Phil Kessel’s not scoring and the Maple Leafs aren’t winning, sparking calls for the club to trade him.
TORONTO STAR: Damien Cox on Monday called upon the Maple Leafs management to retain their first round pick in the 2013 entry draft and shop Phil Kessel. Cox doesn’t believe Kessel should be an “untouchable”, calling upon new GM Dave Nonis to use the winger as a trade chip to rebuild the club. Cox believes the Leafs should seek a deal “similar to that made by Columbus at last year’s deadline when Jeff Carter, then 27, was moved to the L.A. Kings for 25-year-old defenceman Jack Johnson and a first-round pick.”
SPORTSNET.CA: Chris Johnston believes Kessel’s future in Toronto could be determined by how long Nonis believes the winger will remain among the league’s best and when he expects the franchise could develop into a contender. “ If those two timelines overlap,” writes Johnston, ” it’s hard to imagine why Kessel would be shipped out of town — even if he’s due to receive a raise next summer on the $5.4-million annual cap hit he currently carries.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Kessel hadn’t gone goalless in the Leafs first five games, and if the club had won more than they lost over that period, I doubt there would’ve been any talk about the Leafs shopping him. I recently offered up my thoughts on Kessel’s future in Toronto, suggesting if he doesn’t see a future in Toronto beyond next summer (when he qualifies for UFA status), or if his salary demands become extravagant, the Leafs should shop him. Otherwise, they should keep Kessel in the fold and try to find him a decent first-line play-making center.
Ultimately, of course, it comes down to Nonis. If the Leafs miss the playoffs again (the last time they saw the post-season was 2004), big changes might be coming to their roster, perhaps as early as this season’s trade deadline. Moving Kessel could be among those changes.