NHL Trade Deadline Primer: Phil Kessel trade seems inevitable for Coyotes

NHL Trade Deadline Kessel
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The 2022 NHL Trade Deadline is Monday, March 21 at 3 p.m. ET. As we get closer to the deadline we will take a look at some individual players who could be on the move. We start today with Arizona Coyotes forward Phil Kessel.

The 2021-22 NHL season has mostly gone according to plan for the Arizona Coyotes. Or, at the very least, how everybody expected it to go.

They spent the offseason gutting the roster of veteran players (Christian Dvorak, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Conor Garland, Darcy Kuemper) and stockpiling draft picks. Those trades have helped them accumulate eight picks in the first two rounds of the 2022 draft (three first-round picks, five second-round picks) and 12 in total. They are almost certain to add to those picks over the next month.

Jakob Chychrun‘s name has been mentioned in trade talks for most of the season, while the team is loaded with pending unrestricted free agents. The latter group includes veteran forward Phil Kessel who seems almost guaranteed to be traded before the March 21 deadline. What motivation is there for the Coyotes to not trade him at this point? The team has one of the worst records in the league, the team is clearly rebuilding for the future, and Kessel is 34 years old and would seem to have no long-term future with the team.

So where is he going? Which teams would make sense?

What the return might look like

Kessel is no longer an elite player or goal scorer and is having a very down year in the latter category. As of Monday, he has just six goals in 50 games this season which is a nine-goal pace over 82 games. Part of that is due to a career low 5.7% shooting percentage, part of it is due to decline shot volume, and part of it could be just being on a rebuilding team short of talent. Either way, a change of scenery seems like a good thing for him. Still, his production, age, and contract are not going to result in a huge return. Maybe a second-round pick? Third-round pick and mid-level prospect? That is probably the neighborhood we are looking at here. Retaining salary could probably boost the return a little for Arizona.

The most logical landing spots

• Boston, New York Rangers, Nashville, Los Angeles

In trying to think of teams that make would make sense I am looking at potential playoff teams that need some additional scoring depth and would have the salary cap space to add Kessel’s salary without needing to do much maneuvering around it. The Rangers have a great top-six but definitely need more from their bottom-six and have the salary cap flexibility to go for it. Nashville is in a similar situation and has a track record of not being afraid to swing significant trades or go after big name players to build its roster. A return back to where his career started in Boston would be interesting, especially given how top-heavy the Bruins’ lineup is right now with the same three players (Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak) carrying so much of the offense at forward.

[Related: Why Rangers should be aggressive at trade deadline]

Wild Card team: Minnesota

Do they need to add somebody? No way. They are already a very deep team with a great offense. But they are a contender and have to get through Colorado is they are going to make a deep run. Every little bit of extra talent and skill can help. Bill Guerin, Minnesota’s general manager, knows first hand what Kessel can do for a team in the playoffs after watching him help Pittsburgh (when Guerin was an assistant general manager) win back-to-back Stanley Cups during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons.

[Related: Emboldened by Boldy, should Wild be trade deadline buyers?]

Spot I want to see just for fun: Pittsburgh

No, this is not going to happen, but let’s get chaotic since we are just doing this section for laughs. Brian Burke once traded a boatload of draft picks (good draft picks!) for Kessel and had zero regrets about it, the Penguins might need another middle-six winger, they can definitely use some power play help, and there is an obvious track record of success here.

NHL Trade Deadline prediction

Back to Boston for a draft pick to help give the Bruins some additional scoring punch behind their top-three forwards. Think the change could help jumpstart Kessel’s offense this season for a stretch run and Stanley Cup Playoff run.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Golden Knights captain Mark Stone undergoes back surgery

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LAS VEGAS — Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone is out indefinitely after undergoing back surgery in Denver, the club announced.

The Knights termed the procedure as successful and that Stone “is expected to make a full recovery.”

This is the second time in less than a year that Stone has had back surgery. He also had a procedure May 19, 2022, and Stone said in December this was the best he had felt in some time.

But he was injured Jan. 12 against the Florida Panthers, and his absence has had a noticeable effect on the Knights. They have gone 1-5-2 without Stone, dropping out of first place in the Pacific Division into third.

Stone is second on the team in goals with 17 and in points with 38.

Devils associate coach Andrew Brunette charged with DUI

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DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — New Jersey Devils associate coach and former Florida Panthers head coach Andrew Brunette was arrested in South Florida while driving home from a bar in his golf cart, authorities said.

Brunette, 49, was pulled over just blocks from the ocean in the Deerfield Beach area, north of Fort Lauderdale, according to a Broward Sheriff’s Office arrest report. He was charged with one count of driving under the influence and two counts of disobeying a stop or yield sign. Brunette was released on $500 bond.

The Devils said in a statement that the team was aware of Brunette’s arrest and gathering additional information.

According to the arrest report, a deputy was in the process of giving Brunette’s illegally parked golf cart a ticket around midnight when Brunette walked out of a nearby bar and told the deputy he was about to leave. The deputy said Brunette seemed unsteady on his feet and slurred his speech, and when he was joined by his wife, the deputy said he overheard the wife tell Brunette not to drive while the deputy was there.

The deputy remained in the area and reported watching the couple drive away about 17 minutes later, according to the report. The deputy said he watched the golf cart run two stop signs before pulling Brunette over on a residential street about a mile away from his home. According to the report, Brunette had difficulty following instructions during a field sobriety test before eventually quitting and asking for an attorney. He also declined to take a breathe test to measure his blood-alcohol level, officials said.

Online jail and court records didn’t list an attorney for Brunette.

Brunette is in his first season as associate coach of the Devils. He was interim coach of the Florida Panthers last season after taking over when Joel Quenneville resigned for his connection to a 2010 Chicago Blackhawks sexual abuse scandal.

The Panthers fired Brunette after they lost in the second round of the playoffs last spring despite him leading them to the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top team during the regular season.

The Sudbury, Ontario, native played 1,159 NHL games for Washington, Nashville, Atlanta, Minnesota, Colorado and Chicago from 1995-2012. He was a Wild assistant in 2015-16 and worked on Florida’s staff from 2019-2022.

Stars aligned with new coach DeBoer, Nill-constructed roster

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DALLAS — General manager Jim Nill sensed things were coming together for the Dallas Stars even before the season started with new coach Pete DeBoer and a roster mixed with proven veterans, up-and-coming young players, and even a teenaged center.

At the NHL’s All-Star break, after 51 games together, these Stars are leading the Western Conference.

“Every year you start, you put a team together, and there’s always going to be question marks,” said Nill, in his 10th season as the Stars GM. “You have ideas how you think you’re going to come together, but there’s always the unknown. . This year has been one of those years where right from the start, you could just see everything was kind of jelling.”

The Stars (28-13-10, 66 points) have their trio of 2017 draft picks that just keep getting better: All-Star winger Jason Robertson, goaltender Jake Oettinger and defenseman Miro Heiskanen. The seemingly ageless Joe Pavelski, at 38 and already re-signed for next season, is on the high-scoring top line with Robertson and point-a-game winger Roope Hintz. Wyatt Johnston, their first-round pick in 2021 and half Pavelski’s age, has 13 goals.

There is also the resurgence of six-time All-Star forward Tyler Seguin two years after hip surgery and 33-year-old captain Jamie Benn, who already has more goals (19) than he did playing all 82 games last season.

The Stars have a plus-40 goal differential, which is second-best in the NHL. They are averaging 3.37 goals per game, more than a half-goal better than last season when they were the only team to make the playoffs after being outscored in the regular season. They are also allowing fewer goals, and have improved on power plays and penalty kills.

“Where we sit at this break, I think guys are happy with that,” Seguin said, before being asked the keys to the Stars leading the West and on pace for a 100-point season with their new coach.

“Our style, our team speed, our puck speed, being predictable. All the clichés, knowing where the puck’s going. Really how we play the five-man unit,” he said. “Our pace this year, it’s been a lot quicker. There’s been some solid depth scoring this year while we’ve got one of the best lines in hockey.”

The Stars went into the break on their only three-game losing streak of the season, all 3-2 overtime losses at home.

“Those aren’t real losses,” said DeBoer, who twice has gone to the Stanley Cup Final in his first season with a new team. “I’m happy where we’re at. I like how we’re playing.”

Plus, Dallas won’t have to worry in the playoffs about 3-on-3 hockey, which has been the only real stain on their season so far. Only one team has more than its 10 losses after regulation.

“We’ve played a lot of good hockey. We’ve made a lot of good strides in our game,” DeBoer said. “We still have another level we have to get to when we get back, but there are a lot of good things that have happened. They’ve worked to have us where we are right now in the standings. Good spot to be in.”

The Stars have 31 games left in the regular season. The first four after the break at home, like the last four before their week-long hiatus.

Robertson’s 33 goals rank sixth in the NHL, and the 23-year-old has the same number of assists while averaging 1.29 points a game even after he missed most of training camp before signing a four-year, $31 million contract. Pavelski has 48 points (14 goals, 34 assists) while playing every game, and Hintz 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists) in only 43 games.

Oettinger, who is 21-7 in regulation, has a .923 save percentage and 2.26 goals against average since signing his three-year, $12 million contract. That deal came after 223 saves in a seven-game playoff series against Calgary last May, capped by 64 in the series finale that went to overtime.

Nill said Robertson’s production has improved even with the league adjusting to the high-scoring forward, and that Oettinger is proving to be one of the league’s best goalies. But they are just part of what has been a tremendous team effort.

“They kind of had that mojo right from the start, and it was kind of this team’s got the right mix,” Nill said. “It’s come together well, and it’s shown in the standings. It’s been good to watch.”

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.