There’s been no shortage of trade talk out of Pittsburgh lately and almost all of it is centred around Pittsburgh Penguins speedster Phil Kessel.
The 31 year old winger has been mentioned in trade rumors for months now and just last week NHL insider Elliotte Friedman and Minnesota Wild insider Michael Russo reported that Kessel had nixed a trade to the Minnesota Wild. Kessel was reportedly offered up in a one for one swap with Wild forward Jason Zucker.
“I think one interesting offseason question is, ‘Does Phil Kessel want to play in Minnesota?’ I could see that,” said Friedman on the 31 Thoughts Podcast last week.
“Pittsburgh needs scoring, there’s a Kessel for Zucker deal there that makes sense,” Friedman added.
Kessel reportedly turned down the potential deal as is his right with a no-trade clause in his contract. But, interestingly enough it’s come to light that Kessel posses only a “limited” no-trade clause that allows him to pick one of 8 other teams he’ll allowed a trade to. But, according to former NHLer and current NBC analyst Jeremy Roenick, there’s really only one team that matters: the Arizona Coyotes.
Check out this report from Penguins insider Jonathan Bombulie for Trib Live in which he claims Kessel will only waive his no trade clause for a trade to the Arizona desert:
“I know where he wants to go and we’ll see if he gets that option,” Roenick told 550 AM in Buffalo. “He does want to go west. There is one team that he does want to go play for, and I don’t think he’ll stand for anything less. He’ll stay in Pittsburgh and his contract now and be happy with it or not be happy with it or they’ll trade him to the team that he wants to go to.”
Roenick declined to specify Kessel’s preferred destination, hinting that it was a team in the southwest United States that didn’t make the playoffs this season.
It’s pretty clear Roenick was referring to the Arizona Coyotes. Kessel and Arizona coach Rick Tocchet were close friends when they were in Pittsburgh together. Roenick theoretically could have been referring to the Los Angeles Kings or Anaheim Ducks, but there are little to no known connections between Kessel and those clubs.
Kessel has a limited no-trade clause in his contract that specifies eight teams he can be moved to without prior approval. According to multiple reports, he used his veto power to scrap a proposed traded between the Penguins and Minnesota Wild.
On the ice, Arizona would be a perfect fit for Kessel. The Coyotes had the fourth-worst offense in the league this season, averaging 2.55 goals per game, but missed the playoffs by only four points.
Phil the Thrill in the Arizona desert? I guess stranger things have happened, but just the thought of it is… weird.
In any case, it’s clear that Kessel would provide the Coyotes with a HUGE offensive boost. The Coyotes didn’t have a single 20+ goal scorer or 50+ point scorer in 2018-19, meanwhile Kessel has eclipsed those numbers every season for over a decade. There’s no doubt he’d be a fit in Arizona, but the real question is… what’s the return?
Outside of picks and prospects, the Coyotes don’t have any obvious trade pieces that would appeal to the Penguins. Corner pieces like Oliver Ekman Larsson and Clayton Keller aren’t going anywhere. It seems unlikely that Alex Galchenyuk will be moved either. Maybe the Penguins could pry a young stud like Nick Schmaltz or Jakob Chychrun away from the Coyotes, but those players each just signed long-term deals to stay in Arizona.
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire?