Phil Kessel parading around with his 3rd Cup
Photo credit: The Globe and Mail

Surprise team emerges in the Phil Kessel sweepstakes

Published February 8, 2024 at 2:49 PM

The Vancouver Canucks have been a pleasant surprise this season as the Western Canadian club sits atop the NHL standings with an incredible 34-11-5 record for 73 points in 50 games. In contrast to last season, it took them 73 games to reach that total.

Jim Rutherford and Patrik Allvin have been very aggressive over the last year and a half. They shipped out former captain Bo Horvat ahead of last year's trade deadline, acquired Filip Hronek from the Detroit Red Wings, and were very close to dealing J.T. Miller, Brock Boeser, and Conor Garland. They stood pat and added Nikita Zadorov and Elias Lindholm this year and it looks like they're still poking around.

Last week, Pierre LeBrun noted that former 3-time Stanley Cup champion Phil Kessel was still hoping to make a return to the NHL this season. With Zach Parise and Corey Perry having found new homes, the interest level has picked up on Kessel and the Canucks are somewhat surprisingly in the mix.

Kessel did relatively well after his successful stint in Pittsburgh where he scored 133 points in 208 games for the Arizona Coyotes, including 95 points in his final 138 games. He struggled to find a role in Vegas but he can still provide secondary to tertiary scoring, veteran leadership, and playoff experience.

Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet was asked about Kessel last week while he was attending the All-Star festivities and his response almost confirmed there was definite interest coming out Vancouver. The two of them are very familiar with each other from their time together in both Pittsburgh and Arizona:

"There's value in Phil, I think he can still play, 100 per cent."

The Canucks already possess an extremely potent offense with Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, and Quinn Hughes to go along with the aforementioned Miller, Garland, and Lindholm. They will be hard pressed to keep this team together after this season with Petterson, Hronek, and Lindholm among their pending free agents but for the time being, Rutherford and Allvin are putting all their chips in the middle in the hopes of snapping their Cup drought.

February 8   |   490 answers
Surprise team emerges in the Phil Kessel sweepstakes

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