Off and on throughout the last couple of years, we’ve heard suggestions or rumors that the Toronto Maple Leafs should take a look at dealing Phil Kessel. Of course, that was before this club emerged as a competitive team out of the Eastern Conference and made the playoffs as a no. 5 seed.
Once again, with the Maple Leafs headed into the offseason, we’ve heard some of those suggestions resurface. One article recently written by an author at the Toronto Star capitalized on Kessel’s strong season and made the comment that there would be no better time to look at dealing him.
Kessel had an absolutely brilliant season for the Leafs in 2013. He was one of the more dangerous offensive players in the entire league, leading the Leafs in points, with 52 on the year, eight more than the next closest player. Both his 20 goals and his 32 assists were tops on the club. Twenty-one of his points came with Toronto on the man advantage.
The suggestion was that simply because Kessel is a wing that lives out on the perimeter, rather than getting down in front of the net and behind the net, that the Leafs would be better served dealing him and trying to improve other areas of their roster, such as the center position. The very idea of trading Kessel is hilarious and absurd all on its own.
Kessel is one of the more dangerous goal scorers in the league. Prior to this lockout-shortened 2013 season, he had four consecutive seasons of at least 30 goals. He had 20 in the shortened season, which would have put him right on pace for another 30-goal season. Elite scoring wingers are a premium in this league. To suggest trading one is simply absurd.
The Leafs aren’t in a position where they need to sell off their best assets in order to make their club competitive. This is a solid team. They need improvements, yes, and will be forced to trade a player or two to try and make that work with a shrinking salary cap. But there is absolutely no reason that the Maple Leafs should consider trading Phil Kessel.