Since leaving the Vegas Golden Knights after winning his third Stanley Cup of his career, former Arizona Coyotes forward Phil Kessel is still searching for another opportunity in the NHL.
Kessel joined Vegas on a one-year contract last year and completed a full 82-game season, scoring 14 goals and posting 36 points. During the Golden Knights’ playoff run, he played four times.
The 17-year NHL veteran may not have the same speed that he once did earlier in his career but could be a serviceable piece on a young team who needs experience.
However, that may all change after recent reports suggest that the Vancouver Canucks are interested in signing the free agent.
On the Move?
Vancouver sports insider Rick Dhaliwal spoke on his sports talk show Donnie and Dhali about the prospect of Kessel becoming a Canuck.
“I can tell you right now that the Canucks still talk and discuss (about) Kessel,” Dhaliwal said. “They keep in contact, regular contact, with his agent. They like his experience, what he has done in the past. He’s got a relationship with (Rick) Tocchet.”
“Now, the big issue: conditioning. He has not played in eight months, he only played four playoff games for Vegas last year when they won the Stanley Cup. That will be Kessel’s biggest issue. Are you in shape? Kessel doesn’t cost you anything. It’s a gamble, yes, but there are no assets to be given up, it’ll be a cheap price. The Kessel decision from what I have been told is not far away, some say soon. Not sure where this goes, but the Vancouver Canucks are poking around Phil Kessel.”
"The #Canucks are poking around Phil Kessel.."@DhaliwalSports on the #Canucks interest in Phil Kessel and if another big move will happen before the trade deadline.https://t.co/h4e2SKM7eJ pic.twitter.com/qAPU8npe33
— Donnie & Dhali (@DonnieandDhali) February 8, 2024
Also according to Dhaliwal, Luke Fox from Sportsnet reported last week that former Coyotes and current Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet himself believes Kessel “can still play.”
Rick Tocchet on Phil Kessel :"There's value in Phil, I think he can still play, 100 per cent."
That was last weekend in Toronto in Luke Fox article on Sportsnet.
— Rick Dhaliwal (@DhaliwalSports) February 8, 2024
If Vancouver and Kessel can come to an agreement in the near future, he will get the chance to reunite with Tocchet who was his coach in Arizona and former ‘Yotes teammate Conor Garland.
Kessel played 208 games with Arizona, totaling 42 goals, 91 assists, 77 blocks, 25 hits and a plus/minus rating of -62. The 36-year-old left the Coyotes after three seasons (2019-22) to sign in Vegas.
With the possibility of him making a return to the NHL, it will be interesting to see how Kessel can perform coming off of a layoff of around eight months.