The biggest difference-maker available in the market was picked up by the Pittsburgh Penguins on day 1 of NHL free agency. The Penguins chased right-winger Phil Kessel of Toronto Maple Leafs and secured his services, while other teams signed mediocre free agents. Kessel now becomes Sidney Crosby’s linemate.
“He’s in the top three scorers in the league on a year-to-year basis,” Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford said to USA TODAY Sports. “You have Alex Ovechkin and then (Steven) Stamkos and then Phil Kessel.”
Since Crosby donned Penguin colors, the think-tank was in hunt for an able partner with scoring touch and velocity to match his quality. Kessel has scored 217 goals in an average of 31 goals per season.
Kessel’s game will be more effective this time as NHL switches to 3-on-3 play in over-time, as he will get more space to accelerate and display his skill.
“We play a lot of tight one-goal games,” Rutherford said. “You can never get enough goals or have enough goal scorers.”
If the Penguins miss out the playoffs of 2016, they would surrender Kessels in 2017; this is an important provision included in the deal. If the Penguins miss playoffs consecutively for next two seasons, Toronto would get a second round pick in 2017, and Pittsburgh would be left with none.
Later other sources clarified, that the leafs were eager to trade off Kessel. The team management might have been tired of his alleged lack of responsibility. Unwilling to begin any reset with their highest-paid, most talented, least-dedicated player.