Phil Kessel “decision is not far away” as NHL return looms.

Phil Kessel may soon be returning north of the border to sign with a Canadian NHL team.

Jonathan Larrivee
Jonathan Larrivee
Published 2 months ago
Phil Kessel “decision is not far away” as NHL return looms.

Phil Kessel may soon be playing hockey north of the border once again.

In spite of the fact that he has had an incredible career over the better part of the last two decades in the National Hockey League, Phil "The Thrill" Kessel remains an unrestricted free agent well into the month of February and certainly well into the 2023-24 NHL regular season.

Throughout the season there have been rumblings that have linked Kessel to various teams around the league, but none of those would go on to materialize into anything. Now however, in perhaps the most credible rumor relating to Phil Kessel thus far this season, Canucks insider Rick Dhaliwal has indicated that there is real interest on the part of the Canucks when it comes to adding the enigmatic winger to their roster.

"I can tell you right now that the Canucks still talk and discuss Kessel, keep in regular contract with his agent, and they like his experience," revealed Dhaliwal on CHEK TV.

The move makes a ton of sense given Kessel's deep ties to the current personnel running the show in Vancouver. It was Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford that made the blockbuster trade that brought Kessel to the Penguins in 2015, a trade that would lead to back to back Stanley Cup wins for Rutherford and the Penguins. Rutherford of course now serves as president of hockey operations for the Vancouver Canucks.

Kessel also has deep ties to Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet who served as an assistant coach for the Penguins during those championship runs where the pair established a strong relationship. Kessel would even go on to later be traded to the Arizona Coyotes where Tocchet served as head coach at the time, a move that many believe Kessel agreed to because of the bond between himself and Tocchet.

Last week, Tocchet spoke highly of Kessel when asked about his former player.

"There's value in Phil, I think he can still play 100%," said Tocchet of Kessel.

As Dhaliwal also pointed out, Kessel is a very low risk gamble for the Canucks at this point in the season.

"Kessel doesn't cost you anything," said Dhaliwal. "It's a gamble yes, but there are not assets to be given up and it will be a cheap price."

Perhaps the biggest hurdle to Kessel signing with the Canucks will be questions surrounding his conditioning, questions that have followed Kessel throughout his career in the NHL.

"The big issue? Conditioning," admitted Dhaliwal. "He has not played in 8 months and he played only 4 playoff games for Vegas last year when they won the Stanley Cup, that will be Kessel's biggest issue. Are you in shape?"

Dhaliwal does believe that, either way, a decision is coming in short order.

"The Kessel decision is not far away, some say soon," said Dhaliwal. "Not sure where this goes, but the Vancouver Canucks are poking around Phil Kessel.