Cage Match: Is Patrick Kane or Phil Kessel Better Bang for the Buck?

Rick Roos


Better Bang for the Buck: Patrick Kane or Phil Kessel?

I always try to return with a bang after finishing a round of tournaments, plus I look for opportunities to revisit past matches which are still as relevant today. This week I kill two birds with one stone, as for my first match after three winter tournaments I rehash a 2014 battle by once again pitting Patrick Kane against Phil Kessel. Is a Panarin-less Kane no longer a threat for 90+ points in a season, and has Kessel morphed back into an 80+ point player in Pittsburgh? Cage Match is on the case!

Career Path and Contract Status

Kane, 29, was drafted first overall ten years ago and emerged with two point-per-game seasons among his first four. His scoring dipped in 2011-12, but then he rattled off three straight point-per-game seasons, although in two he missed more than 12 games, fueling concerns about a possible band-aid boy situation. Those fears were quelled by him playing all 82 games the past two seasons, posting 106 points then 89. There were concerns as to whether Kane’s scoring jump was tied to chemistry with Artemi Panarin, whose arrival coincided with Kane’s 106-point 2015-16 campaign but who was traded in the 2017 offseason. And considering that after 41 games Kane – sans Panarin – stood just below point-per-game scoring, some poolies worried he was no longer a threat to sit atop the NHL’s scoring leaders.

Kessel, 30, was drafted fifth overall a year earlier than Kane. Like Joe Thornton before him, Kessel was traded by Boston (to Toronto) just as he was emerging as a young star. With the Leafs Kessel started slowly, but then had a stretch of three seasons where he collectively averaged above point-per-game scoring. After dipping to 61 points in 2014-15, he was again traded, this time to the Pens, where he had a difficult first season, improved in 2016-17, and now stands above a point-per-game pace for 2017-18.

Kane’s contract counts $10.5M per season against the cap and expires in 2023, while Kessel, although no bargain, has a much lower ($6.8M per season) cap hit and his deal ends a year earlier.

Ice Time (2017-18 stats in this and other tables are current through January 8 games)


Total Ice Time per game

(rank among team’s forwards)

PP Ice Time per game

(rank among team’s forwards)