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Brendan Shanahan was a little more than 24 hours from making the Toronto Maple Leafs' highest pick since 1989 on Thursday afternoon, as he met with the media in advance of the draft down in South Florida.

But all anyone wanted to do was talk about Phil Kessel. That's all anyone seems to want to talk about these days.

The Leafs brought some of this on themselves. They promised change after a dismal second half of their season, and that change is widely expected to come at the top end of their roster. Now other teams smell blood, and they're sniffing at what's available.

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Captain Dion Phaneuf is believed to be on the block. Tyler Bozak and Joffrey Lupul, too.

Kessel, however, is getting the bulk of the attention.

"There has been strong interest in not just Phil but several of our players," Shanahan said. "As I said at the end of the year, for whatever reason the mix hasn't worked out well here, but we do have some strong individuals and talented players.

"I won't say one way or the other who's going to be around and who won't – it's too early for that. With a guy like that who's such a natural goal scorer in the prime of his career – everyone wants a goal scorer. Obviously in a cap world it's not as easy for everyone to fit that player in as it was in the old days, but he is a great player and a great goal scorer, a great finisher. There has been a lot of interest."

Great is the right word for it. Only four players have scored more goals than Kessel since he joined the Leafs in 2009, part of a blockbuster deal with the Boston Bruins for two first-round picks and one second-rounder.

In the last four seasons on a Leafs team that hasn't been able to surround Kessel with much talent, he has 275 points in 294 games, or a 77-point pace over 82 games.

The only players who have produced more points in that span is a list of superstars – Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Claude Giroux and John Tavares – and those five aren't going anywhere.

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Neither are the NHL's other top offensive producers, who rarely switch teams in this sign 'em young, sign 'em long, salary-cap era. Of the top 30 scorers since 2011-12, only Tyler Seguin, Martin St. Louis and Zach Parise have played for more than one team.

One was for off-ice reasons. Another requested a deal in his twilight years.

Parise – the 29th highest scorer in this four-year span – was the lone free agent, which helps explain why he received such an enormous payday from Minnesota.

Top offensive talent is very difficult to get, as it almost never gets to free agency anymore. Scorers get paid – a lot – and, more and more, they stay with the team that drafts them.

For all the talk of the Leafs' asking price on Kessel being too high, the reality is they should be in the driver's seat on this deal. They have a player who, for whatever negatives are involved, can do something few others in the league can – and it's an element that teams can't get anywhere else.

There's demand. There's no need to rush a deal. And there shouldn't be any need to sell low.

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So the Leafs won't.

Even if Kessel's long-term future with the organization is murky.

"I wouldn't rule anything out," Shanahan said when asked if Kessel could possibly stay in Toronto long term. "I don't think anyone has said that any particular player on this team is done. I think the fact we've come out and said there are going to be some changes, obviously, when you say that the other 29 teams look at your best player and most productive player.

"He has probably garnered the most interest; he's the player that has probably gotten the most phone calls. But we haven't said one way or the other that it's got to be one way… There's a lot of interest in him from other teams, and it's well deserved [given] the way he has produced over his career and over the last several years. He had a down year last year, and he knows it. We think he'll bounce back and other teams think he'll bounce back, otherwise we wouldn't be getting phone calls."

Exactly.

And, as far as depreciating assets go, he is the best they've got to cash in.

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