Phil Kessel has been traded twice during his NHL career and this off-season could potentially see it happen a third time.
On the most recent episode of the 31 Thoughts podcast, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman described the Wild as “one of the most interesting off-season teams” and pondered whether or not Kessel would want to play in Minnesota.
The winger spent one year at the University of Minnesota before being drafted fifth-overall by the Boston Bruins in 2006.
Kessel does partially control his fate, according to CapFriendly, as he has a modified no-trade clause that allows him to submit a list of eight teams to which he’d be willing to join.
According to Yohe, Kessel “did research on Minnesota and the Wild during the past week” and is close friends with Wild defenceman and fellow Madison, Wisc., native Ryan Suter.
Wild forward Jason Zucker is rumoured to be on the trade block – he was nearly acquired by the Calgary Flames at the trade deadline earlier this year – and Yohe added that the Wild could also look to move Victor Rask’s contract.
Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford is among the more aggressive GMs in the league and his team has run into some salary cap issues.
Kessel is one of 11 Penguins players with a 2019-20 cap hit of $4 million or greater and many of those players are locked up for several more years.
The 31-year-old, who scored 82 points in 82 games, has three years remaining on his contract. His cap hit is $8 million annually but the Toronto Maple Leafs are on the hook for $1.2 million annually.
The Wild only averaged 2.56 goals per game this past season, which was the fifth-worst mark in the NHL, so adding a sniper like Kessel lines up with their off-season priorities.
Only four players have scored more goals than the 327 Kessel has buried since the 2008-09 season. Those players are Patrick Kane (335), Sidney Crosby (347), Steven Stamkos (393) and Alex Ovechkin (495).
Kessel helped lead the Penguins to back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 2016 and 2017.