Stop holding your breath for the Toronto Maple Leafs to deal away Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf, says Don Cherry.
“They’re not getting traded,” the Hockey Night in Canada icon told Sportsnet 590 The Fan on Tuesday.
“First of all, you wouldn’t get fair value for them right now. [Kessel] is a 30-goal scorer. He can put the puck in the net. And Dion, I remember when he was with Calgary, he was a Norris Trophy [finalist].”
Trade rumours have surrounded the Maple Leafs’ two highest-paid players for months. Former GM Dave Nonis said he had a deal on the table for Phaneuf at the trade deadline, and the Pittsburgh Penguins reportedly expressed interest in Kessel at the draft.
On Monday, Andy Strickland reported that the Leafs would be willing to retain $2 million of Kessel’s $8 million annual salary in order to close the right deal.
The winger’s contract includes a $4 million bonus scheduled to be paid Wednesday.
Kessel, 27, has seven seasons remaining on his contract. Captain Phanuef, 30, has six years and $42 million left on his.
Cherry believes Toronto will refuse to sell low on its core players and give new head coach Mike Babcock a chance to get their games into shape.
“[Babcock] has a knack for turning guys around and straightening them out,” Cherry said. “[Kessel] will report in shape this year, not 10 pounds over and laughing that he only skated 10 times in the summer.
“Give [Babcock] a chance with those guys, and if he can’t do anything with them, then you’re going to have to get rid of them. But they won’t be traded.”