The Boston Bruins need to add more scoring depth to their roster before the 2022 NHL trade deadline, and one of the most intriguing players who could address that weakness is a familiar face.
Phil Kessel is able to hit unrestricted free agency this summer. He's currently playing for the Arizona Coyotes, a team in full rebuild mode that has already made a couple trades over the last few weeks -- including a small deal with the B's on Tuesday.
Should the Bruins circle back to the Coyotes and work out a deal for Kessel and bring him back to Boston?
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Well, let's start with what the asking price might be.
The Athletic recently did a story where an anonymous NHL executive commented on hypothetical trades. One of those hypothetical packages focused on Kessel returning to the Pittsburgh Penguins, where he won two Stanley Cup titles in 2016 and 2017.
In the exec's response, he mentioned what the Coyotes have been looking to acquire for Kessel:
"Exec: Penguins say no, almost zero percent chance you get a second-round pick for Phil Kessel. The Coyotes have offered him around for a third-round pick while retaining 50 percent and haven’t gotten a buyer yet."
If the price for Kessel is actually a third-round pick, and the Coyotes are willing to retain 50 percent of his salary, the Bruins should strongly consider making a move. Boston doesn't have its own 2022 third-round pick but it owns the Calgary Flames' third-rounder from the Dan Vladar deal.
Kessel is not an elite goal scorer anymore. The days of him scoring 30-plus goals are finished. He's actually struggled this season with just six goals in 50 games. These low numbers probably aren't Kessel's fault, though. The Coyotes gutted their team during the offseason and likely will continue to do that over the next month. Kessel isn't exactly playing with much talent around him.
Where would Kessel play in Boston?
Well, if the Bruins keep Taylor Hall and David Pastrnak together on the second line -- and they should, given how successful these two have been together since Jan. 1 -- then Kessel could play on the first line next to Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron.
Playing with two elite players could ignite Kessel's scoring. He's also playing for a new contract, so there's plenty of motivation to dominate with his next team (assuming he's traded).
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Right wing has been a weak spot for the Bruins all season. Outside of Pastrnak, the B's have received little offensive production from right wingers. Veteran right winger Craig Smith has just six goals in 43 games, and the bottom-six options at right wing haven't fared well, either.
Would Kessel want to come back to Boston? He has a no-trade clause, per CapFriendly, so the veteran forward does have some control over where he goes if dealt. Kessel and the Bruins weren't able to agree on a new contract before the 2009-10 season, which resulted in Boston dealing him to the Toronto Maple Leafs for multiple first-rounders (Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton).
If he's open to a Boston return, the Bruins should try to make a deal for him. Kessel would add scoring depth and plenty of playoff experience to Boston's roster. The Bruins' top need at the trade deadline is a No. 2 center, but acquiring players such as Claude Giroux, Tomas Hertl and J.T. Miller would be very expensive. Kessel is a less expensive option for a B's team that very much needs to upgrade at right wing.