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Leafs acquire rights to Kessel

NHL.com @NHL

TORONTO (AP) -The Toronto Maple Leafs have acquired the rights to Phil Kessel after months of talks with the Boston Bruins, the teams said Friday.

In return for the rights to negotiate with the restricted free agent, Toronto sent a first and second-round pick in the 2010 draft to Boston, along with another first-round pick in 2011.

Kessel scored 36 goals and added 24 assists in 70 games with Boston last season.

The 21-year-old forward, who's entry-level deal expired after last season, failed to negotiate a contract extension with Boston in the offseason.

The Bruins picked Kessel fifth overall in the 2005 draft. Kessel had shoulder surgery over the summer and won't be ready to play until at least November.

The trade represents a possible change in strategy for Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke. Up until now, he's been content to stock up on draft picks and defenseman, but has done little to bolster the Leafs' offense.

While giving up three high draft picks is a big price for Kessel's negotiating rights, the Leafs also have several promising rookies in Tyler Bozak, Viktor Stalberg, Nazem Kadri and Christian Hanson, all of whom have scored in the team's first two preseason games.

Burke, who nearly had a deal in place with Boston for Kessel at the draft, didn't give up his pursuit of the talented forward. His job was made easier last week when Kessel broke off talks with the Bruins.

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