issues. Undoubtedly, the relationship GM Davis Nonis has with the Vancouver franchise would help in negotiating the other aspects of any such trade and making it more feasible.
As always with trade rumours such as these, you can guarantee there will be several more twists and turns before the situation is eventually resolved. We can only hope that resolution comes sooner rather than later to avoid any ongoing distraction for both the team and Kessel himself.
Photo credit: @carterbaxter79
If you have any questions, email me at email@example.com
You can also follow us on Twitter @bluetoro_ca and like us on Facebook
- By paul.taylor
- January 31, 2013