Updates on Kessel and Vanek – July 13, 2017
Could the Pittsburgh Penguins trade Phil Kessel? Will the Detroit Red Wings bring back Thomas Vanek? Read on for the latest in your NHL rumor mill.
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Ron Cook believes the departure of former Penguins assistant coach Rick Tocchet to the Arizona Coyotes could lead to right wing Phil Kessel getting traded at some point. He claims the Penguins organization wasn’t thrilled with Kessel’s performance.
The winger scored 23 goals during the regular season, and while he had 23 points in 25 playoff games this spring, “it was hard to find anyone in the organization to say he was playing well.” Cook believes Evgeni Malkin wasn’t happy to be on the same line with Kessel and notes Penguins coach Mike Sullivan admitted Kessel has no chemistry with center Sidney Crosby.
Cook said Tocchet was able to keep Kessel focused and acted as a buffer between the winger and Sullivan. He also think the Penguins should try to shed Kessel’s expensive contract. He carries a $6.8 million cap hit with the Penguins (the Toronto Maple Leafs carry $1.2 million annually) through 2021-22. Combined with Kessel’s modified no-trade clause, Cook thinks that won’t be easy to move.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Yes, Kessel netted just 23 goals last season, but he also collected a career-high 47 assists. His 70 points placed him third among Penguins scorers and was the second-highest single-season total in his career. Yes, Kessel can be streaky but his contributions to the Penguins consecutive championship runs in 2016 and 2017 cannot be overlooked. Indeed, there were those suggesting Kessel, not Crosby, should’ve won the Conn Smythe trophy in 2016.
Yes, he clashed at times with Malkin, lacks chemistry with Crosby (except on the power play, leading the Pens last season with 30 PP points.). Yes, Tocchet was invaluable working with Kessel, but his replacement, Mark Recchi, could also have a positive influence. So it seems premature to suggest Kessel will be traded in the near future.
DETROIT FREE PRESS: Helene St. James reports the Detroit Red Wings remain in contact with unrestricted free agent winger Thomas Vanek, who played most of last season with Detroit. However, several hurdles remain, especially the club’s limited salary cap space, with $5 million allocated for Tomas Tatar and another million for Andreas Athanasiou.