Carolina Hurricanes: Exploring a trade for Phil Kessel

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – FEBRUARY 23: Phil Kessel #81 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates against the Philadelphia Flyers during the 2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game at the Lincoln Financial Field on February 23, 2019, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

For those of you who have watched Carolina Hurricanes hockey for a long time, you know that the Canes have a history of goal-scoring trouble. One man who has no trouble scoring goals is current Arizona Coyotes forward Phil Kessel. With just under 400 career NHL goals and multiple 30+ goal seasons in his career, the forward could be a very interesting trade target when we come to the NHL trade deadline.

Many people will know Phil Kessel for his time in Boston and Toronto, but Kessel enjoyed the most success in his career as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins as part of their deadly three-headed monster. He did capture two Stanley Cups as a member of the Penguins in back-to-back seasons and played a major part in their success.

Kessel isn’t the same player he was in Pittsburgh if we’re being completely honest. He had a really bad down year in the COVID shortened season and this season, his numbers were very similar, although with far fewer games played. With 20 goals and 23 helpers for 43 points in 56 games, Kessel performed well enough to still be of use to a team with a scoring need.

Now, it is known that Kessel is in the final year of an 8 year, $64 million deal that sees him carry a cap hit of $6.8 million per year after the retention that Toronto imparted on Kessel when he was dealt to the Pittsburgh Penguins. He’s going to be playing for his future in the NHL, and at 33 years old, there’s no certainty his future in the NHL is secure.

Kessel would be an interesting addition in Raleigh, specifically to the top six. If you reshuffle and have Kessel on the second line with the SAT unit leading the way, Carolina becomes a genuine threat with multiple lines. If you push Kessel as far down as the third line, the Canes could be deadly across their top 9. That sort of depth can drag teams to the Stanley Cup.

Now, there’s not all sunshine and rainbows with Kessel. In the past, his attitude has been questioned. He’s been labeled as a quiet guy, and he’s not exactly much of a leader which is disappointing given his age. But, when you have the personnel that Carolina does, I would argue that Kessel doesn’t need to be any of that.

Now, the price for Phil Kessel is likely what the sticking point will be. My guess is that Kessel would start with something like Tuukka Tieksola and the 2022 2nd round pick Carolina possesses might get it done, maybe the Chicago 3rd for retention. Kessel still produces at a very nice rate, and the major issue teams trading for him will have is trying to eat his cap. Carolina could do this if Arizona eat 50% of his remaining deal (which can be done).

Is Phil Kessel someone that HAS to be on the roster in order to make the Canes a cup contender? No. But if he wants out of Arizona’s rebuild so badly, why not entertain the idea. It might not be an ideal fit, it might not be a fit at all, but it certainly is worth the thought and the potential walk-through of what might happen with Phil Kessel.