Phil Kessel reportedly shut down a potential trade to the Wild, one that would have sent Jason Zucker to the Penguins. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported on the veto and some interesting subplots; The Athletic reported on it as well, including the parameters of a particular deal: Kessel and Jack Johnson for Zucker and Victor Rask.
Everything about this looks bad for the Wild with one exception: the end result, where the trade didn’t happen.
First, it doesn’t look good that Kessel wouldn’t agree to the deal. Sure, he has that power since the Wild reportedly isn’t on his list of eight teams he would agree to be traded to, but those lists are malleable.
If the conventional thinking was that Kessel’s local connections — playing for the Gophers and being tight with Ryan Suter — would sway him, the state of the Wild appears to have trumped that. If you were a 31-year-old goal scorer used to winning Stanley Cups, is this really the team you would want to join? Probably not, which doesn’t look good for the Wild.
Second, the Wild has been VERY close to trading Zucker twice now — once to Calgary at last year’s deadline and now this.
It’s no secret Minnesota has been trying to move Zucker before his 10-team no-trade list kicks takes effect in July. And if the Wild really is still able to deal Zucker before then for fair value, those two publicized swings and misses won’t really matter.
But this is pretty awkward for now — and will become even more awkward if the Wild doesn’t find a suitable trade partner for Zucker and decides to keep him.
Third, what exactly is the plan here? I’m fine with the idea of trading Zucker if you’re not sold on his long-term production compared to his long-term contract (four more years, cap hit of $5.5 million per year).
But GM Paul Fenton took a couple positive steps to try to make the Wild younger and more nimble at the trade deadline. This team needs youth and speed. It probably needs to spend another year or two out of the playoffs to truly replenish its talent pool and give young players a chance to develop.
Trading Zucker, 27, for Kessel, 31 — speed and relative youth for a veteran goal-scorer — is a head-scratching move. And including Rask and Johnson as part of the swap only serves to admit that the trade for Rask last year was a mistake, while adding Johnson’s equally onerous contract.
The only good news in all of this is that Kessel, either out of stubbornness, his own best interest or a little of both, saved Fenton from himself.
Maybe now he can make a proper trade with Zucker to shed some more salary and get young, cheap talent — similar to the deal that sent Charlie Coyle to the Bruins for Ryan Donato.