Phil Kessel, the Future? by Justin Lepper

Oilers Insider Note: This articles timing makes perfect sense with the new buzz of Kessel and Toronto heating up. Edmonton has real interest and I find it interesting to see what teams are willing to move for a player who will miss the first two months of the season. We also want to welcome Justin to the Oilers Insider group of posters.

There has been non-stop speculation that Phil Kessel will be traded this off-season. Steve Tambellini has been trying to land a premier offensive forward throughout the duration of his tenure as Oilers GM, so obviously there are going to be rumors. Phil Kessel is coming off a season where he put 60 pts up in 70 games, including 36 goals. All of this sounds enticing, but is it really worth what the Oilers would have to pay?

Based on what I can see, it appears as though the Bruins are going to have to either A) Trade salaries out to make room for Kessel or B) Trade Kessel himself for little to no salary coming back. The Bruins have no where near the cap space to sign the kind of deal Kessel is looking for, and moving salary out with no salary coming back is extremely difficult to do. This is where problems on the Oilers side come in. The Oilers, I believe have just over $1 million in cap space left. Phil is apparently asking in the 4.5 to 5 million per year range, so the Oilers would need to make cap space to afford his salary and the Bruins will almost certainly require Andrew Cogliano and either a prospect or a pick to compensate for the loss of their sniper, which is a hefty toll. On top of that, Edmonton would still need to bury salary in the minors or find some other way to move it out, costing them NHL quality players.

The upside to pulling the trigger on a deal like this, is that Kessel is a proven sniper. 36 goals by a 21 year old is a nice number, Cogliano for instance scored 18 at age 22, so it is certainly an improvement. Kessel at a +23 last season is not known as a shutdown guy by any stretch of the imagination, but doesn't seem to abandon his own zone altogether. The biggest benefit would be that Ales Hemsky would finally have the triggerman he has long desired. Hemsky's passes are a work of art and watching an elite scorer like Kessel beam them would generate a ton of excitement amongst fans and put a little fear into opponents.

The downside of aquiring Kessel is that you have to lose most likely Andrew Cogliano plus at least a pick or prospect. You then have to clean out an NHL calibre player or two to make room for Kessel's salary demands. The Oilers cannot afford to lose NHL caliber players, with such a soft lineup who doesn't score enough and bringing up youngsters not ready for the show is never a good idea (ala New York Islanders, Kyle Okposo and Josh Bailey). Not too mention that while Phil plays sound positionaly, he is NOT a physical player, with only had 6 hits all last year. SIX. Not good for a team that many consider is already too soft.

Weighing both sides, would you pull the trigger on the Kessel deal? It would look something like this:

To Edmonton: Phil Kessel

To Boston: Andrew Cogliano and either a first round pick (or two) or a prospect such as Riley Nash or possibly Jordan Eberle

The price WILL be steep. Signing him to an offer sheet practically deals and entire draft (1st, 2nd and 3rd rounders or possibly multiple 1st's depending on salary).

The lineup would then have to look something similiar to this

Kessel - Horcoff - Hemsky
O'Sullivan - Gagner - Eberle
Penner - Brule - Pisani
Moreau - Pouliot - Stortini

A total team salary cap hit of 53.75 Million Est. this roster leaves the team with just over 3 million in cap space, enough for trade deadline aquisitions
or a signing of a Manny Malhotra type checking line player.

How much damage would this team do? How would a Jordan Eberle do as teenager forced into the lineup? And what would your lineup be compared to mine? Discuss.


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