In the words of Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan, here’s why Phil Kessel was traded today:
“This is really about a recognition on our part that what we’ve been doing here, and the group that we’d assembled here, wasn’t getting the job done, and it wasn’t good enough.
“We are here to build a team that is capable of winning a Stanley Cup. There are no shortcuts to go around doing that. We didn’t see that this group was going to get a whole lot better, in getting us toward that goal.
“Going out and hiring a coach like Mike Babcock was a huge bonus for us, so this was really about us saying, once again, we’ve got to build this thing the right way, through the draft, with prospects. Sometimes that might take a little bit longer.”
While Shanahan conceded today that they “gave up a heck of a player…a very, very productive player,” Kessel is also 27 years old. Theoretically, by the time the Leafs hit their sweet spot in terms of competing for the Cup (assuming they ever do), Kessel will be past his prime, if he’s not already.
Going forward, expect the Leafs to continue dismantling their flawed core. Dion Phaneuf, Tyler Bozak, Joffrey Lupul, and maybe even James van Riemsdyk; they could all be traded.
And any others that don’t fit into the club’s long-term plans, them too.