As the Pittsburgh Penguins try to fight through a month-long slump, one of their marquee forwards now finds his name in the trade rumor mill.
In his latest "31 Thoughts" column, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported that the Penguins have "tested the market" on All-Star sniper Phil Kessel. There are no indications a move is imminent, but it's interesting enough that the Penguins might consider moving one of their most productive players.
The 31-year-old Kessel has 10 goals and 29 points in 26 games. He's coming off a career year, in which Kessel scored 34 goals and 92 points. Kessel has 250 points in 272 career games with the Penguins.
General manager Jim Rutherford has already made one notable trade, acquiring Tanner Pearson from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for Carl Hagelin. Rutherford warned that more moves would be on the way if the Penguins didn't turn it around, which could be why he's considering a Kessel trade.
The Penguins reportedly considered trading Kessel last year, as reports of him clashing with head coach Mike Sullivan became public. But if there's any tension between the coach and perennial All-Star, they're sure doing a fine job of hiding it.
Entering play on Thursday, the banged-up Penguins sit at 11-10-5 on the year, two points behind the New York Islanders for the final playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division.
Unless the Penguins are getting equal value in a return, trading Kessel certainly hurts their chances of winning the Stanley Cup again, let alone making the postseason. He's signed through the 2021-22 season with an $8 million cap hit each year, and there won't be many takers for that contract, given his age.
What This Means
If the Penguins get hot and re-enter the playoff picture, then Rutherford will have little reason to consider trading his All-Star sniper. But if Pittsburgh is playing this poorly in the new year, Rutherford might decide it's time to move out one of the most dynamic scorers in the game today.