In the wise words of Michael Scott of The Office, “Well, well, well, how the turntables...”
When it comes to Phil Kessel’s situation in Pittsburgh, it would appear that those very turntables have turned.
Less than three weeks after a potential trade involving ‘Phil the Thrill’ and Jason Tucker of the Minnesota Wild reportedly fell apart, it would appear that Kessel likely won’t be going anywhere before next season.
"I expect Kessel will probably play for Pittsburgh next season,” Pittsburgh’s general manager Jim Rutherford told Josh Yohe of The Athletic on Tuesday.
"You have to understand that he has a (partial) no-trade clause and a lot of leverage,” Rutherford continued, according to Yohe. “In situations like this, it usually doesn't work out so well for the team. That's just the way it is. So at this point, it looks to me that he will return... this season. That's how I'm proceeding moving forward."
The 31-year-old hasn’t missed a game since being acquired by the Penguins in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs on July 1, 2015. He followed up a career-high 92-point regular season in 2017-18 with an 82-point campaign last year.
After winning two Stanley Cups in his first two seasons with the team, Kessel was pretty quiet while Pittsburgh was swept in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs by the New York Islanders in April. He finished with a goal and an assist in the series.
He’s in the middle of an eight-year, $64-million contract that comes to an end at the conclusion of the 2021-22 season.
Kessel isn’t the only Penguin that will likely be sticking around following the team’s disastrous postseason exit.
Evgeni Malkin — a Hart and Conn Smythe Trophy winner in his career — didn’t have a 2018-19 to remember. His 21 goals and 72 points in 68 games (1.06 PPG) was well below his career regular-season average of 1.18 PPG. He only had a goal and two helpers in Pittsburgh’s first-round clash with New York.
His general manager hasn’t lost faith in the talented 32-year-old Russian, though.
"I believe in Geno Malkin," Rutherford said, according to NHL.com. "He came off a year that wasn't up to his standard last year. We all know that. But he's a great, great player. I know how good he is, and I know very well what he can do for this team."
Makin has three years remaining on his current eight-year, $76-million deal.
With how things went down though, Rutherford is well aware that some adjustments need to be made to his roster if Pittsburgh hopes to make another run at Lord Stanley’s mug in the near future.
"Changes are coming,” he said, according to NHL.com. “Changes are in order, for sure. At this point in time, I don't know exactly what they are going to be. It's hard to say right now, but changes are coming.”
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