The Pittsburgh Penguins announced they have traded forward Phil Kessel to the Arizona Coyotes, finally ending a long saga in which Pittsburgh has been trying to unload the unhappy veteran. The Penguins will send Kessel, prospect Dane Birks and a 2021 fourth-round pick to Arizona for forward Alex Galchenyuk and prospect Pierre-Olivier Joseph.
“First and foremost, I want to thank Phil Kessel for his contributions to the Penguins. He was a key component to our success in winning back-to-back Stanley Cups. We couldn’t have done it without him, and for that, we are grateful,” said Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford. “With that being said, we are excited to welcome a young, skilled player in Alex, and add depth to our defense with first-round draft pick Pierre-Olivier Joseph.”
Kessel’s name has been in the news all offseason as the team is interested in moving the veteran forward and the three years remaining on his deal at $6.8MM and with some bad blood between Kessel and the Penguins, general manager Jim Rutherford was looking to move him. Rutherford said that Kessel requested to be traded several times during last season and then changed his mind, although Kessel denies that, according to ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski. The Penguins attempted to trade Kessel to Minnesota in May in a package that included Jason Zucker, but Kessel, who has a modified no-trade clause where he can pick eight teams that he can be traded to, rejected the deal as he had no interest in going to Minnesota. However, Kessel would be interested in going to Arizona as he has a great relationship with their coach, Rick Tocchet, who was an assistant coach in Pittsburgh before he took the Coyotes’ job. Tocchet was, in fact, known in Pittsburgh as the “Phil Kessel Whisperer,” and is considered the one coach who can get the most out of the veteran.
The 31-year-old Kessel is coming off a solid season in which he scored 27 goals and 82 points, which would have been tops on Arizona’s squad by 35 points as the team’s points leader was Clayton Keller, who put up 14 goals and 47 points. Kessel provides the Coyotes with a proven veteran scorer, something that was desperately needed as no one in Arizona got to 20 goals last season. In fact, Kessel has scored 291 goals in the last 10 seasons, which is only behind a handful of top players in the league, including Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane and Joe Pavelski. Kessel’s contract will be the second-biggest on the team behind defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Kessel also should provide some stability in the lineup as Arizona was ravaged by injuries last year. Kessel has gone nine straight seasons without having missed a regular-season game. While Kessel isn’t known for his defensive play, it evens out as Galchenyuk is considered to be just as weak defensively.
In Galchenyuk, the Penguins would still get a solid top-six forward, but at both a cheaper price tag and with less term. Galchenyuk has just one year remaining on his deal at $4.9MM, which gives the Penguins some much-needed cap room to attempt to add to a team that got swept in the first-round of the playoffs last year and have a limited time to make a Stanley Cup run as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin aren’t getting any younger. The 25-year-old Galchenyuk put up 19 goals and 41 points in 72 games last season, his first in Arizona after being acquired last offseason via trade from Montreal and should become a solid winger on one of Pittsburgh’s top two lines.
The Penguins also added some young defensive depth as Joseph was Arizona’s first-round pick in 2017 and is ready to turn pro, although he will likely need at least one year in the AHL. The 19-year-old posted nine goals and 42 points for two junior squads last year. Birks is likely to even out the trade as the 23-year-old spent all of last season in the ECHL with the Wheeling Nailers.
TSN’s Darren Dreger was the first to report the trade.