Early on this summer it sounded like Pittsburgh Penguins star forward Phil Kessel was on his way out of town after he rubbed some members of the Penguins organization the wrong way.
Initial reports suggested that a rift had developed between the notoriously difficult Kessel and Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan, and not only did the reports come from credible sources but there was evidence to support the claims as well. Following the Penguins exit from the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs Sullivan, in a very uncharacteristic move, went out of his way to downplay the significance of an injury that Kessel was believed to be dealing with during the postseason. Many perceived this as a deliberate and rather blatant attempt by Sullivan to throw his player under the bus and when the trade rumors quickly followed many began to put the pieces together.
In addition to the rift between Sullivan and Kessel there were reports that the Penguins veteran had informed the team that he would be perfectly happy being traded to a new team. These reports were never confirmed but there were strong suggestions that Kessel would have liked to end up as a member of the Arizona Coyotes where he could have been reunited with Rick Tocchet, currently the head coach of the Coyotes. That being said though Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford has remained adamant that he does not feel any pressure to make a trade and now it seems like the focus may have shifted off of Kessel entirely and onto another player on the Penguins roster.
Paul Zeise of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has recently stated that he does not believe that the Penguins will trade Kessel before the start of the 2018 - 2019 National Hockey League regular season. Now that isn't to say that Kessel will not be traded by the Penguins at some point in the future but Zeise did state that it is now his belief that Kessel will begin the season on the Penguins roster.
Zeise also added however that he now believes the odd man out in the Penguins line up is veteran center Derick Brassard, another player who's name has come in trade rumors at different points this summer. Brassard provides the Penguins with valuable veteran depth up the middle of the ice but Zeise believes that the Penguins will "look to trade him" given the fact that they now have 5 different players under contract who can play center for them next season.
Interestingly there were rumors late last week that the Montreal Canadiens were inquiring about the possibility of acquiring Brassard from the Penguins. At first glance it may not make a ton of sense for a team in the position the Canadiens are in to add an aging player on a questionable contract but they are truly desperate for a player who can play a consistent role at the center position. In spite of Brassard's poor performance and his unappealing contract there may be a market out there for Rutherford to exploit.
That being said though Zeise believes that Brassard's recent performances as well as his contract make it difficult to imagine that the Penguins would get a ton of value in a trade deal involving Brassard.
Photo Credit: Keystone Press