The Phil Kessel trade was, in many ways, an eventuality. The Maple Leafs only had to find a team with the cap space — or in this case, cap space facilitated through salary retention — and will to take on a guy who had come to be perceived as a “problem” in Toronto. Of course, Kessel wasn't actually a problem, because he was in fact one of the few bright spots for what was a miserable team for his entire run in Toronto. No one wants to paint it that way because he was in some ways discourteous to the local media (i.e. he didn't put up with their BS), and he was a highly paid, high-skill player on a team that was mired in garbage water before he got there and will continue to be for at least a few more years. Those who want to run down Kessel will point to the losing, which is more or less beyond his control, because they cannot in any way denigrate the numbers or the durability. From 2009-present, he has missed exactly 12 games, and none since 2010-11 began. The 181 goals he scored in 446 games for the Leafs is fifth in the league over those six seasons. The 213 assists is eighth. He is, in fact, one of just 10 players league-wide to clear 150 goals and 200 assists in the last six seasons, and the other nine are guys everyone in the Toronto media would have run over a family member to see the Leafs acquire: Martin St. Louis, Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane, Evgeni Malkin, John Tavares, Alex Ovechkin, Jonathan Toews, Jamie Benn and Corey Perry. And while the Toronto media is obviously loath to get into the “fancy” stats (or as they are known, counting numbers with some division mixed in), over that time Kessel is also tied for fifth in terms of goals per 60 minutes, tied for 16th in assists per 60, and tied for eighth in points per 60. You really can't ask for more than that from a player. The company is more than elite. We're talking about basically a top-10 forward by just about any measure. This is and always was an elite forward we're talking about here, and Toronto has traded him for peanuts. Well, they traded him for the purpose of not paying Phil Kessel more than 15 percent of his salary for the next several years, because the team is rebuilding and they could get pieces for him. This is probably not the case with Dion Phaneuf, who seems more untradeable than Kessel was ever going to be. Kessel is at least an elite talent. Phaneuf is a borderline No. 1/2 defenseman, not that there's anything wrong with that. And, as long as we're being honest about Kessel's time in Toronto, let's also include the fact that he — in part because of his own preferences — had to lug a heavy weight up and down the ice almost every shift in the form of his best friend in the whole wide world. Tyler Bozak is not a No. 1 center in the NHL. He's not as bad as everyone makes him out to be (and he's certainly overpaid), but he's also not the kind of guy that should be feeding pucks to high-quality wingers like Kessel and James van Riemsdyk. Now, again, this is Kessel's best friend and Kessel felt comfortable with him on the ice, so who was Randy Carlyle or any other coach to break them up as long as Kessel kept filling the net with goals (which, you'll remember from above, he certainly did). But how much of a hindrance was Bozak? A pretty big one , as it turns out.
The market was going to dictate Martin St. Louis’s future in the National Hockey League as a 40-year-old forward. The market spoke, St. Louis heard it and decided that 16 seasons was long enough to call it a career, officially retiring from the NHL on Thursday. “I have been blessed to play for 16 years in the NHL; it has been an amazing ride,” he said, through the New York Rangers, his final NHL team. The winger split from the Rangers after the season, the team having acquired St. Louis from the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2014 in a blockbuster deal. He struggled offensively last season, with 21 goals and 31 assists in 74 games, the lowest offensive numbers he posted in nine years. According to the New York Post , the Rangers didn’t have a desire to bring him back for his expected cap hit for 2015-16 – St. Louis had just finished a 4-year deal with an average hit of $5.625 million – and St. Louis was unhappy with the way he was used in the postseason, where he scored one goal and six assists in 19 games in 16:30 of average ice time. With his family in Connecticut – they were a reason St. Louis requested and received a trade from Tampa Bay to New York, along with lingering bitterness from a Canadian Olympic team snub – he wanted to sign on with a team that was geographically close to home. But despite sniffs from the Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils, St. Louis opted to retire instead rather than presumably sign for significantly less than his salary last year. He retires after having been one of the most explosive point-producers on the wing in recent NHL history, despite being one of its most diminutive stars, at a listed height of 5-foot-8. He was a human pinball during his 13 years with the Lightning, bounding around the offensive zone off bigger bodies, finding his space an burying a lethal one-timer for 365 goals in 972 games. On top of that, he was instant offense for his linemates, with 588 assists during that stretch with Tampa. Overall, he had 1,033 points in 1,134 games, winning the Art Ross as the League’s top scorer in 2004 and 2013, and the both the Hart Trophy and Pearson Trophy (now the Ted Lindsay) for NHL MVP and NHLPA player of the year, respectively. He also collected the Lady Byng Trophy three times (2010, 2011, 2013) for his gentlemanly play, and won Olympic godl in Sochi. Is he a Hall of Famer? Statistically, St. Louis didn’t hit 1,100 points or 400 goals, which are commonplace benchmarks. He finished with 391 goals. But it’s hard to imagine he doesn’t meet part of the standards, as a Stanley Cup champion in 2004 with the Lightning, as an inspiring player given his vertical challenges and as a dedicated professional (outside of his falling out with the Lightning). Fare thee well, Marty St. Louis. We’ll always remember your thighs.
Here are your Puck Headlines: A glorious collection of news and views collected from the greatest blogosphere in sports and the few, the proud, the mainstream hockey media. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org . Two of the newest jerseys in the @NHL Store here in NYC. @BlueJacketsNHL @LAKings #Saad #Lucic . pic.twitter.com/vSe2H6Nu4M — Steve Mears (@MearsyNHL) July 1, 2015 • That’s a nice shiny, brand new Brandon Saad Blue Jackets jersey. Better act now before the unsigned restricted free agent gets offer-sheeted by another NHL team. [ @MearsyNHL ] • “I don’t want to say Saad got bad advice, because he’s going to get at least a 500% raise and make more money than we’ll ever dream of to play hockey. But I guess you can say that if Saad genuinely wanted to stay and would have taken less money to do it and his agent got him punted to Ohio.” [ The Committed Indian ] • The opening of free agency saw a lot of sensible deals. What gives? Are GMs getting smarter? [ Sporting News ] • “Kessel cared, but he cared in his own weird Kessel way. He wanted to win, but he wasn’t the kind of player who could bleed on the ice in an obvious lost cause – like the end of last season – night after night.” [ Globe and Mail ] • The Islanders were pretty quiet on Day 1 of free agency. Do they have some trades brewing? [ Isles Beat ] • What’s the fantasy spin of Matt Beleskey landing in Boston? [ Dobber Hockey ] • Is Beleskey worth it for the Bruins? [ Today’s Slap Shot ] • There are plenty of questions about the Vancouver Canucks’ moves so far, but GM Jim Benning deserves patience. [ Province ] • Really great first-person read about Rich Clune and his battle with sobriety. [ The Players’ Tribune ] • Good read on painkillers and culture in the NHL. [ Pension Plan Puppets ] • “NBCSN pulled in just 252,000 viewers for the first day of the draft Friday night, the smallest audience since 2012’s 207,000 and a 25 per cent drop from last year’s 337,000.” [ Awful Announcing ] • Examing the numbers of new Washington Capital Justin Williams. [ Japers’ Rink ] • Remembering the good times that Williams helped deliver in Los Angeles. [ Jewels From the Crown ] • The Dallas Stars made changes up front and in goal. So what’s up with the defense? [ Dallas Morning News ] • Bob Boughner joins the San Jose Sharks as assistant coach, while Johan Hedberg is the team’s new goaltending coach. [ Sharks ] • Scott Clemmensen has called it quits and is joining the New Jersey Devils as their goalie development coach. [ NJ.com ] • Interesting in-depth look at the LA Kings and their draft process. [ Mayor’s Manor ] • Breaking down the Zack Kassian addition for the Montreal Canadiens. [ Rabid Habs ] • The Detroit Red Wings made some good signings on Wednesday that should help keep their playoff streak alive. [ Bleacher Report ] • But more moves are needed, says Ken Holland. [ Winging It In Motown ] • This is not a good look for a national hockey columnist. [ Litter Box Cats ] • There were a number of gamble picks during the CHL Import Draft, and there are a number of general managers hoping they pay off. [ Buzzing the Net ] • Finally, here's Connor McDavid talking after taking the ice for the first time with the Edmonton Oilers: