Johnston: Kessel to Penguins still a possibility

Chris Johnston joined Prime Time Sports to talk about the Maple Leafs, and what the odds of them trading Phil Kessel or Dion Phaneuf are.

Could Phil Kessel be heading to the Pittsburgh Penguins?

Speaking on Prime Time Sports on Sportsnet 590 The Fan Tuesday, Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston thinks it’s still a possibility.

“It just makes too much sense from the Penguins perspective,” Johnston said. “They’ve been mentioned in the T.J. Oshie, in the Patrick Sharp contract talks.

“The issue with those is that Pittsburgh needs to unload money in addition to bringing those guys in.”

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The Toronto Maple Leafs forward has been linked to trade rumours for the last month, and with the team in a rebuild the window for trading Kessel is open.

Kessel, 27, is in the second year of an eight-year contract with Toronto that carries an average cap hit of $8 million per season. Kessel also has a no-movement clause and a $4- million signing bonus due July 1.

“The teams they’re (Penguins) largely dealing with can’t really take on money,” Johnston said. “Where is the Leafs are uniquely positioned in that they have a ton of cap space, and they’re willing to use it in terms of maybe taking back some oversized contracts for guys that are a little long in the tooth or mildly overpaid, whatever it may be and I think that there is a recipe there to get this done and it’s pretty clear the Leafs are open to doing it.”

Kessel, who has exceeded the 30-goal mark in four of the last six seasons, registered 25 goals, 36 assists with a minus-34 rating in 82 games for Toronto this past season.

Earlier in the day, the Chicago Blackhawks traded winger Brandon Saad to the Columbus Blue Jackets. According to multiple reports, Saad was a target for the Penguins.

With files from Jeff Simmons

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