Are you completely burned out on Phil Kessel trade speculation yet? No? Well good, because here is some more!
The report from Bob McKenzie this week that a Phil Kessel-to-Minnesota trade could still actually happen continues to rattle my brain because I just can’t really see how the originally reported deal makes any sense for anyone involved. Not the Penguins. Not the Wild. Not Phil Kessel.
The Wild aren’t a Phil Kessel away from contending, while he would only add another player on the wrong side of 30 to a team that is already full of players on the wrong side of 30.
Jason Zucker is a fine player and would be a good centerpiece on a Kessel trade, and while the idea of dumping Jack Johnson’s contract is intriguing, taking back Victor Rask’s contract (and Victor Rask) is not! It doesn’t solve the Penguins’ salary cap issues or put them into a significantly better situation.
As for Kessel ... well ... why would a two-time Stanley Cup champion, a star player, and a player with control over where he ends up want to willingly go to a team on the downswing?
It just doesn’t make any sense for anyone.
But what are some Phil Kessel trade ideas that MIGHT make sense for everyone? Let’s play a fun game and think up five of them, even if we acknowledge they have almost zero chance of happening.
Basically, these are teams that could use Kessel, teams he might want to go to (in theory?), and what the Penguins might want to (or should) ask for in return.
Again, these are hypothetical. It’s a giant “what if” game. Nothing more, so don’t get mad if (or when) these do not actually happen.
To the Nashville Predators
Quite honestly I can not think of a better fit to acquire Kessel than the Predators. They are a Stanley Cup contender (which should appeal to Kessel), they need another scorer, they need somebody that can drive their power play, and even though they have almost their entire core (a very good core, I might add) locked up in place they still have a boat load of salary cap space and can easily afford him.
My proposal: The ultimate Hockey’s Future message board trade — Phil Kessel for P.K. Subban. Two contenders with star players that they are seemingly looking to trade and use it to fill massive areas of need elsewhere on their roster. The Penguins get another impact defender to go along with Kris Letang. The Predators get an impact forward that they badly need. Subban’s contract is larger than Kessel’s so the Penguins would need to shed salary elsewhere, but that can easily be done in a separate move.
Would it ever happen? The chances of it are probably under 1 percent, but it would be a hell of a lot of fun.
To the Colorado Avalanche
In all of the Kessel rumor-mongering I have not really heard of the Avalanche mentioned as a contender for his services (aside from a mention of a hypothetical fit here), but they are another team that makes a TON of sense. They are a team that is absolutely on the rise and poised to be a contender in the Western Conference for the foreseeable future. They have young stars all over the ice, but could use a little bit more secondary scoring depth around them. They have a good pipeline of young talent, they have a ton of salary cap space (even if they need to re-sign Mikko Rantanen this summer, they still have the salary cap space to go after another big player), and they have a bounty of extra draft picks.
My proposal: Kessel to Colorado for a package centered around the Avalanche’s first-round pick (No. 16 overall) and, I don’t know, someone like J.T. Compher. It doesn’t do much to make the Penguins better in the short-term, but it gives them an extra draft asset, helps them re-stock a barren cupboard, and at least accomplishes the goal of trimming some salary cap space.
Would it ever happen? Maybe a 10 percent chance. I could see the Avalanche being a potential option IF they spend close to the cap, and I imagine that 16th overall pick would be very much in play seeing as how the Avalanche have the No. 4 overall pick and Ottawa’s third-round pick for themselves.
To the Vegas Golden Knights
They keep swinging for the fences in trades and seem to have no issue finding a way to squeeze in big contracts. Their front office has quickly allowed all of the Golden Knights’ salary cap space to evaporate, but they still seem to be in the mix for another splash.
My proposal: Kessel to Vegas for one of Shea Theodore, Nate Schmidt, or Colin Miller.
All three are underrated defenders, and all three would be a significant upgrade to the Penguins’ blue line. Just like my proposed deal with Nashville up above you don’t need to add anything else to it, just a one-for-one swap.
Would it ever happen: Maybe a 25 percent chance. You have to think Kessel would almost certainly waive his no-trade clause to go to Vegas (show me an NHL player that would not do that?) and even though the Golden Knights have gone hog wild on big-name forwards the past few years their offense would look borderline unstoppable with a Kessel added to the mix. The problem would be getting them to part with one of the three defenders.
To the Arizona Coyotes
This seems to be the most talked about solution because of the Kessel-Rick Tocchet connection. I have some concerns as to how that relationship works when Tocchet is the head coach instead of the assistant coach, but that’s not for me to worry about.
The Coyotes were almost a playoff team a year ago despite a laughable injury list that seemed to add two new players (only a slight exaggeration) every single day. A healthier roster may have been good enough to get in. They are close, they are improving, and they need another big-time scorer to help get them there. Kessel could, in theory, be that scorer.
My proposal: My problem with the Coyotes as a landing spot is I would have no idea where to start asking. Is Arizona in a position where it gives up a first-round pick for a 32-year-old Kessel? They did give up a top-10 pick two years ago for Derek Stepan, so it wouldn’t be unheard of. As for players on the roster ... I just don’t know that I see an intriguing fit. I saw Alex Galchenyuk’s name mentioned this week but that doesn’t really move the needle for me. So honestly, I have no idea what to expect. The most logical trade destination based on potential interest on both sides (the other team and Kessel) probably offers the worst possible return in terms of assets. Or at least one that is not very intriguing. You have to start with at least the first-round pick and go from there.
Would it ever happen? Honestly if Kessel does get traded I think this is the destination he ends up going to. I just have no earthly idea what the return will look like.