In the preceding weeks and days, TSN Insiders Bob McKenzie and Pierre LeBrun have confirmed that Phil Kessel will most likely be traded this summer. Following the first official Kessel trade rumors this week, TSN’s held a panel discussion to explore Kessel’s value and analyst Craig Button sang sweet music to Penguins and Kessel fans ears.
Button was entirely bullish on Kessel’s value.
“Extreme attractive. He’s a point per game player who has shown no signs of decline in his game,” Button said. “It’s so interesting to think–OK, it gets to the point we start maligning Phil Kessel again.”
Kessel scored 82 points in 82 games this season, including 27 goals. For nine straight seasons, Kessel has played every game, too. The enigmatic winger has reportedly clashed with Penguins coaches. Button did not leave any doubt on which side of the debate he falls.
“The Pittsburgh Penguins have serious cap issues. So now they look at Phil Kessel. Blame Phil Kessel for their woes,” Button barked. “Two Stanley Cups, a point per game player. A $6.8 million cap hit.”
“I’ll tell you what, you want scoring, you want consistency, I want Phil Kessel.”
Button just gained thousands of new Penguins followers. Unfortunately, the online video is not available in the U.S., but Canadian readers may watch the video here. Button wasn’t done firing away in defense of Kessel.
“Take advantage of the problems Pittsburgh has with the salary cap and get this guy because he will help you and produce points.”
Kessel has 174 points over the past two seasons which makes him one of the leading scorers in the NHL over that time. A minus-19 rating and other game deficiencies combined with locker room friction and the Penguins embarrassing Round One loss prompted Penguins GM Jim Rutherford to consider big changes to the Penguins
Former NHL player and TSN analyst Dave Poulin was also the other half of the panel discussion. He offered a slightly different though Kessel positive take, too.
“I totally agree with all of the skills, but I think Phil Kessel is an acquired taste and its run its course in Pittsburgh,” Poulin conceded. “The numbers are actually remarkable. His highest point years are actually his last two years with 92 and 82 points. He’s won two Stanley Cups with 22 and 23 points in the Cup years.”
As a former NHL player, Poulin did provide more insight into the situation.
“He’s answered everything on the ice. From a personal standpoint, maybe a motivational standpoint, for him–he’s run his course,” Poulin continued. “He’s a star player with star talent who can’t be your star player. He’s a complimentary star to superstars.”
“The abilities are there, no question. It has to be the right fit.”
PHN’s Dan Kingerski offered a different take on the Kessel trade discussion Friday and attempted to explain the rumored low return for Kessel.
Thus far this offseason, the Penguins only move has been to sign depth defenseman Chad Ruhwedel to a two-year $1.3 million contract, though Jim Rutherford has also refused to confirm Evgeni Malkin will be a part of next year’s team and head coach Mike Sullivan seemed to single out Kessel’s deficiencies when he explained what his team needed to improve for next season.
Regardless of the Penguins feelings, the TSN panel and especially Button made his feelings known, too.