After being on the trade block the last two summers and nearly being traded to the Minnesota Wild, it appears Phil Kessel will stay with the Pittsburgh Penguins after all, according to general manager Jim Rutherford.
Rutherford nearly sent the winger and defenceman Jack Johnson to Minnesota before the trade fell apart. Armed with a partial no-trade clause, Kessel has only eight teams the Penguins can trade him to, and Minnesota was not on that list.
Now it looks like Kessel will stay in Pittsburgh.
"I think that's the way things are headed at this point in time," Rutherford told The Athletic. “I expect Kessel will probably play for Pittsburgh next season.”
The Penguins are dealing with salary cap issues and trading Kessel seemed to be a given, especially since trading captain Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin isn't in the cards.
“You have to understand that he has a no-trade clause and a lot of leverage,” Rutherford said. “In situations like this, it usually doesn’t work out so well for the team. That’s just the way it is. So, at this point, it looks to me that he will return at this season. That’s how I’m proceeding moving forward.”
Pittsburgh currently has around $3.2 million in cap space with a few players to sign, including defenceman Marcus Pettersson.
In four seasons with the Penguins since being acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2015, Kessel has appeared in 328 games, scoring 110 goals and and 303 points. He was a key component in the Penguins winning back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017, recording 45 points in 49 combined playoff games during those championship runs.