By Bobby Scribe.
The song goes,
“To think I did all that;
And may I say – not in a shy way,
no oh no not me,
I did it my way…”
I bet Toronto’s general manager Brian Burke is a Frank Sinatra fan and “my way” isn’t just one of his favorite songs but his mantra or, better written, his “way.”
His “way” has landed sniper Phil Kessel from the Boston Bruins in exchange for a 1st and 2nd round pick in 2010 and a 1st round pick in 2011. Burke then promptly signed the 21 year old forward who scored 36 goals and had 27 assists last season to a 5 year, 27 million dollar contract. Does that sound like a high price tag? If so, the aggressive Maple Leaf GM agrees with you. “It’s a very high price but it’s one we feel makes sense for us and I think what’s made it possible to expend those picks is two focuses: one is that he’s a young player, he’s not even 22 yet and second, we think with some of the players we acquired without giving up picks like Tyler Bozak (Robert) Slaney, (Christian) Hanson and (Jonas) Gustavsson, these are players that were they available on the draft would command a high price like that. We feel by stocking the cupboard we can take some of the cans off the shelf for the future,” Burke said. For the TSN report on the trade, click here.
I know what you may be asking Kings fans. Would our own general manager, Dean Lombardi have made this trade for the same price tag? I can sense some of you, as you read this, are pausing and others are screaming “NO!” The latter are probably right. Kessel may not fit the “character” mold we hear Dean preach so often. Also, Dean may point out that two 1st round picks and a 2nd plus over 5 millions dollars a year is arguably a lot for a player that hasn’t proven himself. We have seen Mike Cammalleri shown the door because he was arguably requesting too much, too soon (cue the “no he wasn’t and you can’t prove it chants”).
But there may be some wisdom to Burke’s strategy. This is a medium risk – high reward move.
So long as Kessel remains healthy, a trade for a player of his caliber not to mention his potential to become a 40+ goal scorer on a consistent basis for the next 10+ seasons may be well worth two 5 to 15 selection 1st round picks who may never become as good as Kessel. The Leafs didn’t give up the 1st or 2nd overall. Chances are, they would have ended up at best with the 5th to 10th selection. What are the odds one of those becomes a Kessel? Anywhere close to 50%?
An argument can be made that Kessel was a 5th overall pick so, the potential is there. Perhaps. But consider that Burke also did not give up a single roster player or prospect, just “potential” roster players and prospects he didn’t even have yet. Is a bird in the hand worth more than two in the bush? Burke certainly thinks so and he likes his bird with a penchant for lighting the red lamp. This trade also sends an interesting message to the rest of the Maple Leafs roster as well as its fan base. We are not rebuilding. We are here to win and win now. If the trade works out well for the Maples Leafs, Burke will be called a genius. If it doesn’t, he can always look to Frankie for comfort.
“I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried. I’ve had my fill; my share of losing. And now, as tears subside, I find it all amusing.”