The Toronto Maple Leafs Should Trade for Phil Kessel Again

Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The idea may sound crazy, but Phil Kessel would be the perfect addition for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Phil Kessel is one of the most talked about and controversial Toronto Maple Leafs in recent memory. Despite being one of the best offensive forwards in team history, he’s always been criticized more than adored in this city.

All of that criticism was unjust because Kessel was put in the spotlight that he never asked for. He was traded to Toronto (never signed there initially) and was the best player on a team that wasn’t any good. Although he could score 30 goals in his sleep, he was never meant to be the superstar player that could lead his team to a Stanley Cup.

Instead, he was a great secondary piece that could be an awesome third or fourth best player on a contending team, which is exactly what happened when he got traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Kessel Would Be Perfect Addition to Toronto Maple Leafs

Kessel is on the last year of his eight-year, $8M AAV contract and has 21 points in 30 games with an abysmal Arizona Coyotes team. Of that $8M he’s owed, Toronto is already paying $1.2M in dead-cap money, so why not pay him to be on your team instead of being somewhere else?

When Kessel joined the Pittsburgh Penguins, he joined a team with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who were in their prime.

Sound familiar?

Not only does Toronto have a somewhat equivalent Crosby and Malkin with Auston Matthews and John Tavares, but they also have Mitch Marner and William Nylander.

Based on the Leafs depth chart, Kessel can fit in perfectly on the third line for depth scoring. He could play his natural right-wing and slide Ondrej Kase to his off-wing, or he Kessel could play the left-side instead.

This wouldn’t the first time Kessel has done so, as shown by this interview with Mike Sullivan back in 2017 (via:

"“I talked to him this morning…I asked him how he liked playing the left side. He says, ‘Hey, I didn’t mind it. It was a little bit different.’ He likes coming down that off side,” said Mike Sullivan, head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins"

For those of you who think Kessel is past his prime, you only need a few good months of him. When Pittsburgh won their back-to-back Stanley Cup’s, the third line of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel, or better known as the “HBK Line”, were vital to the team’s success and a combination of Kessel, Kase and David Kampf can be Toronto’s version of that.

Kessel’s cap-hit is currently $6.8M, so Arizona would have to absorb half of his deal and maybe have a third team absorb another 25% of it to make the money work, but it’s not out of the question.

When Kessel originally played for the Leafs, he was asked to do way too much, but in his role with the team today, he wouldn’t be asked to do too much. Instead, he’d be a tremendous help on the second power-play and add great offensive production to the third-line.

As a two-time Stanley Cup winner, Kessel understands what it takes to win and his heart has never left Toronto. He clearly loved the city because when he won, he brought the cup to Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto.

It would be a perfect redemption story to see number 81 with a Toronto Maple Leafs team that uses his talents wisely, as this team has struggled with depth scoring for the past few years in critical situations.

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Despite all the potential jokes that can come with Kessel rejoining Toronto, his skillset would make a ton of sense on the third line.