The Toronto Maple Leafs traded Kessel, Tyler Biggs, Tim Erixon and a 2016 second-round draft pick to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Kasperi Kapanen, Nick Spaling, Scott Harrington, a 2016 first-round draft pick and a 2016 third-round draft pick on July 1.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have traded Phil Kessel to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
According to a press release on the Maple Leafs' official website, Toronto traded Kessel, Tyler Biggs, Tim Erixon and a 2016 second-round draft pick to Pittsburgh for Kasperi Kapanen, Nick Spaling, Scott Harrington, a 2016 first-round draft pick and a 2016 third-round draft pick.
The second-round draft choice the Maple Leafs gave up was previously acquired from the Penguins on Feb. 25, 2015, per the former's official website.
The Maple Leafs now have 12 draft picks for 2016, with five of them in the first three rounds. The team worked on the Kessel trade during the 2015 NHL draft last week, per The Toronto Star's Kevin McGran.
Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan told The Canadian Press (via TSN.ca) the team had to make the move because the team hasn't been as competitive as he had hoped:
"Phil is certainly a talented player, but we know that changes had to come. What we were doing here as a group wasn't working, and we were setting a bit of new direction for our club and building it differently.
"When you recognize that a group is maybe not going to get to the ultimate place that maybe you want it to be, you put out the message to the rest of the world at the end of the season that you're willing to make changes.
"The way that our team was assembled and going forward it wasn't going to get much better.
"We gave up a heck of a player; a very, very productive player. I think it's a good fit for Phil."
Shanahan told The Toronto Star on Wednesday the move was meant as a building block and a way of sending a message to his players:
"This is really about a recognition on our part that the group we assembled here wasn't good enough.
"We are here to build a team that is capable of winning a Stanley Cup. There are no shortcuts.
"We've created a lot of cap space to give us flexibility moving forward. It's our job to turn picks into prospects and prospects into productive Leafs. That will take time.
"This will be certainly a shock to a lot of players and a message to our group. With Mike Babcock getting hired, and what he will bring to that group every day, we're going to see what kind of people can either keep up or be left behind."
By trading Kessel, the Maple Leafs retain 15 percent of his $8 million salary ($1.2 million) for the next seven years. Leafs management composed of Shanahan, Mark Hunter, Kyle Dubas and Brandon Pridham decided the core composed of Kessel, Dion Phaneuf, Tyler Bozak and Joffrey Lupul was the answer in bringing Toronto back to elite status, per The Canadian Press.
The Penguins now have Kessel, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to make them a force to be reckoned with in the NHL's Eastern Conference.
ESPN's Katie Strang reported on Wednesday that one of Pittsburgh general manager Jim Rutherford's offseason priorities was to lock up a top-six winger. He gets that and more in Kessel.
Rutherford told Strang he considers Kessel "a pure goal scorer":
"I believe we improved our team. It's hard to score goals in this league. We play a lot of one-goal games and when you can get a pure goal scorer, that's going to give you a better chance to win games."
Jim Rutherford: “I am very excited about what happened today. We worked on this deal with Toronto for over a month."— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) July 1, 2015
Rutherford also said Kessel should benefit from the trade after the rough season he had with the Maple Leafs, per The Canadian Press:
"He went there under the microscope from Day One, he was always the guy. He was the guy that was blamed when things weren't going swell. And he doesn't have to be the guy here. We've got a bunch of them."
"We are happy to have him, he has a ton of speed and a great scoring touch. He will help our team a lot," Crosby wrote in an email to ESPN's Pierre LeBrun, per Strang.
Kessel was rumored to be on the trading block "for some time now," per ESPN.
Kessel, who had five years left on his contract with the Maple Leafs, recorded 25 goals and 36 assists for 61 points for Toronto in 2014-15. The Maple Leafs finished 30-44-8 to miss the playoffs for the ninth time in the past 10 seasons, per Hockey-Reference.com.
Make sure to log on to I4U News for the latest trends and developments for the geek mind.
Don't Miss: Nintendo Switch: Everything You Need To Know
Don't Miss: iPhone 8: Everything You Need to Know