The Pittsburgh Penguins are in unfamiliar territory as they sit in eighth place in the Metropolitan Division with a 3-6 record. The team could use some depth scoring and there is a former Penguin, and Stanley Cup champion, who is now an unrestricted free agent. The problem is Pittsburgh has no cap space to sign him so, if General Manager Kyle Dubas is interested, there will have to be a creative way to free up some money.
Could GM Dubas Bring Back Former 30-Goal Scorer?
Veteran Phil Kessel is waiting for an opportunity to prove he still has hockey left in him. Drafted by the Boston Bruin 5th overall in the 2006 NHL Draft, he is not what he used to be offensively but he can still produce in that department. He would be a valuable piece to someone’s middle-six and has playoff experience when the time comes for that part of the season.
Kessel Has Had a Productive Career
Over his career, Kessel has played in 1,286 games, contributing 413 goals and 579 assists for 992 points. Last season, he played for the Vegas Golden Knights and had 14 goals and 22 assists for 36 points in 82 games. He sits only eight points away from 1,000 career points. He has an ironman streak of 1,064 consecutive games, 75 more than defenseman Keith Yandle.
He is a former Penguin who would fit in the middle of the forward lineup, giving them scoring depth where they need it. During his four seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins, he scored 110 goals and 193 assists for 293 points in 328 games. He also appeared in the playoffs every season in Pittsburgh, scoring 20 goals and adding 36 assists for 56 points in 65 games. Notice the consistency in the point production to the games played, almost a point-per-game.
A former six-time 30 goal scorer, he had a career-high 37 with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2-011-12 and again in 2013-14. He had a career-high of 92 points on 34 goals and 58 assists in Pittsburgh during the 2017-18 season.
PIttsburgh Penguins Could Use Kessel in Many Ways
Not only could Pittsburgh use secondary scoring but they could use Kessel’s services when the playoffs come around in what could be the last run for the core of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang. Kessel does have three Stanley Cups. two with Pittsburgh (2016, 2017) and one with Vegas (2023).
Will he be the Kessel of old? No. Will he reach 75 points? Likely not. However, he can be that missing piece that the Penguins need. Pittsburgh is loaded on the top two lines but the bottom six could use some support offensively. This division is unpredictable and they are certainly in reach for a division title but things need to change before it is too late. Any little bit of scoring and experience could be the difference between a playoff spot and sitting at home.
Dubas would have to get creative and make a move to bring Kessel in, if he is interested. The Pittsburgh Penguins only have $133,704 left in projected cap space so the choices are limited. The Penguins do have six players with one-year left on their contracts (one RFA, five UFA) so moving one of them is a possibility. Moving one, two, or three of those players would certainly make enough room for Kessel. For a team that maybe on their last leg for another Stanley Cup he would be a great addition.