Phil Kessel with a desperate plea
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Phil Kessel with a desperate plea

The NHL's all-time Ironman speaks up for himself.



We're now nearly a month into the 2023-24 NHL regular season and everyone's favorite Ironman Phil Kessel is still sitting at home with a contract.

This past offseason NHL insider Elliotte Friedman reported that Kessel had informed teams that he is willing to break his Ironman streak just to get an opportunity to play. He doesn't need to be guaranteed a full-time roster spot, he just wants to play. For the record, Kessel has played 1,064 consecutive regular season games without missing a single one.

More from Friedman back in August:

The three-time Stanley Cup champion wants to play again in 2023-24. But, the most significant detail is that he’s let teams know it won’t be a problem if he’s not an every-day player.

Kessel is the NHL’s Ironman, the only player in league history to play at least 1,000 games in a row. His current streak is 1,064 — 75 more than Keith Yandle, whose record Kessel broke last season. (Kessel did not appear in all of Vegas’s playoff games, but the postseason does not factor into consecutive games records.)

Letting teams know this detail in advance is important, because ending these streaks causes enormous stress if there is not buy-in from the player. In 2020-21, for example, Florida teammates made their displeasure very clear when the Panthers wanted to scratch Yandle from the lineup at the start of the season. He didn’t miss a game.

- Elliotte Friedman

That was back in August though and it's still been radio silent from Kessel's camp.

Today, TSN insider Pierre LeBrun released an article on The Athletic where he goes one on one with Kessel to get an update on his NHL future. 

Some tid bits:

“Yes, I love to play and I’ve always loved to play,” Kessel told The Athletic over the phone from his home in Paradise Valley, Ariz. “I feel like I can help and contribute.”

Kessel actually skated with his former Vegas Golden Knights teammates in Summerlin, Nev., this summer right into early September, waiting to see what would transpire.

“Yeah, I skated for quite a long time there,” Kessel said. “Obviously, once camp started, I stopped skating there. I moved back here to Arizona because it’s more of a home base for me. I’ve got my house here still. It’s just easier.”

Eight points shy of 1,000 for his NHL career, Kessel is putting himself through the grind, training daily in case he gets one more crack.

“I’m staying ready,” Kessel said. “I’ve been skating. In the next week, I’m going to work with a skating guy here. We’re going to do individual sessions to stay ready.

“Obviously, I’m a little surprised I haven’t got anything yet, but it is what it is, right?”

LeBrun goes on to state that Kessel's streak was a bit of a sticking point in some discussions with teams as no one wants to be the team that ruins his record setting streak. By taking some pressure off these teams, Kessel is hoping that it opens the door to more fruitful negotiations.

“I don’t care,” he said on the Ironman streak. “I think people think I care about that. I’ve never cared about that. I’ve always been a guy that feels he should be in the lineup and if I can play, I’ll play.

“I played through a lot of stuff during that time, and I’d rather be playing than in the stands.”

“I know I can still play and can still help,” Kessel said. “For the minutes I played last year, I thought my numbers were pretty solid, right? So I know I can help a team and contribute to a team which needs scoring.

“I think I can play pretty much up and down a lineup, because I’ve done it for a long time.”

Kessel is also pretty open-minded as to what type of team would be a fit.

“I’m willing to kind of go wherever,” said the three-time Stanley Cup champion. “Because I want to play. I love to play.

“I feel like I can help any team. I think my resume kind of speaks to that, right?”

Author Attribution

The full article from LeBrun:

For what it's worth, Kessel was still relatively productive with the Vegas Golden Knights last season, scoring 14 goals and 36 points in 82 games. That's obviously not the level of production that we're used to seeing from Kessel, but it's still quality production for a depth forward on a good team. 

Where do you think the Ironman will end up?

Source: Pierre LeBrun