Pittsburgh Penguins’ Trade Deadline Target: Phil Kessel

Courtesy of Penguins.com

Remember to follow us on Twitter and Like us on Facebook for continued Pittsburgh Sports coverage: 

To see Cody's ongoing list of Penguins' trade targets: Click here 

The NHL trade deadline always brings about some fun rumors that are both realistic and far-fetched. Even some rumors involving teams reuniting with guys they once previously had.

With that being said, could the Pittsburgh Penguins reunite with a former Pittsburgh cult hero?

Phil Kessel is wasting the back nine of his career in Arizona, the worst market in the entire league. Contending teams will likely give Arizona a call as Kessel is finishing out the final season of a contract that pays him $6.8 million a year. With the Coyotes miles out of a playoff spot, he’d be better served moving to a contender.

So could that contender be the Penguins?

Everyone remembers what Kessel and the Penguins were able to accomplish. His first two seasons brought Stanley Cups to Pittsburgh and he was an integral part of both. The ‘HBK Line’, consisting of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino, and Kessel, made the Penguins one of the deepest teams in recent history.

Kessel’s best hockey of his career was played in Pittsburgh. The relationship eventually ended because of the growing frustrations Kessel caused with the coaching staff.

Head coach Mike Sullivan demands a defensive style of play to go along with the scoring talent the Penguins have. Defense isn’t something Kessel particularly chooses to participate in. This irritated the coaching staff and eventually saw Kessel sent to the Coyotes, with salary retained, for Alex Galchenyuk and Pierre-Olivier Joseph.

Upon his arrival to the desert, Kessel scored 14 and 20 goals in the past two seasons. He has just six goals in 53 games this season. These past three seasons have been three of the worst seasons of Kessel’s career. He is trending towards the end of his career but he’s also playing for a team devoid of pretty much any talent.

Any acquiring team, however, would be getting a player that could help elevate the power play. Kessel was once one of the game’s most lethal scorers. When given line mates, Kessel has proven that he can score at a spectacular pace. He doesn’t have that in Arizona.

He’d be a perfect fit in a contending teams middle-six forward group. Ironically, the Penguins need a middle-six forward.

Despite Sullivan’s certain disdain for Kessel’s inability to commit to a defensive style of play, he certainly enjoyed and respected his ability to score. Kessel scored 303 points in 328 career games in Pittsburgh. That’s a 0.92 points/game pace. No one is going to complain about that.

What might deter the Penguins from a reunion would most likely be the price tag to acquire Kessel.

As previously mentioned, Kessel comes with a $6.8 million cap hit. That’s steep for a 35-year old with six goals in 53 games. Money would have to be retained on Arizona’s side but that would sweeten the return for them. Plus, it would most likely take somewhere around a second or third round draft pick to obtain Kessel.

Would the Penguins be willing to part with a second or third round pick to bring Phil the Thrill back to Pittsburgh? It’s certainly cheaper than the original price the Penguins paid to bring Kessel here in the first place.

I don’t know how feasible the idea really is, but Kessel back to Pittsburgh has at least been rumored by some insiders. Whether it would happen or not remains to be seen but I’d have to think the high price tag, and his refusal to commit to Sullivan’s system, will cause Ron Hextall to look elsewhere for some forward help.