Throughout this offseason, rumors surrounding Pittsburgh Penguins’ star Phil Kessel have surfaced. After winning two straight Stanley Cups with the Penguins, Kessel has cemented himself as a big playoff performer. The right winger has scored 44 points in 49 playoff games over the past two seasons.
While Kessel has had success in Pittsburgh, GM Jim Rutherford has the option to try and trade the sniper if changes are needed.
In a salary-cap world, cheap and young is the key to success, especially at the wing position. Kessel has a cap hit of $6.8 million and is signed until the 2022 season, where he will be 34-years-old.
With young wingers including Conor Sheary, Bryan Rust, and Jake Guentzel expected to get raises in the coming years, the Penguins will have to manage the salary cap smartly. Getting rid of Kessel’s contract would give the Penguins some breathing room moving forward.
Abundance of wingers
The Penguins are loaded at the wing position. Patric Hornqvist, Carl Hagelin, Ryan Reaves, Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust, Tom Kuhnhackl, Scott Wilson, and Conor Sheary are all very capable wingers who have proven that they can play in the NHL.
Youngsters Daniel Sprong and Zach Aston-Reese are also likely to make their NHL debuts this season. With 10 other wingers expected to be rotating through the lineup, Kessel’s value decreases for the team.
Former Penguins’ assistant coach Rick Tocchet is one of the only coaches throughout the league that understands Phil Kessel’s game. Without Tocchet behind the bench this season, it will be interesting to see how Kessel responds.
Kessel showed his appreciation to Tocchet by calling him the best assistant coach he has ever played for.
Newly appointed assistant coach Mark Recchi will face the challenge of understanding Kessel’s playing style right from the beginning of training camp.
Phil Kessel’s trade value
Kessel only scored 23 goals this past season, which was his lowest total since the 2008 season. Conor Sheary, who had a cap hit of only $667,500 last season, also scored 23 goals. It is likely that Jake Guentzel will be hovering around the 25 goal mark next season as well. For a player who is known as a pure sniper, Kessel needs to put more pucks in the net.
For a team looking for a strong playoff performer, Kessel’s trade value is high. If by midseason the Penguins are looking for a change, expect Kessel to be moved.