Report: Phil Kessel Traded from Penguins to Coyotes for Alex Galchenyuk, More

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJune 29, 2019

COLUMBUS, OH - FEBRUARY 26:  Phil Kessel #81 of the Pittsburgh Penguins controls the puck during the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on February 26, 2019 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Pittsburgh defeated Columbus 5-2. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Penguins traded forward Phil Kessel to the Arizona Coyotes, TSN's Darren Dreger reported Saturday.

According to Dreger, Pittsburgh will acquire Alex Galchenyuk, Pierre-Olivier Joseph and a fourth-round pick.

Kessel spent four seasons with the Penguins, helping them lift the Stanley Cup in 2016 and 2017. He compiled 110 goals and 193 assists in 328 games. The 13-year veteran was also a key offensive presence during Pittsburgh's back-to-back title runs. His 22 playoff points were first on the team in 2016, and he was third in playoff points (23) a year later.

Despite the success Kessel and the Penguins enjoyed during his time in Pittsburgh, the writing was on the wall following the team's first-round sweep at the hands of the New York Islanders last season. That result followed a second-round loss to the eventual Stanley Cup-winning Washington Capitals in 2018.

The need to reshuffle the roster was impossible to ignore.

As long as Sidney Crosby calls Pittsburgh home, the Penguins aren't going to rebuild. But they clearly had to shift gears to avoid continuing to stagnate and slip further away from a sixth title.

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Kessel was one of the most obvious veterans to move. At $6.8 million, he was the fourth-highest earner on the Penguins' roster for 2019-20, and his consistent production made him an attractive trade asset. 

The Athletic's Sean Gentille argued in May that trading Kessel was also important for Pittsburgh to improve its general chemistry:

"I'm typically loathe to argue for this, but let's give it a shot: Mike Sullivan, at this point, would rather not coach Kessel. That matters. [Evgeni] Malkin would also benefit from playing with a faster, better defensive winger—especially if that purely theoretical player listened to his coach. Sounds crazy enough to work. The Penguins needed Kessel to maximize the Crosby/Malkin era, and heretofore it worked. Now, years down the line and with the degree of difficulty ramped up, they probably need to move him for a shot at continuing the run."

The relationship between Sullivan and Kessel was a major talking point following the 2017-18 season. Though they coexisted throughout 2018-19 without much incident, the dynamic hadn't changed much.

Perhaps Kessel and Sullivan could've continued to maintain a professional relationship for another year. Now, the Penguins don't have to worry about it.

For the Coyotes, this is unquestionably a win-now move. Kessel will make an immediate impact on the ice and be one of Arizona's best attackers.

As the Penguins learned, though, it will be important for the Coyotes to keep Kessel content to avoid the drama that led to his exit from Pittsburgh.