This summer, Coyotes GM John Chayka shocked the hockey world, trading for two-time Stanley Cup Champion and perennial goal scorer Phil Kessel from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for Alex Galchenyuk (who has since been traded to Minnesota see our article on that deal here) and defense prospect Pierre-Olivier Joseph.
In Arizona, Kessel is having the worst scoring season of his career, as he is on pace for 17 goals, which is less than his rookie season total of 19. He has 33 points in 59 games so far this season, and 16 of those points have come on the power play including 8 of his 12 goals. He has the worst +/- on the Coyotes right now with -23. His giveaway takeaway ratio is 37:18 which is worse than some of Arizona’s defensemen that play 5-6 minutes more per game than Kessel does. From an ice-time standpoint, Kessel’s poor play has resulted in him playing almost a minute less per game than his career average of 18:13. Kessel has also taken almost double the penalties he has drawn this season, currently sitting at an 11:4 ratio.
AB wise, Kessel is coming off one of the worst seasons of his career with a -6.58 score. Last season was his 3rd negative one in a row, and the scores got increasingly worse over time (-0.42, -1.98, -6.58). In fact, he’s only registered one positive season (2015-2016) in his last 9 seasons despite him having a respectable career AB score of -1.22 over the course of 12 seasons. He is actually on pace to make it four straight negative seasons this season, and the score may even be worse than last season if he keeps this up.
Kessel is being paid $6.8 million until he is 35-years old and has a modified no-trade/no-movement clause of 8 teams. The Coyotes are practically stuck with Kessel, as there probably isn’t a realistic trade scenario unless they retain a significant amount of his salary. The struggling Coyotes are 2-5-3 in their last 10, with Kessel only registering a single goal and two assists over that stretch, on a line centered by Derek Stepan and Lawson Crouse on the opposite wing. Despite their recent play, the Coyotes still hold the final wildcard spot in the Western Conference with 64 points in 59 games. Coming off of a loss last night in Toronto (in which Kessel took a tripping penalty late in the 3rd period), there are many questions that still need to be answered in the desert, such as the contract status of recent trade acquisition Taylor Hall. John Chayka and his group need to determine which direction they want this team to go this season, as there are only a few weeks remaining until the trade deadline. It’ll surely be an interesting time, as new Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo is surely expecting a positive conclusion to the season, as do the Coyotes faithful. More to come.