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The Case For And Against Re-Signing Phil Kessel

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The NHL’s Ironman saw his contract expire with the Golden Knights exactly two months ago. With just three weeks to the start of training camp, Phil Kessel remains on the open market. He’s trying to dispel one of the biggest question marks that would come with signing him, one the Golden Knights would certainly be weary of.

The three-time Stanley Cup champion wants to play again in 2023-24. But, the most significant detail is that he’s let teams know it won’t be a problem if he’s not an everyday player. –Elliotte Friedman on 

For a team chasing a Stanley Cup, or in VGK’s case another Stanley Cup, that detail is crucial as the potential distraction it could cause may not be worth the added production the player will bring. However, with Kessel admitting he’s okay with breaking the streak to continue his career, it certainly opens the door a bit wider for a return to Las Vegas.

I can honestly say, I’m completely on the fence on this one. So, rather than choose a side, I’ll present both, and let you decide if you want him back or not.

The Case For Re-Signing Phil Kessel

The Golden Knights just won the Stanley Cup with a roster that remains largely intact. Despite not playing a majority of the playoff games down the stretch, Kessel was an everyday player in the regular season and started the first game of the postseason. He played in multiple places in the top nine, was a full-time option on the power play, and often found himself on the ice when the Golden Knights were chasing a goal late in games.

The trade of Reilly Smith has created a hole in the power play, and Kessel would instantly offer a familiar option to replace him. While the Golden Knights do have a few other younger guys waiting in the wings, if there was a must-win game tomorrow, Kessel would be the selection over every single one of them without question.

Eliminating the stigma of breaking the streak means Bruce Cassidy could use Phil as he did in the playoffs during the entire 2023-24 regular season. He played with every forward on the roster at some point last year and would have been the first option off the bench had VGK lost an offensive-minded forward at any point during the playoff run. While the player himself is not versatile, his usage in the lineup has shown to be.

Plus, Kessel is a beloved member of the locker room. No matter who you ask, or sometimes even if you don’t ask them, Kessel will come up as a standout figure in the room. Players love to play with him, and even more so, they just simply love to be around him.

Finally, Kessel is eligible for a 35+ contract with performance bonuses. The benefit here is that the bonuses do not have to be counted on this year’s cap. The Golden Knights could sign Kessel to a league minimum deal and then work in bonuses that will allow him to make a more reasonable salary for a player of his stature. If he doesn’t hit them, because he didn’t play enough, no harm no foul. But, even if he does, Vegas wouldn’t be required to fit them under this season’s salary cap.

The Case Against Re-Signing Phil Kessel

Bringing back a player like Kessel will have a fairly significant opportunity cost on the rest of the roster, especially the younger players. As mentioned above, Kessel is a better hockey player at this very moment than every option to fill the open slot in the VGK lineup. Having Phil around will likely mean he’ll be in the lineup, keeping someone else out.

NHL Experience is a necessary element to player development and with another usable (and legendary) body in the building, that experience will be limited for players like Paul Cotter, Pavel Dorofeyev, and Brendan Brisson.

Also, Kessel comes with some serious limitations. Even if you put aside the knock on his defending (which wasn’t really that bad last year, but is far from good), he can only play right wing, he doesn’t kill penalties, and he has to play with highly skilled forwards to be effective. There’s a reason why Cassidy leaned on Michael Amadio and Brett Howden over Kessel in the playoffs, and clearly, that decision was the right one.

Yes, Kessel has said he’s willing to break the Ironman streak to continue playing, and while that sounds all good and well, it still will actually have to happen at some point. Doing it on opening night would probably be the simplest way to limit the impact of the story, but even that adds an unnecessary subplot to what should be a day all about celebrating the champs. No matter when that day comes, it will be a distraction, and it could become an even bigger one if there are players in the room who don’t believe the timing is right.

All in all, the juice just isn’t worth the squeeze. He did post 14 goals and 38 points in 82 games last year, but those numbers were heading in the wrong direction all year. In the final 28 games of the regular season, Kessel scored just three goals and added eight assists.

Familiarity is nice, but finding a more well-rounded player would be a better use of the limited cap space the Golden Knights have left heading into 2023-24.


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  1. knights fan in minny

    bring him back for what TO warm the bench

  2. B-Rad-Lee

    Would there be any advantage to bringing him on as a PTO during training camp to give incentive to the youngsters?

  3. Emmanuel

    “Cassidy leaned on Michael Amadio and Brett Howden over Kessel in the playoffs”.
    Thats Exhibit A why he shouldnt be resigned. The Front Office probably was concerned with depth scoring 12 months, I dont think thats an issue now.

    He would be a great fit for the Desert Dogs (again).

  4. While it is great, he still wants to play – given no other team has stepped up to sign him should be a sufficient sign Vegas doesn’t need to be his savior. Ken – While your pluses and minuses fill your article the fact that Vegas has better things to do with any extra money, they might have negates any reason you presented for signing him.

  5. Jailbird

    Yea, great guy in the room, but no longer of much value on the ice, unless, we are hit with significant injuries. But I suppose if you can get him super cheap and throw him in the lineup once in a while, it might be worth it. But not if he would be taking away a spot for the younger guys often.

  6. Jillian

    Last year is over. He has to go. Waste of money and a spot, and I couldn’t care less about personal records…big distraction. If he played more defense, he’d get hurt more often…he’s a soft player. As for the locker room, F that…the guy who passes out towels is good in the locker room

    • Thank you Jillian for stating and echoing my thoughts and feelings concerning Kessel over the course of 82 games… finally the benching in the playoffs and the ensuing of rolling out 4 good and quality lines who knew their roles which in turn led to a CUP presentation!!

  7. goalie trade

    the case against was just made today by the Vgk front office. They just signed Max Comtois from Ana to a PTO tryout contract for camp. That is a good move to create some competition for that LW spot on the Wild Bill line.

    • Pistol Pete

      Exactly. Raise the intensity of the fire under Dorofeyev’s butt. He’s way smart enough to know he has finally arrived at a crossroads so I expect him to go all without Comtois to compete against but it will hopefully provide an extra “push”.

  8. Mike

    Hire him as a coach. He stays in shape and if injuries stack up, activate him as a player.

    • % agree, maybe a front office position like Engelland. If he is as beloved as everyone says he is it’d be worth it for the positive vibes on the team

  9. Jake

    Bring Phil back as the Team Chaplain or Team Psychologist!

  10. Jailbird

    This Comtois kid, good size. Had over 70 PIM last year, so has some grit. Yea, Pavo and Cotter better ramp it up in camp!

  11. Bob Bailey

    If nobody else signs then what would you think for HSK and a possible call up potential? Could be good for development purposes

  12. Vic

    Forget the Ironman nonsense. The guy has thrown three checks in the past ten years. As Jake implied… create a position for him but not as a player. He did his best for the VGK.

    If I hear ‘The juice isn’t worth the squeeze’ one more time I’m going to vomit. I heard an obese Rino politician from NJ use that term.

  13. Ad nauseum.. ad nauseum.. ad nauseom…how many more times must I be subjected to seeing kessels name associated with the Golden Knights???… did anyone actually watch him play last year… besides his ever so magnanimous offer to be a healthy scratch which I wish he would have undertaken last year…there are obviously myriad reasons he he is still unsigned at this late date…yes he played with every line and player cause there was simply not a valid role he could perform on the ice.. thank you

  14. Chris

    17 straight comments against Phil; here is one in favor of bringing him back. If you covered the nameplate and were told you could have a RW who has averaged 42 points a year for the last 4 years for a minimum contract , I would swoop the opportunity in a minute. GMGMKM are known to be value buyers. Kessel on an incentive laden minimum contract is a pure value buy.

  15. Nothing personal…but please open your eyes!

  16. Pistol Pete

    Comtois highlights:

    Something tells me Anaheim coaching has sucked re: nurturing this guy. Just because you are good enough to get drafted #50 does not mean you just sit there and let a kid develop all by themselves. Sort of like, if they have it it’s up to them to bring it. Does not always work that way.

    • knights fan in minny

      i like that he goes to the front of the net and that’s where his goals come from

      • Pistol Pete

        Ducks have $16.65 cap space to extend Zegras and Drysdale and they don’t want to sign their 24 year old #50 pick who has .41 pts/game in his short career? Unless they know something about Comtois like a nagging injury this is a perfect example of an FO that can’t see the forest through the trees. Have they ever heard of building depth? Let VGK pick him up and have another Nic Roy or better. Good hands, goes to the net, will fight if he has to, probably the potential for an above average 200 ft. game, potential PK’er.

    • Harper

      Always nice to have a guy that goes to the net. Looks like that is where most of his goals come from.

  17. Tim

    Keep getting younger is the key to staying relevant in the NHL. Let’s hope we can unlock his talent. I still have no clue why Anaheim gave up on him. With there cap space you think they have enough to sign Drysdale and Zegras and still keep Comtois unless they don’t think he has it.

  18. Sorvino

    Tim, I don’t get it either and now he goes to another team in Anaheim’s division. Thankfully, Vegas has the greatest front office in the history of professional sports and if life form exists on other planets and they play sports I have a pretty good feeling tgat our front office is superior to any of those other potential alien ones.

    There is no downside to this for Vegas. Worst case scenario he is depth on the Henderson, silver knights and best case scenario is that he realizes his potential and is an upgrade on Dorofeyev, Howden, Amadio, and Cotter.

  19. Sorvino

    I’m excited that Pistol Pete likes Maxime Comtois. PP has a good track record at this stuff.

    • Pistol Pete

      Thank you Sorvino. It does look like the Ducks are blundering by letting him walk. You win Cups by building depth and Comtois looks like he’s at least Nic Roy. Nearly two years younger and an identical .41 pts/game. Plus he’s big and goes to the front of the net. Let Cassidy get ahold of him! This is a good FO. Excellent GM and pro scouting. A lesson in how you build and perpetuate a championship-quality roster without having to resort to finishing at or near the bottom of the standings multiple years running to get top picks. You don’t need top picks. Just good pro scouting to find depth (or better) players like Comtois (still too early to say on him) and buy elite veteran talent to replace retiring top players. You can be sure McCrimmon is looking to when Marchy will no longer be around (the cap will keep going up).

  20. Bobby

    Find an assistant gig for Kessel. Comtois can crash the net.

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