Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Chris Kunitz

PHT Morning Skate: Letang takes shot at Maple Leafs for not paying tribute to Phil Kessel on Saturday


PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Kris Letang took a shot at the Maple Leafs on his personal Twitter account because they didn’t pay tribute to Phil Kessel before Saturday night’s game in Toronto.

Flyers equipment manager Derek Settlemyre decided to prank some of the team’s players and coaches by having them open a cooler with a toy snake in it. (Bardown)

Buffalo News columnist Bucky Gleason wrote about the new three-on-three overtime format and how it’s turning the game into “a circus act”. (Buffalo News)

ESPN’s Scott Powers takes a behind-the-scenes look into the family life of journeyman goaltender Michael Leighton. (ESPN)

Sportlogiq’s Andrew Berkshire examines Sidney Crosby’s slow start to the season. (Sportsnet)

Yahoo’s Greg Wyshynski came up with two ways the NHL could improve the coach’s challenge. (Puck Daddy)

Phil Kessel booed in return to Toronto

Phil Kessel

Phil Kessel was expecting to be booed in his return to Toronto, and he was right.

Kessel is playing in his first game at the Air Canada Center since the off-season trade that saw him go from Toronto to Pittsburgh, and the fans got on him early.

At least they weren’t too vicious:

Penguins forward Chris Kunitz opened the scoring in the first period.

Pittsburgh currently leads 1-0.

PHT Morning Skate: Ron Wilson expects Phil Kessel ‘to score at least 40 goals this year’

Phil Kessel

PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Ron Wilson — Phil Kessel’s former coach in Toronto, who once ripped Kessel for being “uncoachable” — says the former Maple Leaf is destined for great things with the Penguins. “Pittsburgh is building a team that wants to win the Stanley Cup now, and I think Phil is only going to add to their success, so I expect him to score at least 40 goals this year and be a dominant player again.” (

Sounds like the Oilers will hire University of Alberta bench boss Ian Hebers as one of Todd McLellan’s assistants. (Edmonton Journal)

Are the NHL and NHLPA looking to score $8 million in jersey sponsorships fees from the 2016 World Cup of Hockey? (TSN)

Fancy stats are being utilized in arbitration hearings. (TSN)

Nashville has re-upped with depth defenseman Anthony Bitetto on a one-year, two-way contract worth $665,500 at the NHL level and $60,000 at the AHL level. (NHL)

After a busy and important offseason, highlighted by the Brandon Saad trade, the Blue Jackets “have to go out and perform,” according to team president John Davidson. (NHL)

‘It’s hard to find players like Phil Kessel’

Phil Kessel

For all the criticisms of Phil Kessel — and we’re not saying they’re all without merit — here are some facts:

— He has 247 goals in 668 career NHL games. Among active players, that’s the 29th-most goals. And he’s only 27.

— Over the last five seasons, only Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos, and Corey Perry have scored more goals than Kessel. And Kessel’s center has mostly been Tyler Bozak. In Pittsburgh, it’ll be Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.

That’s why Penguins GM Jim Rutherford is excited to have acquired Kessel, whom he considers “right there” in a class with Ovechkin and Stamkos.

“It’s hard to find players like Phil Kessel,” Rutherford told TSN.

Not only did Rutherford get the player he wanted without giving up Derrick Pouliot or Olli Maatta, two young defensemen the Pens will need even more now, he convinced the Leafs to eat $1.25 million per year of Kessel’s salary.

Without that concession by the Leafs, the deal couldn’t have happened, Rutherford said, noting that the Penguins already have Crosby, Malkin, Kris Letang, and Marc-Andre Fleury signed to big, long-term contracts.

Oh, and Rutherford isn’t done yet. He still hopes to add another winger, as well as a fourth-line center.

Video: Will Toronto deal Phil Kessel or Dion Phaneuf?

Edmonton Oilers v Toronto Maple Leafs

With Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli already dealt, hockey insider Darren Dreger joins the NBCSN crew to discuss the likelihood of the Toronto Maple Leafs dealing Dion Phaneuf or Phil Kessel prior to the trade deadline.

Dreger also discusses what defensemen are available and what the New Jersey Devils plan to do with 43-year-old Jaromir Jagr.