The Toronto Maple Leafs have traded Phil Kessel to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
In return Toronto gets centre Nick Spaling, forward Kasperi Kapanen, defenceman Scott Harrington, plus first- and third-round picks from 2016. Toronto will retain $1.2 million of Kessel’s salary in each of the next seven seasons.
The Leafs are also sending forward Tyler Biggs, defenceman Tim Erixon and a 2016 second-round pick to Pittsburgh.
There are a number of conditions on the draft picks involved in this trade. Details from the Penguins:
— If Pittsburgh qualifies for the 2016 post-season, Toronto will receive the Penguins’ 2016 first-round draft pick; and the Penguins will receive Toronto’s 2016 second-round selection. The second-round pick would be the one Toronto originally acquired from Pittsburgh for Daniel Winnik earlier this year.
— Should Pittsburgh miss the 2016 playoffs, Toronto will INSTEAD receive the Penguins’ 2017 first-round pick; with Pittsburgh getting Toronto’s 2017 second-round selection in return.
— If the Penguins were to miss the post-season the next two years, Toronto would receive Pittsburgh’s 2017 second-round draft pick and Pittsburgh would not receive a draft pick.
The Penguins had been pursuing Kessel for the past week. The 27-year-old is entering the second year of an eight-year contract that carries an average cap hit of $8 million per season. Kessel, who has exceeded the 30-goal mark in four of the last six seasons, registered 25 goals, 36 assists with a minus-34 rating in 82 games for Toronto this past season.
Following last weekend’s NHL Draft, Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan told reporters “there were some discussions initiated” but that they weren’t in a rush to pull the trigger on a trade involving a core player at the draft.
Ironically, Shanahan also said that he didn’t expect the Leafs would make big headlines when free agency opened on July 1.
“Phil’s certainly a very talented player, but we knew changes had to come,” Shanahan told reporters in Toronto Wednesday. “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. 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.”
The Leafs and Penguins meet for the first time on Oct. 17 in Pittsburgh and Kessel will make his return to Toronto on Oct. 31.
Spaling, a 26-year-old native of Palmerston, Ont., registered 27 points in 82 games with the Penguins last season.
Kapanen, the son of former NHLer Sami Kapanen, was selected 22nd overall by the Penguins at the 2014 draft. The 18-year-old Finnish winger is a small, quick, skilled forward who fits the mould of the type of players the Leafs have been adding of late. He spent the last three seasons with the Kalpa organization in the Finnish Elite League. He also played four games with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the American Hockey League.
Harrington was one of Pittsburgh’s top defensive prospects, drafted 54th overall in 2011. The 22-year-old spent four seasons with the London Knights, which means Leafs co-interim GM Mark Hunter is quite familiar with him.
Biggs leaves the Maple Leafs organization without ever having played a regular season game for the club despite being the 22nd-overall pick in 2011. He had five point in 47 games with the Toronto Marlies last season and added six points in 18 games for the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears.
Erixon spent had stints with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Chicago Blackhawks and Leafs last year totalling seven points in 22 games.