Arizona Coyotes winger Phil Kessel is entering the final season of his eight-year, $64-million contract. He could end up playing elsewhere by the March 21 trade deadline.
TSN’s Darren Dreger last week speculated Kessel could be among this season’s notable trade candidates. It’s doubtful the 34-year-old right wing fits into the long-term plans of Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong. He also indicated Kessel wants a fresh start elsewhere and an opportunity to earn a new NHL contract.
Dreger said Kessel wants to go to a competitive, if not contending team. Shipping him to one, however, could prove easier said than done.
Cap Friendly shows the Coyotes carrying $6.8 million of his $8-million cap hit but that could be difficult to move with many teams strapped for cap space this season. He also has an eight-team list of preferred trade destinations.
Kessel’s production also declined significantly after being shipped to the low-scoring Coyotes by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2019. His 38 points in 70 games in 2019-20 were his lowest since his 37-point sophomore campaign with the Boston Bruins in 2007-08.
A bounce-back performance last season saw Kessel tally a team-leading 20 goals and 43 points in 56 games. Another solid effort this season could draw interest from teams seeking scoring depth. His two Stanley Cup rings with the Penguins could make him enticing to playoff contenders looking for players with postseason experience.
Kessel’s contract makes it unlikely he’ll be involved in an early-season deal. He’ll probably have to wait until the weeks leading up to the March 21 trade deadline to land with a new club.