Just a few days ago, it was leaked that the Pittsburgh Penguins were closing in on a deal to send veteran forward Phil Kessel to Minnesota in a four-player trade. However, that trade hasn’t happened yet, suggesting that Kessel, who has can choose eight teams that he cannot reject a trade to, isn’t interested in playing for the Wild.
This complication could be a major issue for Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford, according to The Athletic’s Rob Rossi (subscription required), whose goal was to move Kessel and free up some cap room as early as possible, so the team could begin reshaping its roster. Once that deal was done, Rutherford could concentrate on his checklist that includes finalizing a new contract for goaltender Matt Murray, smoothing things over with Evgeni Malkin, working towards adding more youth throughout its franchise and possibly adding more picks in the early portion of the upcoming draft.
Yet, with Kessel flashing an unwillingness to be cooperative in where he gets traded, Rutherford’s job has gotten quite a bit harder. Rossi points out that Kessel’s value takes a big hit if he has little control on where Kessel goes, which could limit the team’s ability to cut salary this offseason. On top of that, now that everyone knows that Rutherford wants to move Kessel out, it will even be harder to get a good trade in the future.
- Sticking with the Penguins, TribLive’s Jonathan Bombulie reports that after not getting the head coaching position with the Ottawa Senators or Buffalo Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins assistant coach Jacques Martin will return for a fifth season with the Penguins. That’s good news for Pittsburgh, as he was critical in running the team’s defense and penalty kill. Martin lost out on the Ottawa job to Toronto assistant coach D.J. Smith, while Buffalo hired Ralph Krueger.
- The Athletic’s Arthur Staple (subscription required) writes that it doesn’t look like the New York Islanders will be signing goaltending prospect Ilya Sorokin out of the KHL this season. The team had hoped that Sorokin would buy out his final season of his KHL contract after he led his team to the Gagarin Cup Championships this year and come over to New York a year early. However, Staple writes that the 23-year-old netminder, who posted a 1.16 GAA and a .940 save percentage in the regular season for CSKA Moscow and was equally good in the playoffs, has chosen to finish out his contract, so the earliest New York would see him was the 2020-21 season.
- The New York Post’s Brett Cyrgalis writes that now the New York Islanders have locked up center Brock Nelson to a six-year, $36MM deal, the team must now focus their attention on captain Anders Lee, who is rumored to be seeking a seven-year deal at $7MM per season. That may be too much for general manager Lou Lamoriello, but at the same time would leave a huge hole in their lineup if they let him walk, leaving Lamoriello with the task of replacing him with either Jordan Eberle or another underwhelming option.