McKenzie: Kessel is highly likely to be traded, more a matter of where and when
Each day through the NHL Draft on June 21 and free agency on July 1, TSN.ca breaks down the latest news and rumours around the NHL.
A Matter of When, Not If
It appears Phil Kessel's days with the Pittsburgh Penguins are numbered whether or not he waives his no-trade for the Minnesota Wild.
According to TSN Hockey Insider Pierre LeBrun, Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford is discussing a Kessel trade with teams around the league and adds that, "it's a question of when, not if, for Kessel to be dealt but where exactly remains to be determined."
Josh Yohe of The Athletic reported Thursday that the Minnesota Wild had an offer on the table for Kessel in a deal which would have included forward Jason Zucker heading back to Pittsburgh. Yohe added the deal was dependent on Kessel waiving his no-trade clause, which LeBrun adds he is leaning against.
Kessel has an eight-team approved trade list and LeBrun notes a few clubs on that list have reached out to the Penguins. Yohe reported Thursday that the Arizona Coyotes could be a landing spot for Kessel given his relationship with former Penguins assistant coach Rick Tocchet, but the team's current ownership situation is holding them back from making an offer.
Kessel is ranked No. 1 on the TSN Trade Bait board. He has spent the past four seasons with the Penguins, winning the Stanley Cup with the team in both 2016 and 2017. He scored 27 goals and posted 82 points in 82 games this season and added one goal and two points in four playoff games.
The 31-year-old is signed for three more seasons at a $6.8 million cap hit - with the Toronto Maple Leafs retaining $1.8 million of his salary.
Matthew DeFranks of The Dallas Morning News believes the toughest decision facing the Stars this off-season is what to do with forward Valeri Nichushkin.
Nichushkin returned to the Stars this season after two years in the KHL, but failed to score a goal and posted 10 assists in 57 games this season.
In a chat with readers, DeFranks pointed out that the Russian winger is the team's sixth-highest paid forward, carrying a $2.95 million cap hit, and wonders whether general manager Jim Nill will consider a buyout to clear cap space.
The Stars have $66.6 million committed towards the salary cap for next season, according to CapFriendly, with six players slated for unrestricted free agency and four headed for restricted free agency.
DeFranks believe the Stars also face a tough decision on whether to keep restricted free agents Mattias Janmark and Brett Ritchie after down years, but ultimately believes both are worth tendering a qualifying offer to.
No Long-Term Concern
Erik Karlsson battled through a groin injury throughout the playoffs with the San Jose Sharks before finally missing the team's season-ending Game 6 to the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday.
Karlsson, who is scheduled to become a unrestricted free agent on July 1, said it's still to be determined whether he need surgery, but added there is no long-term concern.
“Not sure yet. We’re still in that process,” he explained. “That’s why I can’t really say, because I don’t really know myself. All I know is it’s not going to be anything that will be a problem moving forward. I’m going to be able to have a normal summer with training and everything and getting ready. That’s great.
“It’s just unfortunate it happened when it did.”
The 28-year-old scored goals and had 16 points in 19 games during the playoffs. He posted three goals and 45 points in 53 games during the regular season, missing significant time with the groin injury.
A two-time Norris Trophy winner, Karlsson said Thursday he expects to test the free agent market as a UFA for the first time in his career.
“I’ve worked hard for 10 years in this league to be in the position that I’m in. I’ve earned that,” Karlsson said. “It’s a big responsibility and decision coming up for me personally. I haven’t really dealt with that process yet. But I will and I will do it to the best of my manners with the information that I have. Some people have to go through it and I’m one of them.
"I’ll do everything I can to make the best decision for myself and for the team that is going to want me.”
Karlsson is ranked No. 2 on TSN Hockey's Top 25 Free Agent Frenzy list.
Defenceman Slava Voynov was credited with 41 games served towards his one-year suspension by arbitrator Shyam Das on Thursday, allowing him to return to the NHL halfway through next season.
The Los Angeles Kings terminated Voynov's contract in 2015, but still own his rights since the Russian is only on the voluntary retired list. The Kings announced Thursday, though, that Voynov will not play for the team.
"Today the NHL arbitrator rendered a final decision on further discipline to Slava Voynov. From our perspective, the player will not be playing for the Kings. We will now determine the impact of the arbitrator's decision on our rights to the player and consider our options going forward."
Voynov was suspended indefinitely in October 2014 after being arrested and accused of abusing his wife. He pleaded no contest to a misdemeanour, left the United States to go back to Russia and in July had the conviction dismissed by a judge in Los Angeles. His most recent suspension was imposed in April after he applied for reinstatement.
The 29-year-old Russian last played an NHL game on Oct. 19, 2014. He won a pair of Stanley Cup titles with the Kings in 2012 and 2014.
Since his last NHL game, Voynov played three seasons in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League and won a gold medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Files from The Canadian Press were used in this report