Cue the alarm for Leafs fans who finally saw some value in the playoffs for the player who eventually cost them Tyler Seguin, Dougie Hamilton and Jared Knight (I know, I know, let's pretend that's how it happened). If he doesn't want to negotiate in-season, that means they'd have to wait until next summer to get it done. That's cutting it close and risking that he might just walk away as an Unrestricted Free Agent with no compensation to the Leafs.
Phil Kessel is a famously private and shy individual, and is relatively awkward in his dealings with the suffocating media presence there. The conventional wisdom is that he's not a good fit in Toronto and might thrive in an environment like Carolina or Phoenix where the public attention would be greatly reduced. So to hear him say that he's not going to negotiate an extension now has got to send a cold chill down the spine of the Leafs organization.
We could blame Dave Nonis for not having this wrapped up on July 1, but they were busy chasing David Clarkson and Tyler Bozak, among other lesser fish. Of course, the scuttlebutt is that Mr. Bozak was re-signed as Kessel-bait, seeing as they're apparently friends on and off the ice, so that's one reason they overpaid him. Then again, how much will that contract sting if Phil Kessel bolts anyway?
Further, Dave Nonis still doesn't know how much money he'll have left over next season after signing Cody Franson or Nazem Kadri, so that might be part of his thinking, he not wanting to put the cart before the horses, wanting to take care of his 2013 free agents before worrying about next year's, but it might have taken more time than he thought and have blown up in his face.
Thank you Nazem Kadri, you're the gift that keeps on giving.
So the Leafs may want to trade Phil Kessel now, sell high after he answered a lot of critics during the series against the Bruins. Those who doubted his character and whether he was just a fancy scorer but not a clutch player. If he's planning to walk at the end of the season, trading him now will get the Leafs near full-value, especially if Dave Nonis engages his agent and sends him to a preferred destination, one that has a high confidence they can extend his contract.
But there's another reason to trade him now, and it's plain to see when you look at his Team USA picture. Ignore the horrible jersey for a second, let's not get into that, I don't want to get off on a rant, enough commenters have torn that to shreds already. But really, why do Nike and Reebok feel they have to 'improve' on the classic hockey sweater, forever coming up with space age fabric that are "lighter, stretchier, and don't absorb sweat"? When was the last time you were on the ice and thought "I'd be having a much better game if my jersey wasn't so sweat-soaked and unyielding to my movements, it's the only thing that's keeping me from getting all Larry Robinson on their ass"? Exactly, never. They're forever re-inventing the wheel and coming up with oblong oval things that they assure us will be better.
Look, if hockey players wanted tight stretchy satiny swishy silky jerseys, they'd be soccer players. Cut it out and get us a regular jersey that doesn't suck. Hockey isn't football or baseball or triathlon or soccer, it's hockey.
Anyway, rant averted. Getting back to the Phil Kessel picture, one of the awkward Team USA photos, and ignoring the ignoble jerseys... does that look like a player set to have a career year? To blast out of the gates and go on a torrid streak that would increase his value for a contender eager for a scoring winger? Or does it look like a disinterested guy who hasn't done any training all summer? And a guy who might go into a funk that would be a deep mystery that Mark Masters will delve into daily next season.
If Phil Kessel is a stock, I'm on the horn with my broker screaming: "SELL! SELL! SELL!..."