Kingerski: Kessel Trade Veto Means Penguins Have Lost All Leverage
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Kingerski: Kessel Trade Veto Means Penguins Have Lost All Leverage

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History may be repeating itself as a team attempting a Phil Kessel trade has lost all leverage they may have had in trade negotiations. Kessel has indeed nixed a trade to the tropical paradise of Minnesota, according to a report from the Athletic. As a result, the Penguins cards have been shown to the table. Opponents know the expected return and now the Penguins weakened position.

Any advantage the Penguins had in negotiations is gone.

Kessel has a modified no movement and modified no-trade clause according to CapFriendly.com. By virtue of the eight-year, $64 million contract Kessel signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs and then GM Brian Burke, Kessel may submit an eight-team trade list and veto deals to any team not on that list.

It was always somewhat unusual that Burke signed Kessel to the monster deal, as Burke was famous, or infamous, in Toronto for saying his team needed more “truculence.” Kessel is far from a truculent player. And history may be repeating itself, too. As Toronto tried to trade Kessel, suitors dropped off, one by one, until only Jim Rutherford and the Penguins remained.

The Penguins had all of the leverage in the summer of 2015, and they knew it. It is Deja Vu as some team has just figured out they have the advantage on the Penguins in the summer of 2019.

According to the Athletic, Kessel put the kibosh on a deal which would have sent him to the Minnesota Wild. The Penguins would have received a package featuring Jason Zucker.

Zucker makes $5.5 million for the next three seasons but popped only 42 points (21g, 21a) this season. Minnesota was thrust into head-scratching mode as Minnesota GM Paul Fenton personally spoke with Kessel who should also be very familiar with the market by virtue of playing college hockey at the U of Minnesota.

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Kessel’s reasons included Minnesota’s perceived inability to contend for a Stanley Cup in the next couple of years.

If that is Kessel’s absolute priority, the Penguins are in trouble. There simply aren’t many successful teams which want to take on a 31-year old winger who is now on the outs with his current club and is generally regarded as difficult to coach.

Owners or GMs may look at Kessel as a guy whom fans love and who could add some offense, but how many successful teams with successful coaches want to enter into the Kessel universe? Further, how many of those teams have cap space to add a $6.8 million player? That’s a rhetorical question. We already know the answer is a small number of teams.

Adding to the difficulty, how many of those teams which are willing to take on Kessel are on Kessel’s approved list? That’s not a rhetorical question, it is the $64 million question.

Calgary? Carolina? Would Penguins GM Jim Rutherford deal with rivals Washington or New Jersey? Could New Jersey GM Ray Shero pick up the phone to add to his rebuilding team–and would Kessel bother to take his call to approve a deal?

Of course, Arizona and head coach Rick Tocchet are widely believed to be on Kessel’s list but no one has yet confirmed it. Arizona isn’t exactly overflowing with talent. They didn’t have a 20-goal scorer this season and second-year speedster Clayton Keller was the team leading scorer with 47 points (14g, 33a).

Since Arizona is unlikely to part with young, cost-controlled players like Keller, they don’t have much else. A quick look at Arizona statistics with low point totals and huge minus ratings. Not exactly a bumper crop to pick from.

So, which GM with salary cap space and an immediate chance to win, will see the potential value of a point-per-game player and power play playmaker, then convince his coach that it is worth the hassle? And will Kessel accept that team?

There are many questions but the only clear answer at this moment is the Penguins have lost all leverage to deal Kessel but may have to do so anyway.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now owner, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Dean

    May 28, 2019 at 9:38 am

    Dan, let me assure you that the sky is not falling.

    Kessel has tremendous value; he is a top 5 RW with 3 years left on his contract for just $6.8M. Which is why the reports say that multiple teams are interested in him.

    Can we get the same value for him if he played like he did 2 years ago and he was a model teammate? Absolutely not!

    Does it mean that we may have to trade him to a division competitor? Maybe!

    Does it mean that we may have to take a trade that the return does not match Kessel’s value? Absolutely!

    However, there are several approaches here that the Pens can take and still come out fine.

    Trade Kessel for:

    a couple of prospects and mid round picks (even under achieving prospects) free up cap space and use the money in free agencies. This is the best option for the pens if they can get a deal done before top free agents are off the board. That way they get to pick the player they want.
    a struggling young over paid player like Alex Galchenyuk (1 year left at $4.9M) , who ended the season as the 4th line LW for AZ plus a pick or prospect. If pens can’t turn Galchenyuk (who also struggled in Montreal) play around we clear space in a year and spend in free agencies.
    a 40-50 point out of favor guy that fits the way Sullivan wants to play (Zucker type) and dump Johnson’s bad contract.

    Bottom line is that someone will want Kessel for one of the 3 scenarios listed or another similar one.

    I guess I am not sure what leverage the Pens had that you think they lost.

    They were always taking a lesser value for Kessel then what he is really worth. The real question is can they find a deal that can make them better this year and forward.

  2. Timm

    May 28, 2019 at 1:01 pm

    The guy still had 82 points on a slumping season. But he’s “difficult to coach”. Sounds like an irritaional move from Pens management, dead set on moving a player just because he stands up to them (and because he’s over 30). And they’ll probably dump him for a 30-40 point guy, just because. And that’s why there will be no more cups. He still produces and the fans love him. Be creative and find a way to work with the guy for a couple more years.

    • James from Florida

      May 28, 2019 at 2:45 pm

      But he was still a -19 for 2018/2019, kinda hard to work with him when he avoids contact, doesn’t play a 2 way game and essentially doesn’t buy in to the game plan.

      Scoring is great but being completely one dimensional isn’t going to cut it on this team right now.

      Face it the guy has worn out his welcome with the Pens, Leafs, Bruins and team USA.

      It seems like he goes out of his way to alienate himself, it’s really time for him to move on but he makes it a bit harder to move him because he can dictate his destination.

      • Timm

        May 28, 2019 at 4:41 pm

        I have a better idea… let’s get Hagelin and Bonino back and make those 3 lodge together, bathe together, or whatever takes to get that HBK chemistry back! Not only did the fans and teammates love him then, but I bet the management was pretty happy with him when his line dominated all playoff scoring!

        Sid & Geno’s lines may get you so far, but that scorching 3rd line scoring is what’s missing from the team now. Maybe instead of dumping one of the best wrist shots in the league, they should find a new set of guys that gel with him? I could see McCann maybe. Honestly, Simon might be the guy since he’s such a play maker. He could grind and set up Phil. Not sure I ever saw them together last year. Simon was always 1st or 4th line. Ugh, I miss Hagelin.

        • Bryan Michael Scott Gatto

          May 29, 2019 at 11:24 am

          The HBK Line was one of the best 3rd lines in recent memory, everything had to fall perfectly for that to happen. GMJR would be hard pressed to make that happen again. I would love a 3rd line like that again but I don’t think Kessel is as willing to play on the 3rd line as he was then.

  3. Edgar

    May 28, 2019 at 6:12 pm

    Doesn’t it seem to make more sense to ask Phil if he’d waive before you negotiate with other teams? Just thinking outside the box here.

  4. Broham

    May 28, 2019 at 8:10 pm

    Can’t see the benefit in trading Kessel. Sully playing favorites hasn’t paid off yet (Flower, Cole, and now Kessel?).

    • Matt Luda

      May 29, 2019 at 2:10 am

      Uh, the Pens won two Stanley Cups with MAF in a back-up role, remember? And the guy hasn’t won squat since he left, either.

  5. Keith Yanda

    May 28, 2019 at 11:45 pm

    How about a three team swap. Then theoretically, everyone gets someone/something that they’re interested in.

  6. Matt Luda

    May 29, 2019 at 2:08 am

    Simple solution: Tell Kessel to accept a trade or be prepared for a bottom six role (and limited PP time) next season.

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