Answering 8 burning questions about the Phil Kessel trade |

Answering 8 burning questions about the Phil Kessel trade

Jonathan Bombulie
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins’ Phil Kessel skates during the first day of camp Friday, Sept. 14, 2018 at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.

The first question that springs to mind after the Pittsburgh Penguins traded winger Phil Kessel to the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night is the easiest one to answer.

Friday, Dec. 6.

That’s when the Coyotes visit PPG Paints Arena this season, giving fans the chance to show their appreciation for the popular winger’s contributions to a pair of Stanley Cup championships.

Here are answers to eight other questions about the trade, which sent Kessel, a fourth-round draft pick and Dane Birks to Arizona for Alex Galchenyuk and Pierre-Olivier Joseph:

• When did the deal go down?

GM Jim Rutherford said he informed teams he was open for business immediately after the Penguins were swept out of the first round of the playoffs. He said talks intensified in the last five or six days.

• How does the deal make the Penguins better?

Looking at underlying numbers, Galchenyuk has been marginally better than Kessel defensively in their careers. When they’re on the ice at even strength, Galchenyuk’s teams have given up about three fewer shot attempts, three fewer shots on goal and 0.15 goals against per 60 minutes of ice time than Kessel’s teams. That’s not a big difference.

The Penguins are banking on Galchenyuk helping in other ways. Leaving the “change the culture” narrative aside for a moment, here’s one possibility: Coach Mike Sullivan was furious with Kessel’s casualness when he was on the ice for 13 shorthanded goals against last season and when the Penguins were outscored 5-0 when he was on the ice in overtime. Galchenyuk was on for four shorthanded goals and in overtime, the Coyotes outscored opponents 1-0 when he was on the ice.

• How does the deal make the Penguins worse?

The Penguins are taking a hit offensively, without a doubt. Using round numbers, Kessel has been a 30-goal scorer and Galchenyuk a 20-goal scorer in their careers.

• Where will Galchenyuk play?

Galchenyuk has played center and wing extensively, but reportedly prefers center. That isn’t likely to be his spot with the Penguins. Although it’s too early to tell, Evgeni Malkin’s left wing looks like a fine location for him.

• What does this do to the Penguins’ salary cap?

It saves them $1.9 million, which should help GM Jim Rutherford be more active when free agency opens on Monday. He won’t be able to spend freely, though. The Penguins have about $75 million committed to 10 forwards, seven defensemen and two goalies. Add in the projected salaries of restricted free agents Marcus Pettersson, Zach Aston-Reese and Teddy Blueger, and that leaves them about $2 million under the $81.5 million cap to potentially add one forward. A larger splash than that would require a trade to open more cap space.

• When Rutherford said earlier this month that he was willing to go into next season with Kessel on the roster, was he serious?

Well, he didn’t exactly back off that claim after the deal went down Saturday. In fact, he said Kessel and Sullivan could have continued to coexist if they had to. “I think it was a little bit blown out of proportion at times,” he said. “There were times that they didn’t agree on things, maybe as to what line he was on or whatnot, but that’s not an isolated case. That happens lots of times throughout our league. That was not the factor of him being moved. He certainly could have stayed here and they could have coexisted.”

• Who is Joseph?

An offensive defenseman picked by Arizona in the first round of the 2017 draft. He’s a big-time skater and puck mover, but at 6-foot-2, 168 pounds, he obviously has yet to physically mature. As such, Rutherford estimated his NHL arrival date as a few years from now. Regardless, he slots in near the top of the Penguins’ top 10 prospects list, right in the same neighborhood as defenseman Calen Addison.

• Who is Birks?

A stay-at-home defenseman picked by the Penguins in the sixth round of the 2013 draft. He spent almost all of last season with the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers, recording one goal and 14 points. He was either included in the deal because the Coyotes have taken a special interest in him or, more likely, to even out the number of NHL contracts involved in the deal. NHL teams are allowed to have 50 players under contract. The Penguins have 41.

Follow the Pittsburgh Penguins all offseason long.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review assistant sports editor. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Sports | Penguins | Top Stories
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.