Who would you rather have on your fantasy squad? Phil Kessel or Patrick Kane? Analysis here…
When I stepped in to do the May 21st Ramblings, one of the comments I received was from "tothemax", who thought I should try to incorporate elite players in Cage Match more often. Well – when it comes to Cage Match, ask and you shall generally receive – this week sees Patrick Kane pitted against Phil Kessel in a battle of arguably two of the NHL's top wingers.
Career Path and Contract Status/Cap Implications
In Kessel and Kane you have two former top five overall draft picks (Kane went first in 2007, Kessel fifth in 2006) who landed the NHL for good the same year they were drafted. Both are now 500+ game NHL veterans, and genuine fantasy cornerstones.
Kane has hit the point per game mark four times, and although his full season career high is only 88 points (achieved back in 2009-10), his 55 points in 47 games for 2012-13 projected to 96 points over an 82 game season. Also, three of his point per game seasons have come in the last four campaigns.
Kessel started his career slowly with Boston, but has now scored 30+ goals in each of the past five full seasons, making him one of only three NHLers to achieve that mark (Alex Ovechkin and Patrick Marleau are the others). Kessel hasn't actually finished a full season above 82 points so far; like Kane – his best season was the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign, although his 52 points in 48 games only projected to 88 points (versus Kane's projected 96).
It should surprise no one that these are two very well paid players, with Kessel's cap hit for 2014-15 being $8M (8th highest among NHL forwards according to Capgeek) and Kane's being $6.3M (tied with teammate Jonathan Toews for 24th highest, according to the same source). But the key is Kane's deal expires after 2014-15, while Kessel's more freshly inked contract runs through 2021-22, which means that a year from now Kane's cap hit should be on a par with – if not higher than – Kessel's.
Kane had already produced an 88 point campaign before 2010-11 so I'd expect his Ice Time to be pretty constant. On the other hand, Kessel only managed a single 60 point season prior to 2010-11 and it wasn't until 2011-12 that he really took off, so it'll be interesting to see if increased Ice Time led to increased production for Kessel, or vice versa. Since both players have the same initials, I denoted Kessel as "(Phil)" and Kane as "(Pat)". Also, I didn't include SH Ice Time since neither had more than seven seconds per game in a season.