The Pittsburgh Penguins are now nearly 30 games into the 2018 - 2019 National Hockey League regular season and they still find themselves in the bottom half of the Metropolitan division. It is not something the Penguins have been accustomed to during their recent run of success and with the window slowly closing on players like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin you know that Penguins' general manager Jim Rutherford wants to do everything in his power to keep his team contending for as long as he has those two superstars available to him.
As a result rumors have been flying wildly around the Penguins since the start of their struggles with the loudest being the rumored trade talk involving forward Daniel Sprong. As we now know Sprong was in fact traded to the Anaheim Ducks but the rumors surrounding the Penguins have not died down since that move, in fact if anything they appear to have gained some significant steam.
Last week for the first time this season we heard the name of Phil Kessel brought up which came as somewhat of a surprise given the fact that he is having a fairly strong offensive season. That being said though Kessel's personality has worn it's welcome 2 cities already and there were signs last season that both he and head coach Mike Sullivan were doing some serious butting of heads at times, times in which Kessel's name was being mentioned loudly and often in trade rumors.
TSN NHL insider Bob McKenzie was asked recently to comment on those rumors and he did exactly that. Surprisingly McKenzie's comments indicated that Kesssel, and even possibly a player like Penguins star defenseman Kris Letang, could in fact be moved this season if the price was right.
“Well, from the moment that the Penguins got off to a slow start this year - once it was by the two or three or four-week mark - Jimmy Rutherford realized that the slow start wasn’t just a slow start, that there was maybe something wrong with the team,” said McKenzie as per Nichols on Hockey. “He basically made it abundantly clear there’s two untouchables on this team: One is Sidney Crosby, the other one is Evgeni Malkin. So Phil Kessel, Kris Letang, and you name it - anybody else can be had for the right price.”
“So I just think it’s Jimmy Rutherford being open to trading anybody not named Crosby or Malkin. But anybody recognizing there would be a real significant premium for a player like Phil Kessel if they were to go down that road.”
Kessel now had 33 points on the season, including 12 goals, through the first 29 games of the year so it's not hard to imagine that there would be a suitor out there for his services. That being said though the Penguins want to win now so they would want a similar player or players in return for Kessel and I'm not sure I see a team out there that could make that work.