4 years, 2 Cups: Remembering Phil Kessel’s time with the Penguins
April 11, 2015: Kessel records a goal and an assist in a 4-3 shootout loss to Montreal in what would be his last game in a Toronto jersey. Despite recording 394 points in 446 games over six seasons, the Leafs are, according to Toronto Sun columnist Steve Simmons, growing tired of Kessel’s “singular, laissez-faire, flippant, mostly uncoachable ways.”
June 22, 2015: According to reports, the Penguins are one of eight teams listed as acceptable destinations in the limited no-trade clause in Kessel’s contract.
July 1, 2015: The Penguins acquire Kessel from Toronto in a package headlined by Kasperi Kapanen, Scott Harrington and a first-round draft pick. General manager Jim Rutherford says he has no concerns about Kessel’s character. “I’ve done a lot of homework on this and I’ve talked to a lot of people,” Rutherford said. “I do believe that getting a fresh start, getting out of Toronto, where he went under the microscope from day one, he was always the guy, the guy that got blamed when things weren’t going well, and he doesn’t have to be the guy here. We have a bunch of them.”
Aug. 25, 2015: Coach Mike Johnston says Kessel will likely open the season on Sidney Crosby’s right wing.
Sept. 22, 2015: Playing with Crosby, Kessel has two goals in a 7-3 win over Carolina in his first preseason game in a Penguins uniform.
Oct. 10, 2015: Kessel scores his first Penguins goal in his second game with the team, a 2-1 loss at Arizona.
Oct. 24, 2015: After a 3-4 start to the season, Kessel is moved off Crosby’s line and onto Evgeni Malkin’s. Kessel would rarely play with Crosby at even-strength afterwards.
Oct. 31, 2015: Kessel plays his first game in Toronto since the trade. He receives a mix of cheers and boos from the crowd and doesn’t record a point in a 4-0 Penguins win.
March 11, 2016: Malkin suffers an upper-body injury in a 3-2 Penguins win at Columbus. With Malkin out, Kessel finds new linemates: Carl Hagelin and Nick Bonino. The HBK Line is born.
May 10, 2016: Kessel scores the game’s first two goals and assists on Bonino’s overtime winner as the Penguins dispatch the Washington Capitals in the second round of the playoffs.
May 19, 2016: At the height of HBK hysteria, Primanti Bros. names a sandwich in honor of the trio.
June 12, 2016: Kessel raises the Stanley Cup after the Penguins beat San Jose 3-1 to claim the franchise’s fourth championship. Kessel leads the team in playoff scoring with 22 points in 24 games.
Sept. 20, 2016: At the team’s preseason golf tournament, Kessel vows offseason hand surgery won’t keep him out of the season opener. He’s right. Kessel has played in 774 consecutive games, the eighth-longest streak in NHL history.
Sept. 20, 2016: After the U.S. loses 4-2 to Canada to fall out of medal contention at the World Cup of Hockey without Kessel on the roster, he writes a now-famous Tweet: “Just sitting around the house tonight w my dog. Felt like I should be doing something important, but couldn’t put my finger on it.”
Oct. 6: As the Penguins visit the White House, President Barack Obama reminds everyone that “Phil Kessel is a Stanley Cup champion.”
Nov. 8, 2016: Fifty-three people in Westmoreland and Allegheny counties case a write-in vote for Kessel in the U.S. presidential election.
May 15, 2016: Kessel scores the game’s lone goal on a third-period rebound to lead the Penguins to a 1-0 victory over Ottawa in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals.
June 10, 2016: Kessel is a two-time Stanley Cup champion after the Penguins beat the Predators 2-0 in Game 6.
July 13, 2016: After rumors pop up, Rutherford says he “doesn’t foresee” trading Kessel in the offseason.
Oct. 2, 2017: Kessel turns 30. “When I was young, I didn’t know (anything). I learned a lot of lessons along the way, all good lessons. It obviously makes you stronger through the years. But I know I’m getting old.”
Oct. 27, 2017: Kessel’s 300th NHL goal gives the Penguins a 2-1 overtime win over Winnipeg.
Jan. 14, 2018: Kessel records his 700th career point in a 5-2 win over the Rangers.
April 6, 2018: Kessel has a goal and an assist in a season-ending 4-0 win over Ottawa to finish with a career-high 92 points for the season.
May 7, 2018: Kessel is held without a point as the Penguins see their season end with a Game 6 loss to Washington in the second round of the playoffs. He scored one goal in 12 playoff games.
March 8, 2019: Kessel scores in the first period to snap a career-long 16-game goal drought in a 3-0 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
March 19, 2019: Kessel sets a team record with his 320th consecutive game played when he suits up against the Carolina Hurricanes. Craig Adams held the mark.
April 10, 2019: Kessel has a goal and an assist, but the Penguins lose 4-3 to the New York Islanders in Game 1 of a first-round playoff series. Three losses later, the Penguins’ season was over.
June 11, 2019: Rutherford says he is no longer shopping Kessel after the winger used his no-trade clause to nix a potential deal to the Minnesota Wild for winger Jason Zucker.
June 29, 2019: The Penguins trade Kessel, a fourth-round draft pick and defense prospect Dane Birks to the Arizona Coyotes for winger Alex Galchenyuk and defense prospect Pierre-Olivier Joseph.
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review assistant sports editor. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .