Phil Kessel is among the few notable names remaining in this summer's unrestricted free agent market. While the 34-year-old winger's best days are behind him, he could become an affordable addition to a club such as the Edmonton Oilers.
During last week's 32 Thoughts podcast, Jeff Marek wondered if Kessel might end up with the Oilers once the arbitration period has passed. “He'd score there, there's no denying that,” he said, pointing out Kessel was in a difficult position with the Arizona Coyotes.
Kessel's production dropped considerably after being traded to the Coyotes by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2019. He managed just 38 points in 70 games in 2019-20 but rebounded with a team-leading 20 goals and 43 points in 56 games during the COVID-shortened 2020-21 campaign. He was third among the Coyotes with 52 points in 82 games last season but managed just five goals.
That decline in Kessel's production can be partly attributed to the lack of skilled talent among the rebuilding Coyotes roster. He won't see 80-point seasons anymore but could still put up respectable numbers as a second-line winger on a deeper club such as the Oilers.
Cap space is an issue for the Oilers. As per Cap Friendly, they're over the $82.5-million ceiling by $2.9 million with restricted free agents Kailer Yamamoto and Ryan McLeod still to sign. They'll get some wiggle room with Oscar Klefbom and Mike Smith going on long-term injury reserve.
Kessel won't get anything close to the $8-million average annual value of his previous contract. However, it could prove difficult to squeeze a one-year bargain contract for him into the Oilers' cap payroll.