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.
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.