While most of the hockey media has Phil Kessel pretty much signed, sealed and delivered to the Toronto Maple Leafs, word is still circulating that the Nashville Predators are still "very much in the hunt", and according to John Glennon at The Tennessean, "Kessel would indeed be agreeable to playing in Nashville."
The question on many Preds fans' minds, however, is whether this is a deal worth pursuing. Kessel is obviously talented, but would his salary (likely $4-5 million) fit within Nashville's operating budget, and what might the team have to give up in trade?
After the jump, let's dig into these questions and see where it might lead...
In terms of what Nashville might give up in a potential trade, let's rule some guys out, first. The 5 big forwards (Arnott, Dumont, Sullivan, Legwand, Erat) and 3 top defensemen (Weber, Suter, Hamhuis) are likely untouchable, either due to no-trade clauses or their current value to the franchise. I'd exclude Joel Ward and Kevin Klein as well, due to Ward's irreplaceable role as an all-around player, and Klein being one of the few defensemen left on the team with any NHL experience. And after all the years spent grooming him, you just know Pekka Rinne isn't going anywhere (not that Boston needs a #1 goalie anyway).
So that leaves us with the following...
I can already hear most Predators fans yelling "good riddance!", but Radulov's NHL rights might prove to be an interesting portion of any deal. While he's a high-caliber talent worthy of Boston's attention, the little matter of if, and when, Radulov wants to return to the NHL is an open question. If Poile can carve some present-day hockey value out of Radulov's rights at this point, that would be a major boost to the organization.
Future Draft Picks
David Poile loves to stockpile draft picks, particularly middle- to late-round ones, but this may be a case where getting a proven young player is worth giving up the chance that a particular future selection turns into a 36 goal-scoring winger by 2013 or so. Especially when you consider that the number of such players the Preds have drafted and developed over the last 10 years is... 0 (Scott Hartnell's come close, and of course he's long gone).
He's talented, and on the rise, but did the draft of Ryan Ellis (who in many ways is a similar player) create room to make a move here?
Might the Bruins prefer Ellis as a backup for Tim Thomas instead of Tuukka Rask? This would certainly help the Preds manage Kessel's salary, although it would put tremendous responsibility on Pekka Rinne to handle the #1 goaltending job without an established safety net.
He's huge, he piled up points at the AHL level last year, and is now ready for the NHL. Might the Bruins want to groom him under Zdeno Chara's enormous wing?
Yes, I know he just signed a new two-year contract, but let's face it, Kessel is a proven Top Six winger, while Jones is still a work in progress.
The Bruins already boast Milan Lucic as a rough-and-tumble winger who can score, so Tootoo probably has less appeal to the Bruins than perhaps other teams.
Forget it, I just wanted to see if you were paying attention!
Certainly, bringing in Kessel at a likely price of $4-5 million per season will make an impact on Nashville's budget. According to CapGeek.com, the Preds currently have 22 players under contract for this season at a combined salary of $42.7 million (assuming Colin Wilson at the AHL level). Previous statements from David Poile indicate that the team is likely targeting the $44-46 million range for this season.
In other words, if enough salary leaves the team as part of a trade (Jones and/or Ellis, for example), the Preds might actually be able to shoehorn Kessel into the existing budget. Such an acquisition might actually help the team generate more revenue as well, but that's a long ways down the road.
So what say you, Preds fans? What do you think it would take, and what would you be willing to give up, to acquire Phil Kessel? Can our mild-mannered GM David Poile possibly defeat Brian "Lord Truculence" Burke in the quest for Kessel's services?