The Colorado Avalanche are looking for a top-6 winger. Phil Kessel could be the perfect fit
As the NHL sits in a state of roster-freeze limbo while we await the construction of the Seattle Kraken through Wednesday night’s expansion draft, GMs around the league are undoubtedly preparing themselves for a whirlwind of a week that will follow.
Despite already swinging a significant trade this offseason, Colorado Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic has a very long to-do list over the next few weeks. Signing his captain, starting goalie and superstar Norris-nominee are tasks A, B and C. After putting him on the protection list, most assume that it’s only a matter of time before Philipp Grubauer’s name is on a new contract, while Cale Makar’s restricted free agent status means he’s not going anywhere even if negotiations drag on.
The one big – and growing – concern is captain Gabriel Landeskog. Reports surfaced last week that negotiations between he and the team have been acrimonious and that there is a very strong possibility that he will hit the open market.
Even before we know how the Landeskog situation plays out, Sakic is likely going to be looking to add a top-6 winger to his roster thanks to the likely loss of Brandon Saad. If the captain leaves, it will become even more important to do so. The money exists under the cap to sign a UFA to fill the role but given his historic behavior, it is probably more likely that Sakic attempts to swing a trade.
One name that has begun to emerge as a possibility is Phil Kessel.
With the Coyotes in full re-build mode, Kessel is among the most likely players to be moved out of Arizona. Most around the hockey world expect him to be traded this offseason and the Avalanche are one of the teams that apparently have shown interest.
Phil The Thrill has one-year left on his contract – similar to Brandon Saad when Sakic made a trade for him last offseason. While his cap hit remains $6.8M (He still counts against Toronto’s cap for $1.2m of his full $8M AAV), the Coyotes are said to be willing to retain half of that if they get the right deal for Kessel.
The two-time Stanley Cup champion led Arizona with 20 goals and 43 points in 56 games last season and while at 33-years old, he’s not the player he once was, Kessel is still a very strong sniper who would fit in as a complementary piece in any top-6 forward group.
Despite his age, Kessel is still able to play a strong transition game that’s built off of speed and that would fit in perfectly with the way the Avalanche like to play. If the Coyotes are indeed willing to retain 50% of the salary, adding Kessel at a $3.4m cap hit would be a great addition to the Avalanche lineup depending on the trade cost.
The Arizona Coyotes are ready for yet another re-build. With a new front office and a lack of draft capital, they would certainly be looking for futures in return for Kessel or any of their other veterans. He wouldn’t cost the first so a second round pick and a second tier prospect might be a return that’s palatable for both sides.
Sakic undoubtedly has a number of irons in the fire but potentially trading for a cheap veteran that can add secondary scoring is almost certainly one of them.