Calgary Flames Trade Rumours: Phil Kessel A Fit In Calgary?


The Calgary Flames have not played a game since losing Game 5 in the second round against the Anaheim Ducks nearly a month ago. Though they haven’t been on the ice, there has been all kinds of Flames talk going around with the NHL Draft and free agency coming up in a few short weeks.

There is also, of course, the constant murmurs and whispers of trade rumours circling around the organization, and one that won’t seem to go away is the possibility of Phil Kessel being shipped west from the Toronto Maple Leafs to Calgary.

Elliotte Friedman, the hockey insider for Sportsnet, who is as in tune with the inner workings of the Toronto Maple Leafs as their general manager. Wait, the Leafs still don’t have a GM? Okay, Friedman is as inside as any reporter in the city and he continues to feed the flames of a Kessel deal that will happen between now and the draft on June 26th.

Friedman was on Sportsnet’s Hockey Central radio show in Toronto last week, and in Calgary this week, and stated both teams that he is all but certain Kessel will be moved, and believes the Flames would be a team interested in acquiring the speedy sniper. He makes the connection that Brian Burke, who is currently in Flames upper management, swapped a pair of first round picks and a second rounder for Kessel when he was the GM in Toronto in 2009.

Whether Burke paid too much to acquire Kessel or not (he did) doesn’t take away from the fact he has been on the the best goal scorers in the league since arriving in Toronto six years ago. In fact, the only players who have scored more goals than Kessel since 2009 are Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos, Corey Perry and Rick Nash.

More from Calgary Flames News

Kessel also ranks 16th in points in that time span, falling just behind the likes of Anze Kopitar and John Tavares. Kopitar and Tavares are undoubtedly viewed as franchise players that you build an elite team around, but Kessel, for whatever reason does not get the same treatment from the general public and the mainstream media.

Perhaps part of the reason Kessel isn’t put on the same pedestal as other elite scorers is his hesitance to be media friendly. Whatever the reason, an elite goal scorer is on the trade block for the second time in his career, and may go for less than you would expect because of his public image.

Oct 30, 2013; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Phil Kessel (81) skates with the puck as Calgary Flames defenseman Kris Russell (4) defends during the second period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Toronto Maple Leafs won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

One factor that will slow trade talks for Kessel is his contract. The Madison, Wisconsin native signed a $64 million, eight year deal that kicked in just last season. That means the 27 year old sniper has seven years left on his contract that will have him cost a significant portion of a team’s cap space until he is 34 years old. So, if Kessel has staying power like those darn Sedin twins in Vancouver it’s not a problem, but many goal scorers have a had time maintaing their production after turning 30.

Then you look at other 34 year olds around the league and see names like Martin Havlat, Mike Comrie, Tim Connolly, Ryan Malone and Martin Erat and you would be crossing your fingers and hoping that Kessel ages a little more gracefully than those mostly former NHL scorers. Of course, Kessel is better then all of those players so he could find himself as the next Radim Vrbate or Henrik Zetterberg when is 34.

This is the question Flames management has to ask themselves before considering dealing for Kessel. The Flames will not be contending for a Stanley Cup this season, but they have some very good young pieces in place that could see them be an elite team in 3-5 years. If they think Kessel will still be elite in 3-5 years, they should go after him, but if they are worried about him falling off his pace dramatically, they shouldn’t deal for him hoping he can make this team contend in the next two years.

Apr 1, 2015; Buffalo, NY, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Phil Kessel (81) takes a shot on goal during the first period against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

I happen to think that a 30-32 year old Phil Kessel will still be a constant 30 goal, 70 point player and would definitely still be an elite player when the Flames rebuild is complete. This makes him a very attractive option for Calgary right now, but they have to be careful about the return. Kessel’s cap hit is monstrous and the team has to look three years in the future and predict what new contracts for Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett will cost them.

Gaudreau and Monahan will need new contracts next season and Bennett the year after that. Seeing that David Jones ($4.0 million), Jiri Hudler ($4.0 million), Mason Raymond ($3.15 million), Ladislav Smid ($3.5 million) and Deryk Engelland ($2.9 million) will all be off the books by the time Bennett’s next contract kicks in, the Flames can easily absorb Kessel’s deal as long as he replaces Hudler.

Hudler is coming off an amazing season where he scored a career high 76 points which placed him 8th in the NHL. He outscored Kessel last season, but it was the first time since Kessel was a 19 year old sophomore in 2007-08 that Hudler had more points than Kessel, and at 31 years of age, it was also very likely that it was the last time Hudler would score more points than Kessel.

Feb 7, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel (81) goes to take a shot against the Edmonton Oilers at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Edmonton 5-1. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The guys on Sportsnet 960’s Boomer in the Morning show in Calgary suggested it would cost the Flames their first round pick (15th overall), Mikael Backlund and goaltending prospect Jon Gillies to get the deal done. I tend to agree for the most part, but would be hesitant to part with Gillies who could be the goalie of the future for the Flames, and think the Leafs would rather forward prospects anyway.

Toronto currently has Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer between the pipes, both of whom are 26 years old. Adding Gillies would be nice, but they already have two solid NHL goaltenders who will in the league for years. I would swap out Gillies from the proposal and add in either Morgan Klimchuk or Emile Poirier who were first round picks last season.

A package of Poirier, Backlund and the 15th overall pick would be difficult to part with, but when you are adding a guy who could easily score 35 goals and 75 points for the next five seasons while playing with Monahan and Hudler, it becomes a good deal for both sides.

Sure, the Flames are in a rebuild and patience is a virtue they need to cling to right now. However, while you hope that the 15th overall pick and Poirier become consistent goal scorers and point per game players, history suggests many first round picks just don’t pan out. Swapping both of them along with Backlund would ensure the team gets an elite first line right winger to play with Monahan and Gaudreau for the better part of the next decade.

More from Flame for Thought