Whew. The summer was going to drag on for the Penguins with rumors and angst. Instead, the Pittsburgh Penguins and GM Jim Rutherford rid themselves of their biggest internal issue, gained $1.9 million cap space and gained an interesting prospect. Phil Kessel gets to play for head coach Rick Tocchet in Arizona.
And that is the great Phil Kessel trade of 2019.
For Kessel, marginal prospect Dane Birks and a 2021 fourth-round pick, the Penguins will receive 25-year-old Alex Galchenyuk and prospect Pierre Olivier Joseph. And the Penguins save $1.9 million.
Galchenyuk had 19 goals last season but only 41 points in his first season with Arizona.
Galchenyuk struggled to catch on in Montreal and was dealt for Max Domi last summer. In some irony, Arizona chose Galchenyuk over the Penguins offer which included Dominik Simon or Bryan Rust.
Spot analysis of Galchenyuk is that he is a perimeter player without much defensive prowess. He was a center and winger in Montreal but former Montreal coach Claude Julien was not enthralled or happy with Galchenyuk’s attention to detail. He was a minus-19 with Arizona last season.
Galchenyuk is a prime candidate to flip for a winger more tuned to the Penguins push for honest play.
However, the Penguins also added 2017 Arizona first-round pick Pierre Olivier Joseph. The defenseman will turn 20 Monday. He is lightning fast, active in all three zones but a little bit skinny and still inconsistent.
The Galchenyuk return is less than the return the Penguins were set to receive from Minnesota, which was Jason Zucker. However, the Penguins had no choice. Kessel had not only worn out his welcome but he became a contagious problem.
Kessel popped 82 points in 82 games. However, his power play work artificially inflated his totals.
The Penguins will miss Kessel on the right wing. Galchenyuk is not his equal but the moves gives the Penguins the chance to begin the “refresh” Rutherford discussed at the draft.
Scouts have been talking about Joseph. The defenseman could be ready to move to the big show this season. He is tall but light. He is a great skater and aggressive in all three zones but sometimes over aggressive and takes bad penalties.
Does that sound like a young and taller version of a Penguins star defenseman?
What the Penguins do with the additional cash will tip the balance of the trade. They now have the ability to dabble in the free agent market.
They made a hockey trade gained a prospect and cash. Given Kessel’s rejection of undesirable locations, the Penguins ha ds were tied but Rutherford’s poker bluff worked. Arizona GM John Chayka buckled. He made a strong offer after Arizona failed to land Patrick Marleau and the Toronto first round pick last week.
Arizona head coach Rick Tocchet talked openly of needing a 20-goal scorer and go-to player. Well, now he has a reluctant star who relishes both anonymity and lack of pressure.
How the two-time Stanley Cup champion handles that and how Joseph matures will define the trade for Arizona.
In the meantime, Penguins fans can train their energy solely on Jack Johnson without wasting time to defend Kessel.
The refresh can now take the next steps. Phase one is complete and at worst Rutherford earned a draw despite impossible circumstances. He’s still got it.