Phil Kessel appears to be inching closer and closer toward joining the Toronto Maple Leafs.
According to Damien Cox of the Toronto Star, Kessel's agent, Wade Arnott, was spotted at Toronto's brand-new practice facility over the weekend and was also seen chatting with Leafs senior vice president Dave Nonis.
The Leafs are believed to be pushing hard for Kessel, who has been rumored to be asking for up to $5 million per season over four-five years. Toronto finished at 34-35-13 last season — fourth-worst in the Eastern Conference — and haven't seen the postseason since falling to the Flyers in the semifinals in the 2003-04 season.
However, if the Leafs want to obtain the Bruins' leading scorer from the 2008-09 season, they may end up in a wager war with the Nashville Predators, who also are believed to be in the Kessel sweepstakes. According to another report from the weekend, Preds general manager David Poile has been in contact with both the Bruins and Arnott in regards to taking in the winger.
"He's a young player that scores goals,'' Poile told John Glennon of The Tennessean, "and that's very much of interest to us."
The Predators have one of the smallest payrolls in the league at around $40 million, so they have plenty of cash to toss the 21-year-old's way. However, the Preds aren't interested in coughing up the first-, second- and third-round draft pick next spring they would have to sacrifice in signing him — meaning Nashville would only acquire him through trade only.
"We've talked concepts,'' Poile said in regards to his conversations with B's general manager Peter Chiarelli. "I'd be very interested to see if there might be something he would like from the Predators.''
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