Predators, Maple Leafs to Begin Bidding War For Phil Kessel?

Predators, Maple Leafs to Begin Bidding War For Phil Kessel? The Phil Kessel saga could be coming to a conclusion soon.

A source told NESN.com that while the Maple Leafs may be the front-runners for Kessel’s services, the Nashville Predators also are in the running, and they have offered a package the Bruins like just as much as the Leafs’ reported offer of two first-round picks and more. According to the source, the Predators have offered a first-round pick, the rights to forward Alexander Radulov (who is currently playing in the KHL in Russia) and a top defensive prospect. 

On Thursday’s Leafs Lunch on AM 640 in Toronto, host Darren Dreger claimed that a deal could be reached by this weekend because Leafs GM Brian Burke’s patience is wearing thin. Dreger says the Leafs have tabled the best offer, and if the Bruins don’t take it, Burke will go the route of an offer sheet.

Dreger cited Kessel’s wishes to play in Toronto over Nashville as the reason the Leafs remained the front-runners, and the aforementioned source said the same. The Bruins, however, don’t want to trade within the Eastern Conference, let alone with a division rival such as Toronto. That, apparently, is why Peter Chiarelli hasn’t dealt the 21-year old sniper that led the Bruins with 36 goals in 2008-09.

There are numerous reports that the Rangers and Wild are involved, but the Wild reportedly signed Petr Sykora on Thursday, and The New York Post reported earlier this week that the Rangers are out of the mix.

So let’s just take a look at the possible scenarios right now with the Leafs and Predators.

Maple Leafs
The Bruins reportedly have been offered two first-round draft picks, another draft pick and a prospect.

Burke is also believed to be contemplating an offer sheet to Kessel if the Bruins don’t accept an offer this weekend. If that were the case, the Bruins would be in the precarious position of having to trade players quickly to clear cap space and match the offer — they are on the record as saying they will do this if the offer is within reason.

In the event that they do have to do this, forward Chuck Kobasew and defenseman Andrew Ference reportedly are candidates to be dealt. And because of goalie Tuukka Rask’s possible cap hit of over $2 million if he makes the team, Rask could once again be a salary cap victim and not make the club.

As far as players coming back from Toronto, defenseman Ian White’s name has been mentioned. If the Bruins want prospects, they likely would ask for forward Tyler Bozak, Dorchester native and Boston College forward Jimmy Hayes or defenseman Juraj Mikus. But the Leafs probably would decline since their organizational depth is thin.

Chiarelli doesn’t want Kessel to go to a divisional rival, but the reported offers from the Leafs seem very tempting, and chances are he’d rather accept one of them as opposed to dealing with an offer sheet and rearranging his roster to stay under the salary cap. As mentioned above, Toronto reportedly is Kessel’s preferred destination, and he would be hesitant to sign with Nashville.

Predators
The Predators appear to be offering more prospects and players as opposed to draft picks. As stated above, forward Alexander Radulov’s name has come up numerous times as part of a return for Kessel. Radulov, who is currently playing in the KHL in Russia and amassed 58 points for the Predators in 2007-08, is an amazing talent, but there is a stumbling block: Do the Bruins want to deal with the question mark surrounding Radulov’s return to the NHL?

The Predators also are willing to talk draft picks and prospects, of which they have many in their system. Prospects like Jonathan Blum, the 2009 CHL Defenseman of the Year, or Charles-Olivier Roussel or Zach Budish have been mentioned in trade rumors. According to sources, the Bruins would love to land former Boston University stud forward Colin Wilson, but it’s unlikely Poile will part with him.

With the Bruins thin on defense on their organizational depth chart, Blum is very appealing, so a package involving him, another prospect and a first-round pick may get the job done if Chiarelli doesn’t want to take a chance on Radulov.


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