New general manager, Bill Armstrong needs to evaluate his Arizona Coyotes‘ roster. One name which pops out has to be Phil Kessel. When Darren Dreger mentioned that he heard from a source that “anyone 25 or over, make an offer and they’re willing to listen.” That would certainly include the former Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs and Pittsburgh Penguins winger Kessel. He will be a 33-year-old in a little over a week and still has two years remaining on his lucrative $8 million deal with the Leafs paying $1.2 million of it.
"There is a # of teams that have stressed going below that 81.5 cap & at least a few teams that want to get it into the low 70’s or lower. I heard from a good source today that ARZ has basically said anyone 25 or older, make an offer & they’re willing to listen.” @DarrenDreger pic.twitter.com/zNq6YcyguM
— TSN Radio Vancouver (@TSN1040) September 15, 2020
Phil Kessel Needs to be Dealt
When former general manager John Chayka was able to deal Alex Galchenyuk away to the Penguins in exchange for Kessel it was thought to be a shot in the arm for the weak Coyotes offence. After all, Phil Kessel was a huge scorer in Pittsburgh, exactly what the team needed… right? Wrong! He turned out to be just as much of a dud as Galchenyuk was and the Coyotes lost out on that trade which sent the popular fan-favourite Max Domi to the Montreal Canadiens.
Kessel did come loaded with NHL credentials as a prolific scorer. He gathered 357 goals and 466 assist in 996 games before he called Arizona home. Of course, most of those lofty statistics were gained in Pittsburgh where they have two of the best players on the planet. When you play alongside Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin you can expect to appear on the scorer’s sheet frequently. Phil hasn’t had that in Arizona. He struggled to gain just 14 goals and 24 assists in 70 games. Some claim he was hurt and shouldn’t have played, but he had his consecutive games streak on the line and the head coach was his buddy. Just fill in the blanks there.
It’s Time to go Phil
For all intents and purposes, Phil Kessel was filling a roster spot that a younger rising prospect could have used. Rightfully so, veterans like any player must work their way through injuries. But there was something about Kessel’s lack of speed he once had that made you feel something wasn’t right. He was placed on the power-play unit since he performed well there in his career. He has had 111 power-play goals of his 371 career tallies, that’s 30 percent of his total goal production. Still, even with just 14 goals in a Coyotes’ uniform, nine were of the man-advantage variety.
There’s a New GM in Town
Will Armstrong go through his roster and see which players 25 or older need to go? Perhaps. Money has to be an issue with this franchise as with many others due to no gate receipts when play was resumed. The future is still unknown as to whether or not the next season will be able to have fans in the seats or not. That has to leave them unsure of their financial obligations and motivated to trim the budget.
While in an interview with the azcoyotesinsider.substack.com Craig Morgan (subscription required), asked Armstrong: There has been a lot of talk around here about shedding payroll. Can you discuss your plans for this roster in the short term and the long term?
“The short-term plan is to try and put together the best team that we can, the first time we go on the ice. I don’t know about payroll plans yet because ownership has really invested in saying, Hey, look, you come in here and do what you’ve got to do. Just keep us informed. Run a collaborative ship here that keeps everybody informed.”
What Would the Expected Return be For Phil Kessel?
At this point, to save money and keep their cap space under control, the Coyotes still need draft picks. Even a second-rounder and maybe a prospect would be fine. The one team that has some cap space ($10.2 million) and lots of draft picks is the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs have three second-round selections this year. One is the 48th choice and the other is the 57th. Seeing that this will be a good draft, selecting there wouldn’t be bad. Especially considering the Yotes don’t have a draft pick until the fourth round.
The result would be the team gains $6.8 million in cap space and gets them down in a more comfortable area with the uncertainty of what the future holds. Another team with gobs of cap space is the Colorado Avalanche. With $22.3 million to spend, it may be prudent to see if Kessel can connect again with Nazem Kadri and get his scoring mojo going again.
Finally, the Florida Panthers have $20.9 million in their spending basket, but have six restricted free agents and five unrestricted free agents to wheel and deal with before the new season. The Panthers could use additional scoring, and we all know how Phil loves to play golf. It would depend on whether they can re-sign Evgenii Dadonov and Mike Hoffman.
In The End, Phil Leaving Will be a Good Thing
It’s not certain if Kessel will get back to his old self, but the Coyotes have not gotten much out of him at all. Most certainly not $6.8 million worth. If they can move on from him, (he ranks 6th on TSN’s Trade Bait list) it may signal a younger era in Coyotes hockey, which may not be the worst thing in the world.