The worst part about the long offseason for the Pittsburgh Penguins is when the fans and media try to run good players out of town.
On the very first question Phil Kessel fielded last night he was asked, predictably enough, about what he thought his status would be next year.
It will be fun to watch the Pittsburgh media talk like Kessel’s 82 points this season (which ranked 22nd among all NHL forwards and 12th among wingers) either didn’t matter or never existed. As if it’s just easy to replace or insignificant.
More fun still if suggesting at a $6.8 million cap hit that would be a contributing factor in wanting to move Kessel, as if a point-per-game player wouldn’t command well more than that on the open market.
The Post-Gazette’s Jason Mackey was quick to get in a first salvo today as he previewed potential roster changes:
The most likely to go are Phil Kessel and a defenseman — either Olli Maatta or Erik Gudbranson; it’ll be very tough for the Penguins to keep both of those guys, who each make $4 million or more.
While the Kessel deal won’t be personal, the Penguins will likely want to get younger and cheaper, and the current situation clearly isn’t working.
Before Kessel’s production declines — he’ll be 32 at the start of the 2019-20 season — it could be smart business for the Penguins to try and get something for one of the game’s top snipers.
Mackey’s “smart business” apparently never catches up with Kessel’s 23 team no-trade clause, which he was unwilling in Toronto to help the team trade him. But alas, there’s no room for nuanced thought in a hot take, just business. Gotta get jump at the chance to get something (lesser) for a solid player!
And what of “current situation clearly isn’t working”? Kessel literally just scored 82 points in 82 games, what about that doesn’t work? Sounds like the issues the Pens have are better addressed somewhere else.
The Athletic’s Josh Yohe ($) gives his instant reaction:
Kessel’s name will be mentioned in trade talks this summer because, well, that’s just the way it is. Kessel didn’t even deny following the game that he could be moved this summer. He struggled in the second half of the regular season, but give Kessel credit for his play in this series...Kessel showed up in this series. I don’t know that he will be traded this summer, but if he is, his career in Pittsburgh will have been short, but a legendary one. The truth is, though, if the Penguins want to make a huge shake-up, he’s the one who is most likely to be traded if a prominent forward is dealt.
That’s, well, pretty reasonable, all things considered, aside from the fact about writing about the possibility trading a top-25 scorer in the league in an article about the last game of the season. Guessing that probably doesn’t happen for Blake Wheeler or Johnny Gaudreau when their teams lose in the playoffs every season, but alas.
Probably more hot takists said worse but don’t deserve the spotlight or raising my blood pressure enough to highlight.
As always, with Phil Kessel, we will have to see what happens. Phil Kessel and trade rumors are just sort of always a status quo. Shoot, it was only five months ago last December when more “Pens are shopping Kessel” talk was going around, in the middle of the season!
So again, we’ll just leave this here so it all applies:
However, given the very restrictive 23-team no trade clause, and the fact Kessel has 29 points in 26 games, it seems almost impossible to imagine a realistic scenario where Pittsburgh can trade Phil Kessel and not seriously downgrade the talent level of their team.
There’s no incentive for anyone to pay a high trade price for Kessel, just as the Pens themselves basically only gave two assets of value (Kasperi Kapanen and a lottery-protected 1st round pick) to get Kessel. Such a return isn’t going to improve the Pens in the short-term, so there’s no way to envision him traded.
The Pens may or may not trade Kessel. They’ll probably at least consider it, but truth be told besides #87, #71 and #59 they are in a position where they need to consider a lot of personnel moves right now to improve.
If improving and competing for a Stanley Cup in 2020 is the goal (and it is), trading Phil Kessel doesn’t get the Pens closer to it. But that surely isn’t going to stop the media in the coming hours, days, weeks and months. The takes will be coming in hot and heavy for the foreseeable future and, of course, Kessel will be a primary target.