It has been a while since the Phil Kessel trade rumor mill started to spin, but it was back in action this week when Elliotte Friedman mentioned in his latest 31 thoughts column that the Penguinshad “tested the market” on their top winger.
This does not mean they are looking to trade him.
This does not mean they are going to trade him.
This does not mean they want to trade him.
At most it just means they kicked the tires on what they could get back for him if they decided to go that route. Quite honestly, if Jim Rutherford in his early season fury was going to make a truly significant trade to shake up an underpeforming roster, Kessel is almost certainly the first player out of the core that would have gone.
Still, when it comes to a Phil Kessel trade I will believe it when I actually see it. Not only because he makes the Penguins better (and they know it), but also because it would be nearly impossible to get equal value back in return (they almost certainly know that, too).
There is also absolutely no precedent for such a trade to take place in the middle of the season.
On Wednesday night a friend texted me and asked what a “good” return would be for Kessel in a hypothetical trade, and after thinking about it for a few minutes I had no good answer because I couldn’t even think of a parallel trade to compare it to.
Think of the situation here. You have an elite offensive player on a team that is supposed to be a Stanley Cup contender. They may not be a Stanley Cup contender right now in the standings, but that is 100 percent how they view themselves. It is also how they should view themselves. In the past three years they have won two Stanley Cups, won a playoff series the year after that, and entered the season with championship expectations. They have elite, Hall of Fame level players on the roster. As long as they are there still performing at high levels, this team is in win-now mode.