Did The Maple Leafs Get Good Value In the Phil Kessel Deal?

October 1st, 2013 No Comments

lupkessTSN’s Darren Dreger is reporting the the Toronto Maple Leafs appear to have signed talented sniper Phil Kessel to a monster 8-year deal (the longest allowed under the terms of the new CBA) believed to be in the $64 million range.

AT $8 million per season, Kessel would rank in the top ten in salary, putting him alongside Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara and Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos and ahead of the likes of Evgeni Malkin ($7.5 million) and Rick Nash ($7.8 million).

While there will be plenty of fans protesting the Maple Leafs latest signing, it should be noted that few players have Kessel’s scoring ability. Kessel, who ranked 13th in goals scored in 2012-13, 7th in 2011-12, 19th in 2010-11 is amongst the best snipers in the NHL. In fact, Kessel’s 89 goals over the past three seasons puts him just 13 goals behind Alex Ovechkin (102), one more than John Tavares (88), five more than Jonathan Toews (84), far ahead of Patrick Kane (73) and Claude Giroux (66), but far behind Steven Stamkos (134) over that same three-season span.

With scoring numbers like that it is tough to argue with Toronto Maple Leafs’ general manager Dave Nonis’ decision to invest so heavily in Kessel.

To be fair, there have always been concerns over Kessel’s defensive abilities and he has come under criticism for a perceived lack of effort on some nights, that said, Kessel’s overall game has been improving (as illustrated by his reasonable minus-3 rating last season) and an excellent playoff performance against his former team (Boston Bruins) where he proved he was willing to go to the dirty areas of the ice and compete at both ends.

Currently set at $64.3 million, the salary cap is expected to go up over the next several seasons. If that proves to be true, Kessel’s $8 million deal, as grossly overpaid as he seems, will only get better over time.

Is Kessel Steven Stamkos? No. And the Maple Leafs are not asking him to be.

In Toronto, Kessel (26) can continue to play on the biggest hockey stage the World has to offer on a team that is on the rise. Youngsters like James van Riemsdyk (24), Nazem Kadri (22), Tyler Bozak (27) and Nikolai Kulemin (27) continue to evolve their games, taking pressure off Kessel to be that all-round player and just focus on what he is—an elite sniper.

On the backend, emerging stars like Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly will make Kessel all the more dangerous on the power play where opposing teams will have to key on Toronto’s defensemen, leaving Kessel more open then seasons past.

Is Kessel a “franchise player”? depending who you ask, the answer is “no”, but you can make a strong argument that Kessel is evolving into one. Kessel may not be everyone’s ideal “franchise player”, but on a team that already has it’s fair share of toughness, set-up men and grinders, Kessel IS Toronto’s franchise player.

One thing is for sure, despite plenty of criticism from the fans and management of the Boston Bruins, the Toronto Maple Leafs and their fans are happy that Kessel is here to stay for another 8 seasons. And, where is Tyler Seguin these days anyways?

“Thank you Boston”

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