dealt Kessel to Toronto for first-round picks in 2010 and 2011 and a second-round pick in 2010.
Some Bruins fans might be wondering why a team that finished first in the Eastern Conference last season and is expected to contend for a Stanley Cup this season didn’t get any NHL-ready bodies in return for its leading goal scorer. It’s a valid question, but the Bruins have the scoring depth to replace those 36 goals Kessel scored in 2008-09. They’re returning six other 20-goal scorers, and if those players don’t fill the void, the Bruins also have two first-round picks to acquire the necessary scoring.
This trade puts the Bruins in a situation to address their salary cap issues and keep the core of the team intact for the foreseeable future. Forwards Milan Lucic and Blake Wheeler are restricted free agents next season along with unrestricted free agent Marc Savard. Of course, facing Kessel six times a season during each of the next five years the Bruins play the Leafs is not appealing, but when comparing Toronto’s scoring depth to the Bruins’ — at least for next season — the threat isn’t so scary.
That being said, Toronto GM Brian Burke knew what he wanted, and he got it. But the price was steep. The Leafs’ first-round picks for the next two years and their second-round pick in the 2010 draft were the price for the Bruins’ first-round pick (fifth overall) in 2006.
With the Bruins’ perennial points leader Savard entering a contract year, something had to give. The Bruins enter the season with $1.75 million in cap space available, and the Kessel deal opens the door for movement at the trade deadline. After Peter Chiarelli’s shrewd acquisition of Mark Recchi paid dividends last year, Bruins fans have reason to be optimistic.
Only time will tell what the Kessel deal leads to, but given Chiarelli’s tendency to avoid trading within the division, he must have felt the Leafs’ offer was one he couldn’t refuse. With the rebuilding Leafs’ first-round picks for the next two years entering the equation, Chiarelli’s decision was made far easier. And Chiarelli still could flip one of those picks for a proven goal scorer or someone who helps the team at the 2010 NHL trade deadline.
Kessel has proven he can succeed at this level, but in a salary-cap world, a GM has to think in the now and in the later.