NHL Trade Analysis: Phil Kessel and Alex Galchenyuk Trading Places
Tensions seems to be heating up between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Phil Kessel
© Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Phil Kessel traded before July 1st seemed to be an impossible dream. Then, on Saturday night, the impossible happened. Kessel and Alex Galchenyuk swapped locales and with that, the “Kessel Era” was over in Pittsburgh.

The trade itself involves a bit more than that. It also includes Pittsburgh sending a fourth-round 2021 draft pick and defense prospect Dane Birks. Pittsburgh, in turn, receives Pierre-Olivier Joseph (also a defense prospect).

Let’s quickly dig into the trade impacts for both teams and what repercussions may come.

What Phil Kessel means to the Arizona Coyotes

Kessel instantly adds credibility to one of the worst offenses in the league. He gives a boost to the power play, in particular as well. John Chayka alluded to why acquiring Kessel was so important here.

“Phil Kessel is a proven winner, an elite goal scorer and one of the most productive point producers in the NHL for a sustained period of time,” said Coyotes general manager John Chayka. “His dynamic scoring ability fits a specific need for this team and instantly elevates us to another level.”

Keep in mind that Pittsburgh’s leverage in trading Kessel was hurt in several ways. Remember, he already nixed a potential trade to Minnesota and rumors exist there were others. Furthermore, Phil Kessel’s eight-team list had seven teams on it. However, little of that matters now.

So, Arizona’s cap space is down to a little over $1.7 million after the Kessel trade. That feels weird to say but that is the reality the Coyotes are now facing. They want to win now and most importantly, get off to a better start. Phil Kessel helps with that.

That being said, do not expect Phil Kessel to play much defense. Frankly, with how Arizona suppresses shots (top five in the league), he does not need to. Kessel scored 61 times in the last two seasons (27 last year). That 27 is more than anyone from Arizona as no Coyotes player tallied 20 goals.

Some more numerology on Phil Kessel

Will Kessel be able to score in the desert? The answer is likely yes. He is remarkably consistent. While the right winger has never scored 40 goals, he hit the twine 20+ times over 11 consecutive seasons. Even better for Arizona, Kessel lit the lamp 12 times on the power play and ten of his goals were of the game-winning variety.

Thanks to Bill Comeau’s visualization analysis. At 5-on 5, Kessel is a slightly above average player with below-average defensive tendencies as seen above. Phil Kessel excels in scoring and play distribution, even at even strength. His scores are higher when it comes to assists especially.

The man advantage saw the winger rack up 42 and 36 points the previous two seasons. Plus, Kessel turns 32 when the season starts. He will not get any faster and the right winger has three years remaining on his contract at $6.8 million AAV.

What Alex Galchenyuk means to the Pittsburgh Penguins

Again, where this is Phil Kessel’s fourth team in his long career, this is Alex Galchenyuk’s third team. To be fair, Montreal was a situation that was unfair in almost every way. However, lasting only one season in Arizona raises some red flags at least. He did lead Arizona in goals with 19 though in 72 games.

First, Galchenyuk expected to work out at even strength and just did not. While his shooting percentage stayed around 12%, he tallied just nine goals at 5-on-5. The other ten came on the power play. So, there may be a comparison to a poor man’s Phil Kessel with Galchenyuk. It carries some merit.

Bill Comeau once again provides us with his Skatr Solo Chart.

Galchenyuk’s game score was just 26. The possession metrics for the forward already were below average but dropped even more last season. Even though he is only 25-year old, one has to wonder if his ceiling is limited. With just two 50+ point seasons, Pittsburgh may be expecting more than they are getting…again.

With the trade, the Penguins have almost $5.1 million in cap space with 20 players signed. This frees up Jim Rutherford for another move. Some suggest it could be for Brandon Tanev but who knows.

Some final notes on Alex Galchenyuk

Right now, Pittsburgh hopes for the Galchenyuk of a few seasons ago as opposed to 2018-19. He could slot into the second or third line but the real question is will he play wing or center?

That answer depends on who one talks to. Expect Galchenyuk to have a sheltered middle-six role with solid time on the power play. While Phil Kessel still projects well fantasy wise, there are more questions with Galchenyuk.

The ultimate thing to see will be what his ice time looks like early in the season. If he gets hot, that bodes well. If not, that spells more trouble. Either way, this was definitely an interesting trade for both teams. One player on the other side of his career and one player with a lot to prove now.