Leafs give a lot to get a young star 

September, 21, 2009

After months of haggling, the Bruins and Leafs finally settled on a deal that exported American-born sniper Phil Kessel north of the border to Toronto. Aggressive Leafs GM Brian Burke gets credit for identifying a vulnerable situation and working to leverage it to his advantage. He sealed the deal by inking his new star to a five-year, $27 million contract.

In Kessel, Burke gets a highly skilled forward with a finishing touch. Last season, his third pro season, the 21-year-old (he will turn 22 on Oct. 2) put up a career-best 36 goals. Burke figures his slick new acquisition can do even more under Ron Wilson and the club's more attacking system. We'll see.

On the downside, Kessel surrenders some significant benefits in the move. For example, in Boston, he often got to skate alongside ace playmaking center Marc Savard. At this point, there's no one nearly as good at dishing the puck in Toronto. Also, Kessel was very well supported by a strong team and system in Beantown. Right now, the Leafs are a team in transition. And, while they are having an interesting training camp, I'm not ready to say they look like a playoff team.

To see what Kessel has in common with greats Vinny Lecavalier and Jaromir Jagr, and to see an opinion of Kessel from inside the Boston front office, you must be an ESPN Insider. Insider

E.J. Hradek

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
E.J. Hradek is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, joining the staff prior to its launch in 1998. He began covering hockey as a writer/editor for Hockey Illustrated in 1989.