There’s no love lost between Phil Kessel and Mike Sullivan, according to a new column by Josh Yohe of The Athletic (subscription required). Yohe reveals specific incidents between the enigmatic superstar and his head coach over the last few years that has created a sort of divide between the two, but makes sure to state that there is no rush to send Kessel packing. The 30-year old forward has never been a coach’s dream player, doing things his own way most of the time. His own way resulted in a career-high 92 points this season, and even with just a single goal in the postseason he still registered nine points in 12 games.
Despite all the success that Kessel has had in Pittsburgh, Yohe explains how he feels about the situation at the end of his piece:
…if this relationship is beyond repair, a trade should be explored. From what I’ve been told, the Penguins aren’t actively seeking a trade involving Kessel, but they’re willing to listen if anyone makes an offer.
This is about a great coach and a star player. Ultimately just how much the coach can tolerate will tell this story’s conclusion because Sullivan will get what he wants.
Kessel is a star in the NHL and has been for a long time. With 741 points in 914 regular season games, he’s still one of the game’s most dangerous offensive machines. Able to score one-on-one, or use his speed and quickness to create space for teammates, he hasn’t registered a season with fewer than 20 goals or 52 points in more than a decade. His contract, expensive as it was when the Toronto Maple Leafs signed him in 2013, is fairly reasonable these days. The Maple Leafs are retaining $1.2MM per season, and the actual salary drops starting next season, and throughout the final four years. Despite his apparent reputation, he would be a desirable asset for many teams.
But, isn’t he that still for the Penguins? This is a team still in a win-now mode with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin entering their thirties, close to the end of their prime. In a few seasons there may be talk of a rebuild, but not right now. Many believed they had a real shot at a third consecutive Stanley Cup this season, and after his near point-per-game performances in each of the last two postseasons who wouldn’t want Kessel to stick around?
Perhaps the answer is only Sullivan, but what do you think? Cast your vote below, and jump into the comments section to explain why you think the Penguins should or shouldn’t consider moving Kessel.
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