For the first time in three years, the Pittsburgh Penguins can start exploring their offseason options and moves earlier this spring. After getting eliminated in six games by Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals, the Pens need to regroup and decided on important moves to make this summer. And it seems like one could be the hardest to pull the trigger on...
Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wonders if the time has come for a monster trade in Pittsburgh. Do not worry Penguins fans, we are not talking about moving captain Sidney Crosby or top forward Evgeni Malkin. The two superstars are there to stay, but general manager Jim Rutherford might have to part with another leading scorer in Phil Kessel during the offseason.
The thing is that Kessel has been fantastic all season long. While the thought itself might upset the fan base in Pittsburgh, Mackay thinks it might make sense from a business point of view to get out from under the final four seasons of Kessel’s contract. Mackay believes that since Kessel is coming off a career-best 92-point season, this the best time to move him since the veteran forward's stock has never been higher.
Mackay however realizes this could be a controversial move.
"Trading one of the team’s most well-liked players probably won’t go over well with fans or those inside the dressing room, and it may seem borderline insane on the surface. But an argument could be made that it makes a ton of sense from a business perspective.
"Kessel is coming off a career-best offensive year with 92 points. The 34 goals he scored represented the most for Kessel since 2013-14, and he led the league in power-play points with 42. His stock has probably never been higher as a Penguin."
Let's not forget that, in his massive contract, Kessel holds a no-trade clause. According to the information provided by CapFriendly, Kessel would need to submit an eight-team list of places he can be traded to. Rutherford has to consider that Kessel has four more years on a contract that pays him $8 million ($6.8 counting against the Penguins’ salary cap).
While Mackay believes the time would be now to move Kessel and the contract they did not negotiate in the first place, he also says it not hard to see the Penguins retain Kessel for years to come. He has provided the team with a great offensive boost, and there is no way he cannot do it again next year and make the Pens another great Cup contender in the spring of 2019.
"It’s also not hard to see the Penguins standing pat given Kessel’s talents and his value to the team," concludes Mackay.