Penguins actively shopping popular winger Phil Kessel |

Penguins actively shopping popular winger Phil Kessel

Jonathan Bombulie
Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Phil Kessel plays against the Nashville Predators in the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, March 21, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn.
Penguins right wing Phil Kessel skates away after scoring against the New York Islanders during the first period of Game 1 of their first-round playoff series Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Uniondale, N.Y.

After the Pittsburgh Penguins bowed out of the playoffs in a first-round sweep at the hands of the New York Islanders last month, it quickly became clear changes to the team’s roster were afoot.

That wave of change appears likely to sweep up winger Phil Kessel.

The Penguins actively are shopping the 32-year-old fan favorite, a league source confirmed Thursday.

A deal could prove difficult to complete for a number of reasons. Most notably, Kessel has a restrictive no-trade clause that allows him to be moved to only eight teams without his prior consent.

Also, Kessel carries a $6.8 million cap hit on a contract with three years remaining. That’s not an exorbitant sum for a player who has recorded at least a point per game in each of the past two seasons, but it could require an acquiring team to make adjustments to its roster.

The Penguins, however, are motivated to make a trade happen.

Such a move wouldn’t surprise Kessel. He was asked about his future with the team moments after the Penguins were eliminated from the playoffs.

“I don’t know at this point,” he said. “We’ll see how it goes this summer.”

According to multiple published reports, the Minnesota Wild are one of the teams interested in Kessel.

Minnesota is looking to shake up its roster under first-year general manager Paul Fenton, and the Wild finished 27th in the league in offense and 14th in the league on the power play this season. Kessel could help on both fronts.

Kessel’s arrival from Toronto in a 2015 trade gave the Penguins a critical third offensive option behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. It helped the team claim back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 2016-17, and his numbers haven’t tailed off. Kessel has averaged 30 goals and 87 points over the past two seasons.

The Penguins wouldn’t move Kessel because they’re unsatisfied with his production. They would move him because they’re not satisfied with his overall game.

After being swept by the Islanders, coach Mike Sullivan said the Penguins needed to have 100 percent effort in a number of areas, and none of them is exactly Kessel’s specialty.

“When we’ve had success as a group, with this very same core of players, we were a team that could score goals, but I think what went unnoticed or really not discussed much was we were hard to play against,” Sullivan said. “We had back pressure on the puck. We had sticks. We defended hard. We limited opportunities at the net. There was all kinds of aspects of our game that made us a team that’s difficult to play against.

“The identity of this group, in order to have success regardless of what your strategy is, you have to become a difficult team to play against. Everybody’s got to be held accountable to it, and everybody’s got to take ownership for it.”

Putting aside any dissatisfaction with Kessel’s game, the Penguins are in a position where they have to make some offseason alterations to their roster no matter the circumstances.

With the re-signing of Chad Ruhwedel on Thursday, they have eight defensemen on one-way NHL contracts. By the time they get all their own free agents under contract, they project to be about $3 million over the salary cap.

Therefore, the Penguins are likely to move at least one defenseman from their roster this summer as well.

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.