The Pittsburgh Penguins traded forward Phil Kessel and defenseman Dane Birks to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for center Alex Galchenyuk, defensive prospect Pierre-Oliver Joseph, and a fourth-round pick on Saturday night, the respective teams announced.
The Coyotes now have $966,432 left in cap space after the trade. The Penguins now have $5,926,500.
Penguins have also included Dman Dane Birks in the Kessel trade. https://t.co/oX7N2hK3aK
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) June 30, 2019
Trade rumors have swirled around Kessel since the Penguins were swept by the New York Islanders in the First Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs despite the fact that his 27 goals and 82 points were third and second on the team, respectively, this past season. His -19 rating during the regular season was the second-worst on the Penguins, ahead of only center Evgeni Malkin’s -25 rating. There have been reports that there have been some issues between him, Malkin, and Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan.
Kessel wanted a bigger role than the one he had in on the third-line Pittsburgh despite having success in that spot. He reportedly wanted to reunite with former Penguins assistant coach Rick Tocchet, who was hired as Arizona’s head coach two summers ago. Tocchet had a strong relationship with Kessel and was behind the bench in Pittsburgh when they won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017.
Kessel, who reportedly vetoed a trade that would have sent him to the Minnesota Wild last month, was limited to only one goal, two points, and a -1 rating in the Islanders’ four-game series sweep over the Penguins.
The Penguins acquired Kessel from the Toronto Maple Leafs on July 1, 2015, to add a top-six winger but he never found chemistry with captain Sidney Crosby and he had locker room issues with Malkin.
In 996 career regular-season games with the Penguins, Maple Leafs, and Boston Bruins, the 31-year old has posted 357 goals, 823 points, and a -86 rating. In 87 career Stanley Cup Playoff games, Kessel has recorded 33 goals, 77 points, and a +22 rating.
Kessel has three years left on his contract, which carries of cap hit of $8 million and includes a clause that allows him to submit a list of eight teams that he can get traded to. The Maple Leafs are paying $1.4 million of that per year.
Kessel led the Penguins with 10 goals and 22 points during their Stanley Cup run in 2016.
The Penguins add center depth with the addition of Galchenyuk, who posted 19 goals, 41 points, and a -19 rating in his first season in Arizona in 2018-19. The Coyotes acquired Galchenyuk from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for forward Max Domi last offseason.
In 490 career NHL games with the Canadiens and Coyotes, the 25-year old has posted 127 goals, 296 points, and a -53 rating. He spent each of his first six NHL seasons in Montreal. Galchenyuk can become an unrestricted free agent after next season and carries a cap hit of $4.9 million for the upcoming one.
Joseph, 19, was drafted 23rd overall by the Coyotes in 2017. In 62 games with the QMJHL’s Charlottetown Islanders and Drummondville Voltigeurs this past season, he recorded nine goals, 47 points, and a +28 rating. He added two goals, nine points, and a +10 rating in 16 playoff games.
Birks, 23, has appeared in one game with the AHL’s Wilkes-Barrie Scranton Penguins in each of the past two seasons. He recorded one goal, 14 points, and a +1 rating in 65 games with the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers this past season.
Arizona adds a game breaker in Kessel after they finished four points behind the Colorado Avalanche for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference. Their average of 2.55 goals-per-game was tied with the Dallas Stars for the third-worst in the NHL this past season, so adding Kessel should help improve the offense and get them enough goals to reach the postseason.
The Coyotes have not made the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2012 when they lost to the Los Angeles Kings in five games in the Western Conference Final.
By Harrison Brown