Report: Teams are calling the Leafs on Kessel


Phil Kessel’s name came up in trade talks back in February ahead of the March 2 trade deadline and teams are once again calling Toronto to inquire about the price tag on the Leafs’ forward.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, with executives from all 30 teams being in Buffalo for the NHL Scouting Combine, discussions on Kessel’s availability are picking up steam. Despite the chatter, Friedman reports that a trade isn’t likely for at least a couple of weeks.

Kessel, who has spent the past six seasons in Toronto, scored 25 goals and 61 points to go along with a minus-34 rating in 82 games during the 2014-15 season.

As for what the Leafs may be looking for in return, the club is in the process of a major rebuild and will likely want draft picks and prospects in exchange for Kessel.

The 27-year-old has seven years remaining on his eight-year, $64 million contract, which carries a cap hit of $8 million.

Video: Kessel, Booth get into altercation at Leafs practice

Kessel, Booth

That was Toronto teammates Phil Kessel and David Booth, getting into a bit of a skirmish this morning at practice.

It wasn’t much of a fight, really. And predictably, after practice was over, the altercation was spun into a positive.

“It happens,” Booth said, per TSN.ca. “Guys get frustrated all year. I think that was just a drill that promoted competition. It’s actually good to see that. Hopefully we can take some of that competitive nature into the game tomorrow.”

The Maple Leafs have lost seven straight by a combined score of 29-11. So we suppose they’ll take a positive wherever they can find one.

They host the Senators tomorrow.

Related: ‘In Kessel’s case, I firmly believe he’s going to be traded’

Dreger: ‘In Kessel’s case, I firmly believe he’s going to be traded’

Buffalo Sabres v Toronto Maple Leafs

“In Kessel’s case, I firmly believe he’s going to be traded.”

That was TSN/NBC insider Darren Dreger this morning on TSN 1050 (audio), talking about Toronto winger Phil Kessel.

Kessel, as you probably know, has been mired in a horrendous slump, and Dreger concedes that the 27-year-old’s “trade potential has been hurt by his poor play; I don’t think there’s any question of that.”

Kessel is also signed through 2021-22 for a cap hit of $8 million, a contract that won’t be the easiest to move for a return befitting his abilities as a goal-scorer. The Leafs may have to cover some of his salary, or take a bad contract back, to get a deal done.

But unless Toronto wins the draft lottery and gets Connor McDavid, after all the collapses and disappointment and controversies the Leafs have endured since he joined them in 2009, it’s getting harder and harder to picture Kessel back with the team next season.

The same goes for captain Dion Phaneuf.

Both players, currently still in their primes, could help other teams. The Leafs, though…the Leafs are just a bad situation, one that’s unlikely to turn around overnight. And fair or not, both Kessel and Phaneuf are symbols of the franchise’s failures. And that’s not good for the brand.

Even if Toronto does get McDavid, it might be the right move to trade the two core pieces former GM Brian Burke acquired to build around. As we wrote last month, “The point shouldn’t be to win these next few years anyway. It should be to help Morgan Rielly develop into a Norris Trophy candidate, of which he’s got the potential, and to bring William Nylander into the fold.”

The Leafs host Minnesota tonight. Their season from hell has just nine games left.

Related: Horachek, Kessel apparently disagree on Leafs’ effort level

Horachek, Kessel apparently disagree on Leafs’ effort level

Phil Kessel; Peter Horachek

The Toronto Maple Leafs played another stinker last night, dropping a 4-1 decision at home to San Jose in a game that goalie Jonathan Bernier likened to a “a junior team playing against an NHL team.”

This morning, coach Peter Horachek had a little chat with his players during practice:

Which is a pretty harsh indictment.

And perhaps not surprisingly, it was one with which star winger Phil Kessel disagreed:

So anyway, the Leafs are a train wreck.

Gonna be an interesting offseason.

Related: Shanahan to Leafs: ‘We’re watching’

Kessel laments ‘all-time low,’ Kadri fears suspension after ugly Leafs loss


Whether Toronto Maple Leafs fans are hoping for their team to tank or not, Monday’s 4-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers was gruesome in many different ways.

Things were especially bleak for Jonathan Bernier, as he allowed three goals on four shots before being mercifully pulled in the first period of the game. The reactions on Twitter and social media in general ranged from sardonic to sorrowful.

Phil Kessel seemed to be in the latter camp:

The game serves as another serious misstep for Nazem Kadri, who may find himself suspended by the league not that long after he was shelved by his team. Check out this hit he delivered on Matt Fraser:

As you can probably see, Kadri attempted to apologize to Fraser right after he delivered that check, which drew a two-minute illegal check to the head minor. After the game, he admitted that he’s concerned about getting suspended, as TSN’s Mark Masters reports.

Kadri eventually left the game after an altercation with defenseman Andrew Ference, but the damage was already done.

If tonight is any indication, the last month of the 2014-15 season could be a really rough one for the Maple Leafs.

Head coach Peter Horachek doesn’t want to hear any whining in that regard, though.