Article taken from:
New York Islanders Net - http://islesnet.blogspot.com
Although the dog days of summer are here, it has been quite easy to continue the hockey talk considering the number of free agents that are still available, and the numerous trade winds that all seem to be blowing in the New York Islanders direction. Obviously, as I mentioned in a previous article, the Islanders cap space ($23.265 million), and the fact that they are about $6 million under the salary cap floor, helps to contribute to the larger than normal talk about the Islanders.
While I have already addressed unrestricted free agent players, such as Alex Tanguay in his own article, and players such as Alexei Kovalev, Todd Bertuzzi, and several others in other articles, I will change my focus in this write-up. What I plan to do in this article is to focus on the area of restricted free agents, specifically Phil Kessel of the Boston Bruins. While signing restricted free agents brings about other stipulations, such as the loss of draft picks in proportion to the level of the salary, it is sometimes worth giving up those draft picks if the player is of high quality. While some will argue that the use of offer sheets is a low-ball move, it is part of the newly agreed upon Collective Bargaining Agreement, and therefore it is fair game to all parties involved.
was drafted fifth overall in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft by the Boston Bruins (same year as Okposo, and just two picks before him). Born October 2nd, 1987, Phil Kessel is currently only 21 years old and is without a doubt one of the budding stars in the National Hockey League. At 6 feet tall, and weighing in at 180 pounds, Kessel still has the ability to put on some extra weight, however, he has pretty much topped out in terms of height.
, a right-handed shot, is blessed with not only a wicked wrist shot, but he also has quite a hard slap shot. His wrist shot, which is also deadly accurate, was his weapon of choice when victimizing opposing goalies this past season and throughout his career. On the power play, Kessel has also been quite the deadly force. His contributions helped Boston to have one of the top power plays in the league last year. Furthermore, Kessel’s skating is considered one of the top aspects of his game. Blessed with great speed and acceleration, as well as the ability to turn on a dime, Kessel would be a great fit in Gordon’s system. Before anyone asks, Kessel was drafted in 2006 and made the Bruins line-up that same year; therefore, he never played full-time for Gordon in Providence. If he had been given the opportunity to play in Providence for Gordon, he would have been a perfect fit for the overspeed system. I use the term “full-time” because he only appeared in two games in Providence when coming back from injury.
Just for the stake of laying out numbers, so that they can be analyzed, here are Kessel’s numbers over the past three seasons in the NHL:
2006-2007: 70 GP, 11 G, 18 A, 29 Pts
2007-2008: 82 GP, 19 G, 18A, 37 Pts
2008-2009: 70GP, 36 G
, 24 A, 60 Pts
Kessel’s playoff performance this year should also be duly noted, as in 11 games he posted 6 goals and 5 assists for 11 points, and was a +7. Pretty damn good numbers all around for a 21-year-old kid who still is going to develop further!
What does any of this have to do with the Islanders? The Boston Bruins, last year’s Eastern Conference Champions, are currently running into some salary cap issues. The NHL and NHLPA have agreed upon a salary cap of $56.8 million in the upcoming season, and word around the league is that the salary cap could drop as low as $52 million for the 2010-2011 season. Currently, the Bruins have approximately $54 million locked up in salary for the upcoming 2009-2010 season, and have yet to resign restricted free agent Phil Kessel, who was their leading goal scorer. There is also no way that Kessel is going to accept a salary of $2.5 million in order to stick around with the Bruins.
The New York Islanders, who are currently $23 million dollars under the salary cap, and about $6 million under the salary floor for the upcoming season, do have the ability to throw around some money, and in fact, have to throw around some money in order to reach that salary floor by the beginning of the season.
What am I getting at? Let me put it this way: Kessel is a 21 year old player who is not only very fast, but a future first-line and perennial all-star who plays both sides of the puck extremely well. What are the Islanders missing in their organization? Exactly this kind of player! While Kessel is listed as a center, he enjoyed a highly successful season playing winger on Krejci’s line, and playing as a winger on the top power play for the Bruins. For the New York Islanders, he or Tavares could shift to wing while the other plays center on the top line after the departure of Doug Weight, and the two of them would be quite the dynamic duo. Utilizing Bailey as a second-line center, and having Kyle Okposo and Sean Bergenheim in the mix as well, and the Islanders would finally have quite the formidable top-6.
What do the Islanders have to do to get him? In my opinion, Garth Snow should sit and wait until around September 10th. At this point in time, if Kessel is still available as a restricted free agent (he did not file for arbitration), Garth Snow should throw an offer sheet at Phil Kessel, somewhere in the area of 6 years at $4 million per year. At that price, Kessel is well worth the money, as he contributes tremendously to a team in all facets of the game, and the Islanders could finally get their hands on that ever-elusive high-scoring winger/center. I do believe he would take a contract like this, as well, considering the fact with a decreasing salary cap, contracts will start to be given for smaller sums of money. Plus, it is a six year security leading him into the prime of his career!
The Boston Bruins would have approximately seven days to match the offer, or they would have to let Kessel sign with the Islanders and receive compensatory picks from the Islanders in exchange for Kessel’s services. The reason why I believe the Bruins would not match the offer is because, if they chose to match the offer, they would only have approximately two weeks in order to dump salary from their roster, and it’s doubtful any team in the Eastern Conference would be willing to help them out. Furthermore, many teams would be unable to help them out due to their own cap issues that close to the start of the season.
If this were to happen, there would obviously be somewhat of a painful price to pay. Going to the Boston Bruins would be the New York Islanders first round pick, second round pick, and third round pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Sounds like a lot, right?
To keep it in perspective, the 2010 NHL Entry Draft is considered to be one of the weakest drafts in the last twenty years, and some have even gone as far to say that it is even weaker than the 1999 draft. It is believed that there will be three players at the top of the draft who are considered excellent prospects, and then a significant drop off from there to players who will take several years to develop. While Taylor Hall, another great center from the OHL, will be at the top of the upcoming draft class, I believe that the Islanders will have a much better season than they did last year with the addition of Tavares, the maturation of Okposo, Bailey, and Gervais, and the presence of a solid goaltending tandem in Roloson and DiPietro. A better season would mean that the Islanders would have a very small chance of landing one of those top three picks, and could therefore consider that first pick to be more expendable. As for the second and third round picks in a weak draft, I would not mind giving them up for a player of Kessel’s stature, and I am usually very conservative when it comes to keeping draft picks rather than trading them away.
The question I pose to you: Do you believe that Phil Kessel is worth a mediocre first round pick, a second round pick, and a third round pick in what is considered to be one of the worst drafts in 20 years? It is essentially a trade I am asking you to analyze, so please feel free to do so in the comments section or send me an email at [email][email protected]
My opinion: I would do it in a heartbeat. This is what the line-up would look like next year:
Kessel – Weight – Tavares
Bergenheim – Bailey – Okposo
Comeau – Nielsen – Hunter
Enforcer (trade) – Park - Jackman
Much better than last year, in my opinion!