The notion that Phil Kessel could be traded “sooner or later,” at least according to the belief of a Pittsburgh-area columnist, has spurred some discussion in the hockey world.
Friedman suggested the Penguins may be “on the fringe” of that situation, and made a comment about his belief that Duchene would excel in Pittsburgh, much like Kessel has thrived there.
The mention of the 29-year-old Kessel – now a two-time Stanley Cup champion – spawned the reference to Ron Cook’s column for the Post-Gazette, with the entry point to the discussion involving Kessel’s cap hit tying entirely to the motivation to make any potential trade there.
“He’s at $6.8 million against their cap, yes, because Toronto has got a chunk of that,” noted Friedman. “But yes, I think that would be a part of it. But I wonder. A couple of guys I was talking to about it yesterday say that Pittsburgh would probably have to eat some of that. I don’t know where you’re looking at a team that would want to take the full 6.8.
“But I do think that that speculation has some merit. I think the Penguins have, at the very least, looked at it. I don’t it’s necessarily a guarantee that it’s going to happen; but I do think Ron Cook, who is the columnist who wrote that, was not wrong, at least in the idea of Pittsburgh investigating it.”
The Penguins acquired Kessel from the Toronto Maple Leafs on July 1, 2015 in a trade involving a number of players and draft picks.
Kessel’s eight-year, $64 million cap hit comes with an $8 million cap hit; but as Friedman pointed out, the Leafs retained $1.2 million of that hit.
Kessel has another five seasons remaining on that deal and each of those years includes a modified no-trade clause/no-move clause, through which he submits an eight-team trade list.
Friedman was pressed for his thoughts on which teams might have an interest in Kessel.
Again, this is simply conjecture spawned from a trade take that was only speculative in nature itself.
“You’re always looking for scoring, right?” said Friedman. “It’s a league that’s really tough to score in. The No. 1 team that would jump out at me right now – and it’s an interesting dynamic for them. I’m not sure how it could all work. But Rick Tocchet is in Arizona. I don’t know how it could all work, but to me if Arizona wanted to do that and could do it, I think it makes some sense.
“It’s purely conjecture on my part, but there’s some logic to it.”
Tocchet has left the Penguins to become the head coach of the Arizona Coyotes, and part of Cook’s column included a reference to Tocchet as “Kessel’s Whisperer.”
Kessel himself has given Tocchet extremely high praise.
Friedman was then asked about Kessel and the Montreal Canadiens, a team starved for offense, with the caveats that the team might not want to add another big contract and also that that market might not be the right fit.
“I’m not sure that’s the best fit,” agreed Friedman. “But I do think that Marc Bergevin is still looking to – he’s still at the plate taking one of those Edwin Encarnacion-size swings, waiting to connect on something.”
One quick note on the Bergevin front: Karl Alzner mentioned in passing this week that the Canadiens “have their eye on a couple of pieces that are going to help the team.”
If Kessel were to get traded, it would be Jim Rutherford pulling the trigger.
The Penguins’ general manager was asked directly about this completely speculative trade situation earlier on Thursday on Pittsburgh radio by the man who wrote the Kessel column.
Cook wanted to know where Kessel stood in the Penguins’ organization.
“Rick Tocchet did do a good job with Phil,” noted Rutherford. “Not only Phil, but other players at different times in the season where they need that one-on-one communication. Rick Tocchet did a good job.
“But that’s something that Mark Recchi also has done in the past and he will be able to assume that role. He’s done some work with Phil also in the first year Phil was here.
“Phil Kessel is an important part of the Penguins. I mean, he gets a lot of points, he scores big goals, he sets up big goals. The more impact players that you have like we have, the better chance you have of winning. It may not be on a regular basis, but it may come at a certain time in a series or whatnot just like it did against Ottawa. Kessel come up and got a big goal in the 1-0 game.
“He’s an important part. I don’t want to sit here and say that a certain player is not going to get traded at some point in his career – I mean, Phil already did. But that’s not something I foresee happening right now.”