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Rumor: Kessel to be traded out of Pittsburgh?

This could be HUGE.

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Trade rumors. Trade rumors. Trade rumors.

These are some of the most persistent things coming out of Pittsburgh Penguins land this season, with the team going through an uncharacteristically average season so far.

Jim Rutherford recently expressed the possibility of a shake up if things don't turn themselves around. Now let's be clear, the Penguins aren't bad, they're just not performing up to snuff, possibly in part due to the fact that they've had longer seasons than any team for the last two years.

Things are beginning to look a little perilous as the team has slipped out of playoff contention, two points behind the Rangers and Islanders for a playoff spot. Despite the Philadelphia Flyers' 10-game losing streak in November, the Penguins only hold a two point lead on them, with their Pennsylvanian rivals holding two games in hand. 

With that being said, trade rumors are intensifying as the team tries to compose itself and fight for the playoffs after consecutive Stanley Cup victories.

Many names are out there, Ian Cole being the big name.

An even bigger name may surface on the trade market at some point - and that could be Phil Kessel.

Kessel has been the driving force of the team's power play and is having a career year - his 37 points in 32 games put him on pace to have the best season of his career.

That being said, he carries an $8 million cap hit for 4 more seasons beyond 2017-18 and may be one of the most attractive assets on the team that isn't named Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby.

Jason Mackey entertains the possibility of 'Phil the Thrill' getting traded, believing that it's a possibility, especially with a young and cheaper version of himself developing in the AHL ranks.

"Would not trade Malkin. He should, and will, return a Penguin. Phil? Different story," Mackey writes. "I'd entertain it. If you got maximum return, I think you could move on knowing this experiment probably ran its course. And with Sprong coming up, you kind of have Phil Lite anyway."

Evidently this isn't one of those huge rumors that seem inevitable like Evander Kane, who by the way, could very well be a Penguins' target. That being said, Daniel Sprong plays a similar style to Kessel and could be seen as the logical successor. If you're getting "maximum return" for Kessel, you consider it heavily. 

There would be no shortage of suitors for the sniper.

What trade would you make if Kessel had to go?