NHL Rumor Mill – May 26, 2018
Latest on Phil Kessel, Ryan Kesler, John Tavares and more in your NHL rumor mill.
PENGUINS SHOPPING KESSEL?
TRIBLIVE.COM: Tim Benz cites a report by 105.9 FM’s Mark Madden claiming the Pittsburgh Penguins are going to try to trade winger Phil Kessel this summer. “Kessel is OK with that,” said Madden, citing sources close to Kessel and the Penguins.
The winger is apparently unhappy that he wasn’t playing on Evgeni Malkin’s line full-time this season, leading to “underlying dissatisfaction” between Kessel and coach Mike Sullivan. Madden cautions “the key word is try,” citing Kessel’s $6.8-million annual cap hit through 2021-22 and his reputation for being difficult to coach.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kessel is coming off a career-best 92-point season but managed just nine points through two playoff rounds. Since the Penguins’ playoff elimination over two weeks ago, he’s been frequently mentioned as a possible trade candidate.
Previous reports suggested general manager Jim Rutherford might listen to offers but the expectation was the winger would return with the Penguins next season. This is the first report to claim Rutherford will attempt to move Kessel, as well as the winger’s apparent acceptance of the effort to trade him.
As of this writing, there’s no word from the Penguins or Kessel addressing this report. The longer this goes without a comment from either side, the greater the anticipation he could be dealt, perhaps during the NHL Draft weekend (June 22 -23) in Dallas.
If the Penguins are serious about moving Kessel, they shouldn’t have much difficulty finding interested parties, However, there will be other issues besides his salary and reputation that could make him difficult to move. Cap Friendly indicates Kessel still has a modified no-trade clause (eight-team trade list). The Penguins’ asking price could be another factor. You don’t just give away a 92-point player.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM FRIEDMAN’S LATEST “31 THOUGHTS”
SPORTSNET: In his latest “31 Thoughts” column, Elliotte Friedman reports “there’s a chance” Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Kesler might not play next season. Kesler, who underwent offseason hip surgery last year, played just 48 games this season in obvious physical discomfort. He’s undergoing “some aggressive rehab and treatment in an effort to improve the hip area,” but if there’s no improvement, Friedman speculates the center could sit out next season and attempt to return for 2019-20. “The team and the agent are not commenting,” he said.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kesler, who turns 34 in August, is signed through 2021-22 with an annual cap hit of $6.875 million. If he does sit out next season, the Ducks could create extra cap room by placing him on long-term injured reserve at some point next season. His absence, however, will create a big gap at center that the Ducks could attempt to fill via trade or free agency.
With the New York Islanders hiring Lou Lamoriello as president of hockey operations, the club is beginning its full-court press of pending free agent John Tavares. Lamoriello met with Tavares last Wednesday. There’s no guarantee it’ll work but Tavares is “definitely listening.”
Friedman also suggests the Isles could pursue free-agent winger Ilya Kovalchuk and upgrade in goal. While there’s speculation struggling young winger Joshua Ho-Sang could be moved, Friedman isn’t so sure, pointing out how Scott Gomez and Nazem Kadri thrived under Lamoriello’s management.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’m anticipating some significant moves by the Islanders throughout June aimed at convincing Tavares to re-sign with them. Lamoriello has two first-round picks and two second-round picks in this year’s draft plus some promising prospects to use as trade bait. He could also shop a roster player or two. Forward Brock Nelson’s name surfaced a couple of times this season in the rumor mill.
Noting that Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic got eight-year contract extensions a year before their UFA eligibility, Friedman wonders if the same could be in the works for center Logan Couture this summer.
Friedman considers the Vancouver Canucks as a “stealth team” for Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Noah Hanifin.
Benning: “We are not looking to move Chris Tanev.” #Canuks
— Rick Dhaliwal (@DhaliwalSports) May 25, 2018