From almost the second the Arizona Coyotes 2020-21 season came to an end, there were rumors that the team may look to move Phil Kessel this offseason. Given how tight lipped both the team and player were about the situation however, it was anyone’s guess as to whether or not there was any truth behind it. That has now changed, as a very trusted source to the organization got in on the conversation on Friday.
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Craig Morgan, who is well known for being the best source for Coyotes news, is reporting that while the team actually has interest in keeping Kessel, the 33-year-old has requested a trade. While that is his wish however, he apparently doesn’t have much interest around the league, likely due to his cap hit of $6.8 million.
Morgan went on to say that despite the trade request, the Coyotes aren’t in a rush to move Kessel and may hold onto him all the way up to the 2022 trade deadline if necessary. Given that he has just one year remaining on his contract, teams that are destined for the playoffs would likely be willing to give up assets to bring him in as a rental, so this approach would make a ton of sense from Arizona’s perspective.
Though often times players who request trades get a bad rap from fans, it is hard to blame Kessel in this situation. From the moves the Coyotes have made this offseason, it is clear they are completely blowing things up and are doing a complete rebuild. Barring an absolute shocker, they will be one of the worst teams, if not the worst, in the entire NHL next season. With Kessel getting into his mid-30’s, it is understandable why he would prefer to move on to a better team.
Since being traded from the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Coyotes during the 2019 offseason, Kessel’s production has taken a major hit. While he was able to put up some solid numbers this past season with 20 goals and 43 points in 56 games, it is a far cry from his years with the Penguins, particularly the 2017-18 season in which he put up a career high 92 points.
Though Kessel may not be the same elite goal scoring forward he was years ago, he can still be very effective in the right situation. Unfortunately in Arizona, he has been forced to be the main guy, something he has struggled with. If he is able to find himself in the near future on a team like the Penguins, playing with some top end line mates, he could be a very great pickup.
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