Have the Toronto Maple Leafs been there and done that? Is this too wild a thought?
Is the Addition of Phil Kessel Crazy to Consider?
As the team looks forward to a new season, and with things so firmly planted in the air, let’s take a flyer for a thought that’s a bit out on the left wing. Could the Maple Leafs use the current NHL ironman Phil Kessel back on the team’s roster and in their lineup?
Could Kessel be an option worth exploring, or is this just crazy talk? Although Kessel’s previous tenure with the Maple Leafs was filled with ups and downs, a lot has changed since he last donned a Maple Leafs’ jersey.
And, if he did show up, would he be able to add anything to the lineup? Or is this just a replay of last season’s failed experiment with aging warrior Wayne Simmonds?
Kessel: An Iron Man Role Player Who Does Score
If Kessel did return to the Maple Leafs, he would certainly assume a different role than he had in his previous time with the team. He’d be freer and more relaxed. He’d no longer be burdened with any expectations of being the face on the cover of the team’s program.
Instead, Kessel would be an experienced role player. One thing we do know is that he can lace up his skates every game. He’s played in all 82 games season after season, as evidenced by the fact that he currently holds the NHL’s longest iron man streak.
We also know that Kessel can contribute secondarily to the score sheet. Although he might never be a 20-goal scorer again, he still has some skill. He does contribute offensively.
If he did come to Toronto, he could take up a spot at the left wing of the third line and offer it some scoring potential. The team could expect maybe up to 35-40 points per season. However, if he played with more skilled linemates, Kessel might even make a more significant impact.
As I’m writing this, I’m wondering about the possibility of a third line with speedy young center Pontus Holmberg with John Tavares on the right wing and Kessel on the left. Could that work?
Experience, Financial Considerations, and Team Building
When Kessel was last in Toronto, he was under intense pressure. While he seemed to shrug it off, did he really? If he returned to the team, he’d be in a different head space.
A particular segment of Maple Leafs’ fans believe that Kessel was selfish and didn’t contribute to the team; however, if he were that bad a teammate, would he have remained employed all these seasons? He’s talented, but does he have that much going for him?
Would Kessel even consider returning in more of an on-ice mentorship role for younger players? If he were willing, could he help guide some of the youngsters the through the challenges that come with playing for this team?
As always, the Maple Leafs are facing contract negotiations; and, as always, expect the team to – when the regular season begins – have limited salary-cap space. His last contract with the Vegas Golden Knights was at $1.5 million. Would he consider signing a one-year, $1 million deal?
Such a contract might seem affordable enough to allow the team to allocate its resources efficiently, leaving room for other players to be signed. The other thing you can say about Kessel is that he’s been hanging around winners for a long time.
While he hasn’t been playing much during the postseason run the Golden Knights are on, he played all 82 regular games with them this season. He’ll likely be part of another Stanley Cup-winning team.
The Bottom Line
Would bringing Phil Kessel back to the Maple Leafs provide a reliable and experienced player for the team? Could he be a valuable mentor and add depth to the team?
Over the past few seasons, we’ve seen that Kesse can play a secondary role, where he contributes some secondary offence. Last season was his worst scoring season ever in the NHL and he still scored 36 points.
That says something. But does it say enough to interest anyone in the Maple Leafs’ organization?
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