The Pittsburgh Penguins have traded right wing Phil Kessel, defenseman Dane Birks, and a fourth-round pick to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for forward Alex Galchenyuk and defenseman Pierre-Olivier Joseph.
The Coyotes receive:
Kessel, a productive and durable yet enigmatic winger who has reached the 70-point mark in each of his last three seasons. He has three years remaining on a contract that has a $6.8 million cap hit.
Birks, a sixth-round pick in 2013 who played in the ECHL in 2018-19 (Dobber Prospects profile here).
The Penguins receive:
Galchenyuk, who failed to meet expectations with 41 points (19g-22a) in 72 games in his only season with the Coyotes. He has one year left on a contract with a cap hit of $4.9 million.
Joseph, a prospect defenseman who spent the past season in the QMJHL after being drafted 23rd overall in the 2017 draft (Dobber Prospects profile here).
As a result of the deal, the Pens also receive nearly $2 million in cap space.
The immediate takeaway is that Kessel will reunite in Arizona with Rick Tocchet, the former Pens’ assistant who Kessel was able to form a bond with before Tocchet took the head coach job with the Coyotes. This might explain why Kessel was willing to go to Arizona but not to Minnesota, although the weather might have something to do with that as well.
It would be easy to assume that Kessel’s point total will drop significantly because the Coyotes don’t have a center with the scoring ability of Evgeni Malkin. However, Kessel was nearly as productive in Toronto without the elite linemates, and he has thrived in a third-line role in the past (22 points in 24 playoff games in 2016 while on the “HBK line” with Nick Bonino and Carl Hagelin. He may not get to 80 points with the Coyotes, but 70 points should still be a reasonable projection.
Kessel won’t get upset about receiving third-line minutes any longer with the Coyotes, as he will easily rise to the top of the scoring depth chart on a team whose leading scorer in 2018-19 (Keller) had 47 points. Expect a top line and first power-play unit of Kessel, Keller, and Nick Schmaltz. Keller, Schmaltz, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson (on the first-unit power play) should all receive spikes in value. Acquiring Kessel should do wonders for improving an offense that finished last in the NHL with 132 goals at 5-on-5 and tied for 28th with 209 total goals.
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