There’s some debate that because the Tampa Bay Lightning lost their star forward Nikita Kucherov to another injury, the team needed to fill that void. While he isn’t expected to be out for 56 games like last season, it is not a short-term injury. Therefore, the team needs to decide to stand pat or attempt to acquire another sharpshooting forward. Gee, it just so happens that the Arizona Coyotes forward Phil Kessel is asking to be moved from the rebuilding process that they are exercising. And, the team seems interested in accommodating his request. As previously reported here, one of the prime locations for a Phil Kessel trade is to relocate to Tampa Bay.
Phil Kessel Trade to Tampa Helps Both Teams
Let’s face it, this is a deal made for each team’s needs. The Lightning need another scorer and Kessel can do that. The Coyotes are rebuilding and Kessel just isn’t in their plans going forward. With all the draft picks that general manager Bill Armstrong has accumulated, 34-year-old Kessel would not fit in with that group.
The vital question for Tampa Bay is can they get Kessel’s $6.8 million cap hit into their budget? In reality, they could since they could place Kucherov’s $9.5 million onto long-term injury reserve. But, since Kucherov isn’t expected to be out all season, what do you do when he returns? In reality, all that is owed Kessel if he were traded is the remaining $1 million on his contract. He has already been paid his $5 million bonus by the Coyotes. The last year of his deal calls for $6 million.
To lower his cap hit, it is possible that Arizona retains salary? They already have two retentions on the book but are allowed three per season. Kessel and Darcy Kuemper expire after this year so it’s not long-term. That would make Kessel’s cap hit much more manageable if they retained up to 50%.
Phil Kessel Trade Can Help Tampa Now and Later
What it all boils down to is, can the Lightning do without their star forward and for how long? After all, they are attempting a three-peat here, right? Kucherov has tallied 75 goals in his last 153 games. It would be difficult, if not impossible to expect the team to be as dominant without him in the lineup.
Kessel on the other hand has gathered 35 goals and 50 assists since joining the Coyotes and playing in 133 games. Even at his age, he has played in 988 straight games without missing any due to injury. Kucherov missed the entire last season of 56 games and is likely out 8-10 weeks after undergoing a procedure of some kind. Having him out of the lineup that long will not be ideal for the Lightning’s hope to get another Cup.
The Coyotes Could Demand a Late First For Kessel
It’s uncertain if the Lightning are desperate enough to give Armstrong’s Coyotes a first-round pick for Kessel, but it’s worth a try. It’s not that the Yotes lack draft choices, with a total of 12 thus far for the 2022 NHL Draft. If the Lightning don’t want to give up their first-rounder, perhaps a defensive prospect like Callan Foote (son of former NHL player Adam Foote) would work. He’s a physical specimen standing 6′-4″, 227 pounds. He was Tampa Bay’s first-round, 14th overall selection in the 2017 draft. With the Coyotes recently losing D-man Conor Timmins for 8-12 weeks, this could also work out fine for the Desert Dogs.
According to Last Word on Hockey’s own Ben Kerr: “Foote isn’t quite as physical as his famous father, but Foote is still willing to play the body. Its more about battling in the corners and clearing the front of the net than throwing big open-ice hits though. He has good positioning and is willing to block shots. His large size helps him to cut down passing lanes. Foote maintains good gap control and is tough to beat one-on-one off the rush.”
In either case, the Lightning must give up something to get Kessel. He’s been in trade rumours for a bit now, and he could be dealt before the trade deadline. The Coyotes are ready if the Lightning are. Some say that the Lightning did fine without Kucherov playing at all last season. Do they really think that will happen again? The time is ripe for this prospective Phil Kessel trade to go down.
Really this is very simple. Kessel wants to move on and he loves to play golf and be in a warm climate. It seems that Tampa Bay has those qualities and now it’s just a matter of time as to when it will happen. While Kessel doesn’t really possess much in the way of defence, he can score. And with Kucherov out for two or more months, they need to find a player who is adept at turning on the red light.
Could Phil Kessel be that player? I think so.