Analysis: Phil Kessel is Now a Member of the Arizona Coyotes

Phil Kessel
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Yes, that’s not a misprint. To almost everyone’s surprise, the Arizona Coyotes have acquired controversial forward Phil Kessel from the Pittsburgh Penguins. The entire deal included the Coyotes also receiving defenceman Dane Birks and a fourth-round pick. The Penguins receive centre/wing Alex Galchenyuk and defenceman Pierre-Oliver Joseph who was the Coyotes 23rd overall pick in 2017.

Arizona Coyotes Grab Big-time Scorer in Phil Kessel

As covered in this publication over a month ago, Phil Kessel was the subject of numerous rumours to be traded from Pittsburgh. Just when all indications were that nothing would happen, Coyotes general manager John Chayka pulled off yet another summer deal. It has been his customary action over the last several seasons to try to improve his team. This may be his biggest deal so far since it addresses a deficiency the team had in the lack of scoring.

NHL free agent frenzy

Phil Kessel with all of his idiosyncrasies can do one thing well, put the puck in the net. He has tallied 174 points over the last two seasons including 61 goals. He’s lethal on the power play. He has had 12 extra-man tallies in each of the last two seasons.

The Coyotes power play lacked much power with only a 16.3 percent success ratio placing them 26th in the NHL. No doubt that Kessel will help in that department.

Sure, may appear out of shape (and some other publications think he likes hot dogs) but he carries another attribute as he heads to the desert. He stays healthy. Actually, this statistic may blow many a person’s minds but he has not missed a game over the last nine seasons. That has to be remarkable and along with Carl Soderberg whom the Coyotes just acquired early last week, the team has added a couple of ironmen. Soderberg has only missed 16 games over his last six seasons. This holds well for a team who was decimated by injuries last season and even though some young players like Connor Garland stepped in to help, it was the demise of the team’s playoff hopes.

Phil had his problems getting along with head coach Mike Sullivan and didn’t appreciate being sent to the lower lines. Sullivan didn’t like Phil’s regular visits to the local casino especially when he appeared with young Jake Guentzel, which was a no-no.

Alex Galchenyuk Heading to Pittsburgh

Galchenyuk came to Arizona in another big trade when the Coyotes sent fan favourite Max Domi to the Montreal Canadiens just over a year ago. His stay in Arizona was short and he contributed 19 goals and 22 assists for 41 points in 72 games. He missed 10 games early in the season which may have slowed his progress.

In the end, Galchenyuk was the primary candidate to head the other way in this trade. His $4.9 million contract is cheaper than Kessel’s $6.8 million deal. The Penguins save some money to maybe add a couple of pieces to their team.

Galchenyuk was a bit controversial while in Montreal as he didn’t appreciate being sent to the wing when he was told he would be a centre. He was told the same thing as he arrived in Arizona. But, it turns out that he’s much better playing on the wing. If he gets to play with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin he may blossom to the scorer he truly can be.

One knock on Galchenyuk is that he is a defensive liability, although both players involved in this trade possess that trait. He doesn’t score enough to overcome his deficiencies and for that reason perhaps it’s best the Coyotes dealt him away. For the Penguins it’s not a big gamble since Glachenyuk is on the last year of his contract. They may see how he does and decide if they want to renew his stay or perhaps trade him away or let him walk next summer. The upside for the Pens is the age difference between Galchenyuk who is just 25-years-olf and Kessel turns 32 in early October.

Grading the Trade for Phil Kessel

No doubt that general managers are very coy individuals. This writer attended the Coyotes town hall before the prospects intra-squad game. Chayka stated that the team didn’t have any big splash trades in the plans. Well, what would you call this, John?

While Chayka may have been holding a full-house poker hand in his card game of what he had planned to do, one thing is certain. The Coyotes got something out of this deal which they thoroughly lacked, a star player who can score. We don’t even know for certain, but this could have been why he didn’t draft any number of scoring forwards available to him at the NHL Draft last week. Did he have Phil on the hook already and we didn’t know? Trades like this don’t just happen, it takes time between the two parties to work out the details.

So, to actually grade the trade I would give the Arizona Coyotes an A. I would give the Pittsburgh Penguins a B-. Both teams accomplished something but for the playoff-hungry Coyotes fans bringing a star player who can be the number one go-to guy is very exciting.

What This Means Going Forward

Does it bring a playoff spot to Arizona, finally? I think so. They only missed out by four points last season. All the other teams in the Western Conference improved. If Chayka hadn’t pulled off this blockbuster deal and failed to get to the postseason again, his job would have been in question.

Right now head coach Rick Tocchet (better known as the Kessel-whisperer) has all three components of a playoff team; defence, offense, and goaltending. Just imagining what line to add Kessel to and how it will affect the team’s past offensive disappointments. Most certainly Kessel will be on the team’s first line. Add Clayton Keller along with a centre like Nick Schmaltz and you have a dominant high potential scoring machine.

Right now, I’m sure Chayka will introduce Phil Kessel to all the great hot dog establishments around town. Just keep him out of the casinos, John.

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