Toronto gets Kessel

They're doing the Happy Dance up in Toronto, where the Maple Leafs gave up two first round picks and a second rounder for the rights to Phil Kessel, who Brian Burke promptly signed to a new, 5-year $27 million contract. According to many reports, the Predators were in the running with an offer of one first-round pick, the rights to Alexander Radulov, and a defensive prospect (rumored to be Jonathan Blum).

Setting aside the frustration of not obtaining this elite young scorer, however, the question is naturally asked (by John Glennon, for example) - where do the Preds go from here?

The good news for Predators fans is that GM David Poile was prepared to add a multi-million dollar salary to his roster, without sending a current player back in trade. While that budget might have had a little extra allowance considering that an elite, 21-year-old goal-scorer was on the market, this is a sign that Poile is indeed in a buying mood.

So what do the Preds need, and what's available? Obviously a goal-scoring winger would be nice, but depth on defense is also a concern. As much as the organization touts the development of Alexander Sulzer, Cody Franson, and Teemu Laakso, it boggles the mind to think that the Preds seriously plan on relying on three rookies in the 5-6-7 spots on the defensive depth chart.

Combine that with the tremendous turnover in penalty killing personnel, and I'll toss a name out there that I'd like to see the Predators sign - not at all a replacement for Kessel, but a guy who can bolster the 3rd pairing on D and soak up the PK minutes so that Hamhuis, Suter and Weber don't have to.

His name? Greg de Vries.

Think about it, he's already intimately familiar with how things work here, and wouldn't need a learning curve to join the organization.

Signing him would also likely leave enough room in the budget to acquire a sniper later in the season. With the salary cap for the 2010-11 season likely to fall, teams will be desperate to jettison players at the trade deadline.

Stay tuned for next week, as I'll attempt a thorough assessment of the options available out there.

In the end, I wouldn't be surprised if the uncertainty around Radulov's eventual return to the NHL represented a major disadvantage for Nashville as compared to Toronto's offer, but it was a solid effort by Poile to at least get something out of nothing. He'll likely have opportunities over the next few weeks to try that trick again, as teams make decisions on final roster spots.

And hey, Mike Santorelli had a goal and an assist last night in Carolina - who knows, we might get decent production there at roughly one-tenth the cost of Kessel...

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