Is it gaming the system or using it to maximum effect? With a modified no-trade clause, Pittsburgh Penguins winger Phil Kessel was able to quash a trade to Minnesota. The Penguins may only trade Kessel to eight teams without his prior approval. With respect to Spiderman, with great power comes great chances to use it.
It is not uncommon for a player with a shorter window on the back side of his career to stack the deck for maximum control of the future, according to TSN Insider Bob McKenzie.
And so the guessing game is less likely about which teams are on the official list and more about which teams are on the unofficial desired destinations list. Minnesota is publicly off the list, and common sense removes Boston and Toronto. So, there are 27 other teams to comb through, analyze, and wonder.
Winning is always important. The tea leaves also tell us that “fit” will be necessary, too.
As a guide, we’re using the rejected Minnesota deal in which the Penguins were to receive speedy but middling scorer Jason Zucker who makes $5.5 million and scored just 42 points (21g, 21a) last season. Also, it is imperative to note we did not measure a team’s interest in Kessel. We measured the team’s ability to make a deal with assets, cap space and attractiveness for Kessel.
Kessel Trade List
In no particular order. Actually, I’m partial to No. 2 and 3 as more real-world plausible.
4. Arizona Coyotes
It seems common knowledge that Kessel would like to play for Rick Tocchet again. The words bounced off the walls around PPG so often it became accepted fact.
Arizona doesn’t have much to give and doesn’t have much to spend. The deal would be a contortion of epic proportions unless Tocchet convinced Arizona GM John Chayka to give up a young player and the Penguins would accept a bad contract in return, too.
How pleased was Arizona with Alex Galchenyuk? Media speculation long linked Galchenyuk to the Penguins, but it was Max Domi the Penguins chased, not Galchenyuk (as far as we know). Galchenyuk will make $4.9 million next season before becoming a UFA.
Ostensibly, short of giving Kessel to Arizona for draft picks and picking up part of the salary, Arizona would be a tough deal, but Kessel could force the Penguins to do so.
Cap space would not be an issue. Cash would be.
3. Calgary Flames
The Greatest American Hero called Toronto home for years and as of recently still did so a Canadian city shouldn’t scare Kessel. Calgary head coach Bill Peters coached the “soft” Carolina Hurricanes for most of four seasons before resigning last summer. Peters can coach offensive players and knows how to organize them.
Calgary also has ample assets to deal and some overpaid players, in relation to their offensive output.
Michael Frolik, 31, will make $4.3 million next season but scored just 34 points in 65 games. He’s a down line player but a responsible player, too.
Sam Bennet, 22, is an RFA who was once a top-five pick but has not filled the score sheet. In the last three seasons, Bennett has posted 26, 26, and 27 points. Could the Penguins get a flyer on a fading prospect and additional compensation?
Calgary also needs a long term answer in goal. Cue the organ music for Tristan Jarry’s inclusion?
Calgary has $14 million and needs to sign Mathew Tkachuk. They are otherwise set.
2. Nashville Predators
If only Nashville had a center who knew how to have success with a player like Phil Kessel. If only they had a Nick Bonino type player.
Oh, wait. Nashville does have Bonino, a top-flight defensive corps and Ryan Johansen is a worthy top-six center. Kyle Turris could be a nice center for Kessel, too. And Nashville needs more justification to keep Turris, who had just 23 points (7g, 16a) in 55 games.
Kessel would be a great add, but Nashville may lie in the weeds for one of the free agent wingers if they’re able to gain a little more salary cap space by dealing one of their defensemen such as P.K. Subban or Ryan Ellis.
Nashville has $7 million of cap space and 25-point scorer Colton Scissons is the highest profile RFA who remains unsigned. Financially, a Kessel deal could work with a player like Craig Smith, who can skate like the wind and his statistics are only slightly less than Zucker. Smith makes just over $4 million, too.
1. Carolina Hurricanes
The Bunch of Jerks like to have fun, they play on the rush and they don’t necessarily waste time with overly physical play. Think Kessel would fit?
Carolina may lose captain Justin Williams which would create a hole on the right side of their lineup and the team could use more scoring, anyway. This one writes itself. However, Carolina has only three forwards under contract who make more than $4 million.
An unhappy mobile defenseman for a thumping defenseman, too? And Carolina needs a goalie.
Carolina has more cap space than they’ll spend but they don’t have more cash than they can spend. Paying Kessel may stretch their budget after the new contract for Sebastian Aho and possibly Williams.