On the Pittsburgh Penguins and Phil Kessel …
Ron Cook of the Post-Gazette: [Cook] thinks that the Penguins will trade Phil Kessel sooner than later. It may not happen this month or this offseason, but with Rick Tocchet leaving the Penguins, it could speed up the process.
[Cook] thinks it was clear by the end of their season that the organization wasn’t thrilled with Kessel’s play this year. [Cook] believes that Evgeni Malkin wasn’t happy playing on the same line as Kessel, and it’s already known that Kessel and Sidney Crosby on the same line doesn’t work.
Tocchet spent a lot of time with Kessel, helping him with the mental side of things, while acting as a buffer between Kessel and head coach Mike Sullivan. Kessel would at times drive coach Sullivan crazy.
Kessel’s contract runs through 2021-22 at a $6.8 million cap hit for the Penguins – the Toronto Maple Leafs are paying $1.2 million a year.
Kessel has a limited no-trade clause.
On the Buffalo Sabres …
Luke Fox of Sportsnet: Sabres captain Brian Gionta is hoping to play in his 16th NHL season next year but his chances of returning to the Sabres are slim.
“The door is not completely shut but very unlikely,” Gionta, 38, said before teeing off at the NHLPA’s 25th annual charity golf tournament.
“I’m still trying to figure things out. At this point in my career, it’s got to be a good situation for the family, so I’m just working through some things.”
Gionta has recently met with GM Jason Botterill to talk about his future. Botterill had decided earlier this offseason when he took over to not bring back free agent defensemen Dmitry Kulikov and Cody Franson.
“I feel great with where my body’s at and how I can compete in the league, but it’s a matter of the family at this point.”