Evgeni Malkin

Kessel on moving on from Toronto: ‘It’s a different world there’

31 Comments

After six seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Phil Kessel is looking forward to a fresh start. The 27-year-old was dealt to the Pittsburgh Penguins as part of a multi-player trade on Wednesday.

Kessel appeared in 446 regular season games with the Leafs scoring 181 goals and 394 points.

“It should be different. It’s a different world there,” Kessel told Dkonpittsburghsports.com. “Obviously, I’m looking forward to this and having a fresh start. I’m actually really excited about that part of it.

“Toronto was a place I loved, and it’s not easy leaving that, even with everything else. That’s the first thought. And then after that, I just see this as an opportunity, a great opportunity to be part of something special in Pittsburgh.”

Kessel is especially excited at the prospect of playing with the talented mix of forwards in Pittsburgh.

“For it to be Pittsburgh … with everything that franchise has meant and two of the best players in the world there … I never would have thought I’d have the chance to play with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, to play on a team like the Penguins,” he said. “It’s just amazing. I’m so pumped.”

During his time in Toronto Kessel played in just one playoff series scoring four goals in six points during the Leafs first round series with the Boston Bruins in 2013. A return to postseason hockey is something the Madison, WI native is looking forward to.

“That’s huge. Obviously, when you have a chance to play on a great team, you’re thrilled. Being in Toronto, I got to play in one playoffs in all my years there,” Kessel said. “But that’s the best time of the year, right? Playoff hockey. Hopefully, I’ll get to play in many in Pittsburgh.”

Kessel also believes his game is suited for Pens’ coach Mike Johnston’s system and that he’ll fit in well.

“I think it’ll mesh well. I like to score goals, but I also like to pass the puck,” he said. “In today’s game, you need to have options when you have the puck. And with defensemen like we have joining the rush in Mike’s system, and those guys are great players, yeah, that’ll work with my game. I take a lot of pride in my ability to work with the options I’ve got.”

For those wondering, the Pens and Leafs meet for the first time on Oct. 17 in Pittsburgh. Kessel will make his return to Toronto on Oct. 31.

Discuss: Where’s the best fit for Alex Semin?

23 Comments

Alex Semin isn’t the only NHLer who’s been accused of wasting his God-given talent.

Two others — Phil Kessel and Zack Kassian — were traded yesterday. The latter vowed today to figure out in Montreal.

But Semin remains unsigned. Earlier this week, he was bought out by the Hurricanes, whose GM proceeded to say of the 31-year-old winger: “He did not have that high compete level, for whatever reason.”

He didn’t score many goals either. Just six of them in 57 games last season, while seeing his ice time fall to an average of 15:55, the lowest since his rookie campaign over a decade ago.

In 2009-10, Semin scored 40 goals for the Capitals. He has 238 tallies in 638 career NHL games.

Hence, his agent’s claim that there was immediate interest in his client.

For a cheap, short-term prove-it deal, signing Semin has the potential to pay off.

Maybe he joins a contending team, unlike Carolina, and rediscovers his enthusiasm.

Maybe he has a little more puck luck. His shooting percentage dipped to 6.5 percent last season, whereas his career rate is almost double that (12.8).

Maybe he’s a complete bust and at least he was cheap.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are still looking for a winger. Imagine Semin and Phil Kessel on the same team with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin?

The Florida Panthers could use a scoring winger, though there may be a concern about Semin’s attitude around all those talented young players.

The Devils need to score more.

Any other teams come to mind?

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

48 Comments

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.

Blockbuster: Kessel traded to the Penguins

131 Comments

In a blockbuster deal that’s been rumored for some time now, the Toronto Maple Leafs have traded winger Phil Kessel to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The return is a couple of well-regarded prospects, forward Kasperi Kapanen (22nd overall in 2014) and defenseman Scott Harrington (54th overall in 2011), plus a conditional first-round draft pick, a third-round draft pick (previously New Jersey’s) and forward Nick Spaling.

The Leafs also sent the Penguins defenseman Tim Erixon, forward Tyler Biggs and a conditional second-round draft pick.

Much has been said and written about Kessel’s time in Toronto, not all positive. But in Pittsburgh, he’ll be able to skate with two of the best centers in the world, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The 27-year-old played mostly with Tyler Bozak as his center with the Leafs.

Kessel, one of the NHL’s premier scoring wingers, has 247 goals in 668 career NHL games.

The Leafs were reportedly forced to eat $1.25 million of Kessel’s annual salary, leaving the Pens with a $6.75 million cap hit through 2021-22.

Related: Are we seeing the last of Kessel in Toronto?

Report: O’Reilly asked Avs for eight-year, $64 million

29 Comments

The Colorado Avalanche and Ryan O’Reilly have always had difficulty seeing eye-to-eye when it came to his monetary worth. It took O’Reilly signing an offer sheet, which Colorado matched, to end his hold out in the lockout shortened 2013 campaign. When it was time to renegotiate in the summer of 2014, the two sides only narrowly avoided arbitration by inking a two-year, $12 million deal.

With O’Reilly now just one season away from becoming an unrestricted free agent though, he reportedly demanded a massive eight-year, $64 million payday, according to the Denver Post. Instead, Colorado dealt him to Buffalo last night along with Jamie McGinn in exchange for Nikita Zadorov, Mikhail Grigorenko, J.T. Compher and the 31st overall selection.

If those numbers are accurate, then that’s identical to Phil Kessel’s contract, which the Maple Leafs forward is only one season into. Kessel has recorded at least 30 goals on five separate occasions and has reached the 80-point mark twice. O’Reilly, while admittedly more notable for his two-way game, has only reached the 20-goal or 60-point milestones on one occasion and that was back in 2013-14. He took a hit last season, finishing with 17 goals and 55 points in 82 contests.

On top of that, now that Kessel is on the open market, his contract might be a detriment to the point where Toronto is reportedly willing to take a contract back to sweeten the pot.

We’ll have to wait and see how O’Reilly’s negotiations with Buffalo goes. In the short-term, the Sabres wouldn’t have a problem inking him to that kind of a deal, but the term might hurt them later as their young up-and-coming stars develop and eventually start demanding big raises. To give one example, if Jack Eichel has the kind of career Buffalo’s hoping for, then his first deal following his entry-level contract could be huge, as was the case for Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Steven Stamkos before him.

That all being said, it’s possible that what O’Reilly wanted out of Colorado isn’t the same as what he wants from Buffalo. It could be that his history of having to battle the team for every new contract influenced what it would take for the Avalanche to keep him long-term. Either way, Buffalo is going into this with eyes wide open.

“You know going in when you make a trade like this that negotiations are going to be starting a high number,” Sabres GM Tim Murray told the Buffalo News. “We’re fully prepared for that.”