Phil Kessel rumors aren’t going away anytime soon. TSN has officially named Phil the #1 player on their trade bait board.
Kessel rumors aren’t anything new. I think there is a conversation that exists where trading Phil Kessel makes sense. It involves nuance and logic and many of these conversations lack one or both. Phil Kessel is still an incredibly viable offensive player and replacing his production with be a real concern if the Penguins trade him. Pittsburgh is looking more top heavy these days and taking away one of the offensive pieces holding things together better be a well-executed process or else the door could slam shut for the Penguins.
You need to find another win now team to trade Kessel to. Rebuilding teams shouldn’t have an interest in Kessel’s services. You also need to find a win now team that is going to give Pittsburgh back some pieces for them to continue being a win now team, no easy. Finally, you need to find a win now team that Phil Kessel will accept a trade to. There are a lot of things that need to go right.
So far I’ve only come up with one scenario that I think would make sense for both teams and I’ve written about it before.
Phil Kessel and Justin Schultz to the Nashville Predators in exchange for PK Subban (who is #5 on the list).
PK Subban does come with an expensive cap hit at 9.0M, but he is an impact player. His contract is only for three more years and he should still be a good to very good player for those three years. Justin Schultz provides Nashville with a stop gap right defenseman to absorb the Subban loss and with Schultz being a UFA it allows them cap flexibility for some of their in-house contract extensions coming up, namely Roman Josi. If Pittsburgh isn't confident they will be able to re-sign Schultz at a rate they are comfortable with then it is another reason the trade makes sense for the Penguins.
There are some really interesting forward options on the unrestricted free agency market this year if the Penguins want to try and replace Kessel. Mats Zuccarello, Gustav Nyqvist, Jordan Eberle, and perhaps Jeff Skinner. It’s a path the Penguins could at least contemplate and has some logic to it.
The problem for the Penguins is that they don’t have a ton of cap space because of the trifecta of underperforming contracts in Jack Johnson, Erik Gudbranson, and Patric Hornqvist. That is 12.55M tied up in players who will probably never live up to their AAV’s. By probably I mean will never live up to their AAV’s.
The theme is the same it has been for the past year. Jim Rutherford carelessly wasted cap space in areas that won’t significantly help the team and thus limits the amount of creativity and flexibly they can have. This is a huge problem when trying to trade a player like Phil Kessel and then replacing him.
If locker room issues are the problem and you don’t have a lot of wiggle room with the cap it seems a lot easier to replace the coach than to revamp the roster with some of your best players.
Thanks for reading!