Florida Panthers: Would Acquiring Phil Kessel Make Sense?

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 03: Phil Kessel #81 of the Pittsburgh Penguins takes the ice prior to the game against the Washington Capitals in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at PPG Paints Arena on May 3, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 03: Phil Kessel #81 of the Pittsburgh Penguins takes the ice prior to the game against the Washington Capitals in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at PPG Paints Arena on May 3, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** /
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Phil Kessel, a 30-year-old, right-winger of the Pittsburgh Penguins has suddenly become an insanely ‘hot commodity’ across the NHL.

Phil’s name has become frequently mentioned in trade rumors, considering the Pens have informed NHL general managers of Kessel’s current availability. The Florida Panthers have been linked with Phil Kessel in the past on a few occasions, but it’s worth noting that this go-around, the Panthers are not linked to Phil Kessel.

But even if the Cats aren’t regarded as a trade destination for the right-winger, it’s still worth discussing whether acquiring his services make sense or not. The underline question that remains in this hypothetical situation: should Dale Tallon formulate a compelling package to acquire Phil Kessel?

The American-born winger experienced a miraculous 2017-18 regular season for the Pittsburgh Penguins. While participating in all 82 regular season contests, Kessel accumulated 34G, 58A, combining for 92 points, while establishing career-high marks in assists and total points.

Kessel produced outstanding numbers on the power play unit for the Penguins, registering 12G, 30A, and 42 points on the man advantage. Phil’s offensive numbers, whether on even strength or on special teams, were unquestionably sensational.

Although, the 2017-18 Stanley Cup Playoffs was essentially the polar opposite for Kessel, unfortunately. In 12 NHL playoff affairs, Kessel impressively compiled 8 assists, but he struggled to score goals, potting solely 1 goal throughout the entirety of the playoffs.

Pittsburgh fans were placing the majority of the blame for their unsuspected elimination from the playoffs on the disappointing play of Phil Kessel. The all-star winger simply experienced tremendous struggles scoring-wise and was a massive liability defensively when on the ice.

Kessel’s bittersweet relationship with Pens’ bench boss Mike Sullivan has caused growing frustration from both sides alike, hence making Phil Kessel notably expendable via trade.

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With a noticeably expensive cap hit of $8M ($6.8M held by PIT and $1.2M retained by TOR) spanning an additional 4 NHL seasons, the Penguins have certainly displayed their willingness to unload the contract of Phil Kessel. However, Kessel’s contract contains a limited no-trade clause, so Phil would ultimately compose a list of 8 NHL clubs in which the 30-year-old would accept a trade towards.

Furthermore, there could be a possibility that Florida could land on Kessel’s list, considering the attractions and desirables offered by playing in South Florida (i.e. no state income tax, future playoff contending team, wonderful weather, significant role on FLA’s top line, new environment/fresh start, etc.).

If potentially obtained via trade by the Cats, the 2x Stanley Cup winner would instantly improve the Panthers’ power play, provide necessary scoring punch, play-making ability, veteran presence, playoff experience, and a winning pedigree.

The biggest obstacle regarding finalizing a trade for Kessel would be an agreement for his services, and one that would be the package that Pittsburgh are looking for. Essentially, the Pens could indubitably command multiple NHL-ready impact players, top prospects from the Panthers’ system, and draft picks, as well.

Ultimately, seeing PIT would move Kessel to unload his contract, a compelling hypothetical trade package heading towards their way could appear as: Alexander Petrovic or Mark Pysyk, Nick Bjugstad, the 34th overall selection in the 2018 NHL draft, as well as a future first-round draft pick.

In essence, the Pens would receive an inexpensive, high-quality 3rd pairing defenseman, a versatile and productive centerman/winger in Nick Bjugstad who could potentially produce 50-60 points consistently with proper usage and skilled linemates, as well as a high second-round (34th overall) draft selection in a notably deep draft class this year, along with a future first.

Additionally, the Panthers, while taking on Kessel’s expensive long-term contract, would immediately upgrade/boost their power play, top 6 forward unit, and playoff chances.

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While acquiring Phil Kessel is extremely unlikely at this point of time, it’s still worth considering if the right deal is involved. Given Dale typically doesn’t perform blockbuster trades for all-star caliber players, Tallon should at least offer some consideration, nonetheless.