NHL Rumor Mill – May 24, 2019

by | May 24, 2019 | Rumors | 46 comments

The Penguins and Wild discussed a deal involving Phil Kessel and Jason Zucker. Get the details in today’s NHL rumor mill. 


TSN: cited a report by The Athletic’s Josh Yohe claiming the Minnesota Wild made a trade proposal for Pittsburgh Penguins winger Phil Kessel. Winger Jason Zucker is believed to be part of the Wild’s offer. Penguins defenseman Jack Johnson and Wild center Victor Rask were also discussed as part of the deal. Kessel would have to agree to the trade, as the Wild aren’t on his eight-team list of preferred trade destinations.

Will Phil Kessel agrees to be traded to the Minnesota Wild? (Photo via NHL Images)

Pierre LeBrun reports Kessel isn’t leaning toward waiving his no-trade clause to join the Wild but  LeBrun isn’t ruling out the possibility. Yohe also said the Arizona Coyotes could be in the mix. Kessel had a good relationship with Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet during the latter’s tenure on the Penguins’ coaching staff. However, the Coyotes uncertain ownership situation is preventing them from making an offer. 

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE/PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW: Matt Vensel reports the swapped salaries would be a close match. Kessel and Johnson carry a combined annual average value of $10.1 million. Zucker and Rask combine for $9.5 million. If this deal doesn’t take place, Vensel believes it’s an indication of the asking price the Penguins are setting for Kessel. Jonathan Bombulie considers the inclusion of Johnson as evidence the Penguins also wish to move a defenseman this summer. 

THE ATHLETIC: Before Yohe’s report, his colleague Michael Russo examined possible trade targets for the Wild. Kessel was on that list. Other options could include Toronto’s William Nylander or Kasperi Kapanen and Tampa Bay’s Tyler Johnson. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This proposed swap of Kessel and Johnson for Zucker and Rask makes the Penguins a little younger and frees up some cap space. I’m puzzled, however, why Wild general manager Paul Fenton would make this pitch.

He’s supposedly rebuilding the Wild with young, cheaper players. That’s why he swapped Nino Niederreiter for Rask, Charlie Coyle for Ryan Donato, and Mikael Granlund for Kevin Fiala this season.

Bringing in Kessel would provide a welcome short-term boost of experience skill to the Wild’s offense. However, he turns 32 in October and approaching the point in his career when a decline in production is inevitable. He’d also be under a much brighter spotlight in Minnesota where he’ll have a bigger profile than he does in Pittsburgh.

Taking on Johnson makes no sense. While he’s got an affordable cap hit ($3.25 million) he’s also got four years left on his contract. Factor in the 32-year-old’s diminished play and that’s a bad contract the Wild would be adding to their payroll.

Rask carries a bigger cap hit ($4 million) and struggled this season. However, he’s under contract for just two more years. At 26, he still has room for improvement.

This deal depends upon Kessel waiving his no-trade clause. If he passes on Minnesota, he could be saving Fenton from making his first bad trade as Wild GM. Whether or not he agrees to join the Wild, we’ve probably seen the last of Kessel in a Penguins sweater.

If that proposal falls through, Fenton will look at other destinations for Zucker. He nearly traded the winger to the Calgary Flames at the trade deadline and could revisit that deal. 

Nylander supposedly won’t be dealt as long as Kyle Dubas is Leafs GM. Kapanen, however, could become available if the Leafs can’t afford to re-sign him.

The Lightning must free up cap room to re-sign center Brayden Point. Johnson, however, has a full no-trade clause and could refuse to waive it. Bolts forward J.T. Miller lacks no-trade protection but might not provide that offensive boost the Wild need. 


  1. As a Wild fan I hate that trade, and it will turn out like Vanek 2.0. Phil won’t produce as much because he has less talent around him, he will move at his own pace which people will think is slow and he’ll be in the doghouse instantly with fans. As far as “Fenton’s first bad trade”… you must have been watching another channel because Rask for Nino was a bad trade, Fiala for Granny and not an extra pick was a bad trade, and Donato (a minor leaguer at the time) for Coyle and only having the pick jump from a 4th to a 5th was a bad trade. It’s all Fenton has done and his welcome among fans is already worn out. I’d take Chuck back in a heartbeat because Fenton getting Fleeced is the only headlines we have up here in Minny.

  2. Kessel to the Wild doesnt make sense for Minnesota. Adding a 32 year old to the lineup when youre starting a rebuild is the opposite of what they should be doing.
    Id wager Rutheford puts Johnson in every trade proposal he makes just to rid himself of an anchor contract and a player whose best years are in the rear view mirror.
    With no Malkin or Crosby feeding him the puck Id wager Phat Fills 30 goal seasons are behind him as well.

    • see my comment from yesterday on wild…gm is feeling the heat from the fans…wild need to take a step back in order to move forward…trading for kessel just slows that process down…

    • I am going to be brutally honest here …I am the last person who is a Kessel fan ..and I can not believe that I am defending him right now ..BUT..In the last 2 seasons this guy had a 34 goal 92 point season and a 27 goal 82 point season …yes did he play with Malkin sure he also finished in the top 25 points in the league …I know he is very frustrating to watch as a fan of your team ..but you guys hating on him does not equal his value …would I want him on my team ..LOL.. NO !
      But to say he is dried up and finished and can not contribute 70 plus points a year is not accurate either ..I don’t see any reason why he can not flourish with Stall ..as a matter of fact that could be a very high quality line with another speedy winger on the opposite side …to round out the potential…and give a back checking player to that line …kinda like a Hyman position does all the heavy lifting loves to skate the 200 foot game and makes plays to both those guys..could be a real quality productive situation…for the next 2 years.

      • kessel is awesome—always was—in toronto too—but blozak almost ruined him

      • Yet, look who’s gunning for the Cup cintributing 5 goals and 5 assists so far for St. Louis while the Leafs and Pens watch!

    • It would be somewhat unique if the deal did happen and Pittsburgh had to withhold a certain amount of Kessel’s cap hit – has there ever been a player who’s still getting paid by two other previous teams?

      • Hagelin recently traded to LA , Pittsburg retained 250k , then was shipped to Washington and L.A retained 50% . Interesting because in the end his cap hit was 1.875 , a way to bring down a guys end cap hit to less than 50% , with two teams retaining a portion .

  3. Arizona’s ownership situation is NOT preventing them from making a pitch for Kessel. They do not want him. Not at that cap hit for him at 32. They team is not interested. They way it was reported is not accurate.

    • Im inclined to agree. Without an elite centre to feed him the puck Kessel is pretty much useless. Doesnt forecheck, doesnt backcheck, and doesnt hit. Move only makes sense if the Coyotes can add a playmaker to feed him the puck consistantly.
      Kessel is hardly the veteran you want to add to show leadership and work ethic to an up and coming franchise.
      Kessel, Johnson and Matta will be in every rumor coming out of Pittsburgh for months.

      • I guess you didn’t watch the playoffs the year the Penguins and Kessel won the Cup? He should have won the Conn Smythe trophy that year.
        He’s a very talented player that scores at nearly a point per game. His cap hit is $6.8M/yr…how many other point per game players have a low cap hit like that. I believe TOR pays $1.2M of that salary too.

      • @Daryl
        The reason why I would be cautious of acquiring Kessel, is that he doesn’t keep himself in good shape. Players who usually don’t keep in shape all year round tend to drop off earlier in their 30’s than those who do. Also those players who keep themselves in top shape are the ones who can play close to, or up to 40.
        So seeing that he is already 31 years old, I would expect his play to start to drop off. Also because in Minny he will be the player that teams will target to stop, unlike in Pittsburgh where the Crosby line is the one teams focus on to stop, I don’t see Phil getting to 70 points in a season in Minny.

    • Seems like Arizona has always been more concerned about salary than cap hit. One season left at 7 mil and two at 6 mil is not expensive for the points he puts up. The 5 mil bonus in a potential lockout year may be of more concern.

  4. Blue Jackets fans are laughing, now.

    • They won’t be laughing on draft day.

  5. Kessel and Maatta would make more sense at least from an age perspective for the Wild.
    I am sure Fiala for Granlund was the first bad deal. Niederreiter for Rask the second. Things come in three.

    • I think the jury’s still out on Fiala for Granlund.

    • People are hard on Kessel because he doesn’t act like what they think a hockey player should act. He’s happy shame on him. He gets paid to score and he definitely produces . Tyler Bozak was a great center but not elite and he scored with him. I wouldn’t mind if he was eating hot dogs with the Leafs again.

      • Bozak has been terrific with the Blues and plays exactly where he needs to in the depth of the team …he has gotten some really timely goals this playoffs as well as he has been absolutely amazing on the dot as per usual especially in his own end where you need to start with the puck …he has contributed just as well as Stastny did for 3 million less per season and shorter term….Boazak also does not make many errors in his own end and gets pucks out and deep and does not fiddle with his plays …great first pass out of zone player …which is extremely helpful in a playoff run when guys are worn down in a series !

  6. Fenton’s “first bad trade?” You’re right, if you have yet another category to put the Nino for Rask deal. The REALLY bad trade category.

    • Rask is 26 and his career is still salvageable. He had back-to-back 40-plus point seasons in 2015-16 and 2016-17.

    • The rumors here in Carolina at the time were that Rask was about a week away from being waived outright. The fact that they got a 2nd line winger for him, for about the same $, qualifies as a steal.

      Can Rask rebound? Absolutely. Would I call it ‘likely’? No, I would not. It’s a shame, too, because he has talent. But talent without effort doesn’t go very far.

  7. Since trade regular season stats
    Nino 14 goals 16 assists
    Rask 2 goals 1 assist

    Small window yes. But in watching every minute of Rask’s 23 games in Minnesota, I was shocked by his sub par speed, turnover ratio and consistent loss of one on one puck battles. To say he was awful, is not a stretch.

    • Don’t forget he missed nearly half the season recovering from a hand injury. I’d like to see how he performs playing a full, healthy season before writing him off. Sometimes missing a half season can adversely affect a player’s performance. Just ask William Nylanders…;)

  8. Who do teams want less via this forum? PK Suban or PhilKessel PK?
    A contender that needs secondary clutch scoring for a run should make an offer for Phil. The Wild are not that team. And yes he might score 100 points with small pressure Arizona.

    Phil on the Devils is a good fit

    • At last, a sensible trade partner for Kessel.

    • Ds..the penguins aren’t trading Phil to the Devils to a division rival…wake up an smell the coffee on that one..:)

      • @blackngold I agree Pens would not trade Kessel to a division or maybe a conference rival… but you have to admit the fit

      • Pittsburg would consider trading him to a division rival, especially if they see him as a ‘poison pill’

  9. As much as this trade makes absolutely no sense for Minnesota, does it even make sense for Pitt? If cap hits equal out, does this trade make Pitt any better? Getting younger helps in future, but Malkin, Crosby and Letang are all on wrong side of 30 also. Window is closing fast.

    • Exactly. It’s truly a head scratcher.

  10. How on earth is Jack Johnson’s contract a bad one? The guy is locked in at $3.25 million for four more years. At 32 he’s playing way better defense than most of his peers at that age.

    • Did you watch some Pens games last year?
      He was awful! If you need further explanation just ask Pengy. 🙂

  11. How about Fenton’s waiver pick up of Anthony Bitetto from Nashville? Seemingly on the ice for every goal the Wild gave up at the end of the season-0 goals and 0 assists and a -8 in 18 games. Or how about the acquisition of the oft-scratched, no hustle Pontus Aberg? And the list goes on.

    • Bitetto was a waiver pickup, not a trade. No harm no foul. If he doesn’t pan out you demote him or cut him loose. Aberg only cost Justin Kloos, who looks like a career minor leaguer. While those moves didn’t improve the Wild, it didn’t make them worse. Hardly qualifies as a “bad trade”. Kessel and Johnson for Zucker and Rask has “bad move” stamped all over it in indelible ink.

  12. If Pittsburgh wants to shake things up, they need to trade Malkin. Kessel won’t fetch a good enough return to change anything and he’s a point per game guy while Malkin is often injured and would provide a great return of talent.

    I also think that Malkin would do better as a super star on his new team than Kessel would and thus he would also be more interesting for a team to acquire.

    • ” … Malkin is often injured and would provide a great return of talent …”

      How do you equate those two thoughts? Why would any GM with any sense at all give up a “great return of talent” for a 32 y/o costing $9.5 mil off the cap until he’s 35 if, indeed, he is often injured? That doesn’t figure to get any better as he gets older, and unless he can somehow be sent to a top contender to play out his deal (not easy given that all such teams are already nudging the limit and with RFAs and/or UFAs of their own to sign in that span), is he a) going to OK a deal to a middle-of-the-road team and b) will he have the same motivation not having a Sidney Crosby to absorb much the opposition’s best checking lines?

  13. Dallas is in win now mode. Trade Kessell to play with Seguin plus it would be somewhat of a joke with their trade history. Gives the Stars two legit top two lines.

    Dallas trades Faksa, Honka, and a 4th

    • Sign Thornton to a one year deal to replace Faksa. Thumbs up.

  14. Waiver pick-up was mentioned in first sentence. The question isn’t about the method of acquisition, it’s about Fenton’s eye for talent.

  15. I think Minnesota sees Dubnyk as an elite goaltender, then they see what they’ve got in Suter, Spurgeon, Dumba and Brodin. They just need some guys up front to get it done. I understand what they want to do. They need some scorers and Kessel is certainly one. They’re trying to rebuild around what they have, and what they have at the back end is pretty darn good. I’d have no qualms with them pursuing Kessel.

    • Kessel whether you like him don’t like him is a productive player..he was in Boston, he was in Toronto , he has been in Pittsburgh.

      Minnesota needs goals he makes their power play instantly better his deal expires in a couple years his cap hit is $6.8 million which is low for a point a game player.

      Zucker would be a good fit in Pittsburgh. He obviously isn’t working out in Minnesota or there wouldn’t be all these trade rumors and talks..

      I would do Jason Zucker, Victor Rask, and Jonas Brodin to Pittsburgh.

      in return…Phil Kessel, Olli Matta, Dominick Simon and goalie Tristan Jerry to Minnesota..

  16. Read several articles about slava voynov and how it’s doubtful he would be welcome back to nhl
    Teams due to the fallout from his crimes. I don’t see it. Without trying to be political…. the us has a prez that is on tape talking about sexual assault. Other leagues have players accused and convicted of domestic violence and those players are most often signed if talented. The nhl ain’t no better. Voynov would have several suitors if he returns. Cause winning publicity beats crappy publicity almost all the time

  17. DS…I agree with you devils are a good fit… lets just say yes what would your proposal be if you were gm,?