Phil Kessel traded to Penguins by Leafs
High-scoring, high-priced forward shipped out
The Toronto Maple Leafs traded high-scoring, high-priced forward Phil Kessel to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday in a deal involving six players, three draft picks and cash.
The move came just after the NHL's free-agent signing period opened, ending months of speculation about the polarizing forward's future with the Maple Leafs.
Toronto received a package including veteran forward Nick Spaling, prospects Kasperi Kapanen and Scott Harrington, a first-round draft pick in 2016 and a 2016 third-rounder.
The Leafs also sent defenceman Tim Erixon, forward prospect Tyler Biggs and a 2016 second-round pick to Pittsburgh.
Toronto reportedly will pay 15 per cent of Kessel's massive contract, which has seven years left on it at a salary-cap hit of $8 million US per season.
"Phil's certainly a very talented player, but we knew changes had to come," Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan said.
Kessel, 27, had 25 goals and 36 assists for the Leafs last season. It was the first time he failed to reach the 30-goal plateau in a full season with Toronto, which he joined prior to the 2009-10 season after arriving in a trade from Boston.
Kessel's mediocre (for him) output last season and his defensive shortcomings often riled fans, and his departure from Toronto had seemed increasingly likely with the Leafs in the midst of rebuilding their underachieving roster. The team made the post-season only once in Kessel's six seasons in Toronto, and hasn't won a playoff series since 2004.
"This is about a recognition on our part that what we've been doing here and the group that we assembled here wasn't getting the job done," Shanahan said. "We are here to build a team that is capable of winning the Stanley Cup and there are no shortcuts to go around doing that."
Kessel joins a Penguins team that has been criticized for its top-heavy construction. Despite boasting high-end stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh has won only four playoff series since winning the Stanley Cup in 2009.
In other moves Wednesday, the Leafs signed defenceman Matt Hunwick to a two-year deal reportedly worth $2.4 million US. They also re-signed forward Richard Panik and inked forward P.A. Parenteau to one-year deals.
With files from The Canadian Press