After their disappointing start to the season, the Pittsburgh Penguins have become one of the most active teams on the trade market. They have already brought in Tanner Pearson from the Los Angeles Kings in return for Carl Hagelin and recently traded Daniel Sprong to get better depth on the back end. While we expected these types of moves to take place a few weeks ago, NHL insider Elliotte Friedman surprised us all this morning by revealing what Pens general manager Jim Rutherford has attempted to do to help his club.
In his latest 31 Thoughts column on Sportsnet, Friedman reports that the Penguins have tested the market for star forward Phil Kessel. It seems that for now, the Penguins did not get the offer they were expected for the veteran player and might have chosen to put the possibility of a transaction on hold for the moment.
'According to multiple sources, Pittsburgh “tested the market” on Phil Kessel. This one is tricky, because the Penguins appear to have decided to hold off on anything involving him for the time being, but that doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t be revisited. Three weeks ago, the Penguins were last in the Eastern Conference. Tuesday’s win over Colorado put them within two points of the playoffs, and who is betting against them? GM Jim Rutherford’s been searching for ways to upgrade the roster. He’s made two moves — Carl Hagelin to Los Angeles for Tanner Pearson, Daniel Sprong to Anaheim for Marcus Pettersson — but is eyeing more. The Penguins don’t have a ton to trade without seriously altering the team. Kessel has some control of the process with partial no-trade protection. Toronto still pays $1.2 million of his $8-million salary. The winger has 10 goals and 29 points in 26 games, so the production is still there. We’ll see where it goes.
While it seems like a Kessel trade will not be imminent, the Penguins could revisited the idea later on this season. It should however be noted that Phil Kessel has the right to submit a list of eight teams to which he would agree to be traded to, so the market isn't as huge as it could be if anyone had a chance to land him.
Kessel has put up 29 points in 26 games this season, bringing in tons of offense and production for the Penguins. His salary impact is only $ 6.8 million in Pittsburgh, because the Toronto Maple Leafs are still absorbing part of his salary.
For now, Rutherford might want to hold on to Kessel, but at least this season's struggles have allowed the Penguins to explore the market for that option. Kessel could bring in a good return, however, Rutherford might be breathing a bit easier lately since the Pens are showing signs of quality competition and could make a push to become a true contender this season.