Last week’s acquisition of Phil Kessel will force Burke to alter course. The benefit to tanking the season is gone when you don’t have your first round pick. Taylor Hall will not be putting on a Leafs jersey on draft day (barring a trade or miraculous collapse of his value), and as such Burke has to be setting his sights on the playoffs. Without the draft pick, there will not be pressure from the fans to tank the season for a top pick, fans frustrated with not being good enough to make the playoffs, but not being bad enough to get a franchise changer like Crosby or Ovechkin.
Kessel is a great young talent who is fun to watch and at 23 years old still has not reached peak performance and has the potential to score 50 goals in the NHL. I'm only going to say this once, good on you Leafs for doing this. I believe that is fair market value for a known entity. A draft pick however valuable is not a guaranteed sniper. He'll be fun to watch, meaning that the watching of Leaf games won't be so painful as to qualify as torture under the Geneva Conventions. I thought I remembered hearing a story that authorities at Gitmo prevented a terrorist attack because extracted high level intel by subjecting a suspect to Leaf hockey in a continuous loop. Sadly, it caused permanent psychological damage that no amount of therapy can reverse.
The Leafs are now a better team, and without their draft pick have no incentive to tank the season. This will be a more entertaining team than last season, and they may even challenge for 8th spot only to get slaughtered by Washington. The catch is that they would have been better off trading the Kadri pick and Kaberle at the draft. But now that they have Kessel and no 2010 pick, they have to try to win so suddenly it benefits them to play Kaberle. They still have too many D so they have to move somebody. We will see what happens. One thing is for certain, this hurts Kessel's value in hockey pools this season. Surgery, plus he goes from one of the league's best teams to one of the league's worst teams. His numbers have to take a big hit.