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The Boston Bruins were 23rd in the league in scoring this past season. Their leading goal-scorer, Brad Marchand
, finished the year with 24 goals. Including Marchand, the Bruins had three 20-goal scorers (Patrice Bergeron
and Loui Eriksson
). And while they missed the 2015 postseason by a mere two points, the offensive woes ultimately played a huge factor in their rather demise, and Black and Gold could have absolutely used more finish on their squad.
Enter… Phil Kessel
From Bob McKenzie’s story on TSN
Toronto is looking to rebuild and the Leafs' veteran core players will generate varying degrees of interest. Most of them have limited no-trade clauses.
Kessel's limited NTC is believed to include eight teams he can be traded to. Prior to the trade deadline, TSN reported those eight teams were believed to be: Boston; Chicago; Los Angeles; Minnesota; Montreal; New York Rangers; Philadelphia; and Pittsburgh.
But that doesn't preclude the possibility of the Leafs finding a suitable deal with a team not on the list and asking the player to amend the list. Also, with each new contract year, it's believed a new list can be submitted by the player so the list can change from year to year. The contract year expires June 30.
So, Boston’s on the list. Weird. Of course, Kessel’s inclusion of both Boston (and Montreal for that matter) on that list could be more of a ‘I’m putting these teams on my list so you can’t/won’t trade me out of this city and to your rivals’ sort of thing. But still, it couldn’t help but get my mind going a bit: Would the Bruins ever seriously consider bringing Kessel back to the Hub? And would he want to?
Well, first thing’s first: the Bruins can hardly afford a backup for anything more than league minimum as their current cap predicament would tell you, so swallowing Kessel’s $8 million cap-hit through 2019 is seemingly impossible without one of two things (or both); the Bruins would have to send a major contract/salaries back the Leafs’ way, or Toronto would have to eat some of Kessel’s money.
Theoretically, the Black and Gold could float a package centered around defenseman Dennis Seidenberg
($4 million per year for the next three seasons), forward Reilly Smith
($3.35 million for the next two years), and Loui Eriksson
($4.25 million through next season) Toronto’s way. Obviously, that would not be enough for a player of Kessel’s caliber, but it could get the ball moving from a financial standpoint. There’s also the option of the Leafs taking on the injured Marc Savard
’s $4.007 million per year cap-hit, which is always placed on long-term injured reserve on day one of the regular season. But the Leafs already have such a case with Nathan Horton
, and I’m not quite sure if there’s a legitimate market for that contract at this point in time.
From there, the Bruins would likely to have throw in a prospect like goaltender Malcolm Subban
, one of their recent draft gems (Danton Heinen
, Ryan Fitzgerald
, etc.) or maybe a blue-liner like Joe Morrow
or Zach Trotman
. And probably a draft choice as well, maybe even their first-rounder in this year’s draft (14th overall) in Sunrise, Fla.
Is it worth it from a Boston perspective? For a player that’s scored the fourth-most goals in the NHL over the past five seasons, and has 13 goals and 21 points in 22 career playoff games, it’s a start.
Put Kessel with a premier playmaking center like David Krejci
and the goals will flow, I’m sure.
But would the B’s front office actually want to bring Kessel back into the Boston mix? Probably not, unfortunately. It’s been six years now, but Kessel and head coach Claude Julien
didn’t exactly mix during Kessel’s last two years here due to Kessel’s inept defensive game. And I don’t think that Kessel’s d-game has exactly taken leaps to that next level during his six-year tenure with the Leafs. An all-world scorer, no doubt, but he’s not exactly what they’d call an ‘ideal Bruin’ for a number of reasons. (I’d argue that focusing in on a roster of ‘ideal Bruins’ has made you weaker over time, but that’s me.)
I think that the Bruins like but don’t necessarily love what they have on their right side with David Pastrnak
, Brett Connolly
, and Smith, so their search for a potential upgrade over there wouldn’t shock me, but again, I’m not sure how serious of a look they’ll give Kessel. If at all.
However, if he’s actually interested in a return Boston and the Maple Leafs want to open up some dialogue with the Black and Gold, they’d be straight-up stupid not to listen and see where it could go.
Ty Anderson has been covering the Boston Bruins for HockeyBuzz.com since 2010, is a member of the Pro Hockey Writers Association's Boston Chapter, and can be contacted on Twitter, or emailed at Ty.AndersonHB[at]gmail.com