Easier for Maple Leafs to trade Kessel now, or do they look...

Easier for Maple Leafs to trade Kessel now, or do they look for a No. 1 center for him?

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  • Damien Cox of the Toronto Star: The only untouchable for the Maple Leafs should be their 2013 1st round pick. Phil Kessel is off to slow start, it’s becoming more difficult to imagine Kessel remaining with the Leafs beyond this season. It will be easier for Nonis to trade Kessel, than it would have been for Burke. There are some who would call for a Dion Phaneuf trade as well, but at least in that deal, they basically stole him from Calgary. The 25 year old Kessel will be an unrestricted free agent after next season. There should be a market for him and his $5.4 million salary cap hit ($5.1 million salary) at the trade deadline. They could look for something like the Blue Jackets got for Jeff Carter, Jack Johnson and a 1st round pick. He would be an excellent secondary scoring threat for someone.
  • Damien Cox via twitter: “Re Kessel: ppl don’t get it. Not about him, or how he’s playing. He does what he does well. Its about managing assets and team-building. Understand Kessel’s contract, and you understand why they have little choice but to move him.”
  • Steve Buffery of the Toronto Sun: Buffery thinks the Leafs No. 1 priority should be a center.

    “The bottom line is this: Without a front-line centre, Kessel’s talents are being wasted. He was a 37-goal scorer last year but with a bonafide first-line centre, he might be a 50-goal scorer. Further to that, the Leafs will not take the next step in becoming a threat to go deep into the playoffs until they address the first-line centre situation.”

    Buffery notes that if they are going to give up young assets (hopefully not Nazem Kadri or Jake Gardiner), it’s for a center and not a goaltender. They have young depth on the blueline with prospects  Gardiner, Morgan Rielly, Stuart Percy, Jesse Blacker and Matt Finn. Tyler Bozak is not a number 1 center on a good team. Mikhail Grabovski is a good 2nd line center. Buffery also suggest moving Kadri to the first line and dropping Bozak back the third line.

  • Greg Brady via twitter: Phil Kessel has a limited NTC/NMC in 2013-14. He doesn’t have one this season. This year would have been Kessel’s last RFA season. The Maple Leafs bought one each year of service. You can not give a NTC during a RFA year.