Does future hall of famer Phil Kessel make sense as an inexpensive depth signing for the Boston Bruins right now?
We asked that question here back in August, and now that we’re halfway through the season and NHL teams may start looking into whether it would make sense for them to continue Kessel’s hall of fame career, we asked Bruins fans what they would think if the Bruins should look into signing Kessel. Amazingly it was split right down the middle in our poll on X:
Make no mistake, the Boston Bruins signing unrestricted free agent veteran winger has the makings of a great full-circle story for him and the team, but it’s unlikely to happen.
— MurphysLaw74 (Jimmy Murphy) (@MurphysLaw74) December 30, 2023
Phil Kessel, whom Boston Bruins drafted fifth overall at the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, has been waiting for another chance to play in the NHL after turning 36 on Oct. 2, just prior to the start of the 2023-24 regular season. Just over two weeks ago, TSN NHL Insider Pierre LeBrun reported that Kessel was pondering staying in game shape over in the Swiss League.
“Free-agent Phil Kessel still awaiting an NHL opportunity and that door hasn’t closed,” LeBrun tweeted. “But in the meantime, hearing that he’s looking into maybe playing some games in the Swiss League. Nothing decided yet.”
Before the season, it was reported by Eliotte Friedman that the three-time Stanley Cup champion would be willing to give up his iron man streak and become an NHL team’s 13th forward. From Friedman on Aug. 31:
‘The three-time Stanley Cup champion wants to play again in 2023-24. But the most significant detail is that he’s let teams know it won’t be a problem if he’s not an everyday player.
Kessel is the NHL’s Ironman, the only player in league history to play at least 1,000 games in a row. His current streak is 1,064 — 75 more than Keith Yandle, whose record Kessel broke last season. (Kessel did not appear in all of Vegas’s playoff games, but the postseason does not factor into consecutive games records.)
Letting teams know this detail in advance is important because ending these streaks causes enormous stress if there is not buy-in from the player. In 2020-21, for example, Florida teammates made their displeasure very clear when the Panthers wanted to scratch Yandle from the lineup at the start of the season. He didn’t miss a game.’
With the Boston Bruins trying out rookie Georgii Merkulov in the bottom 6 forward group as they look for more offense, would a professional tryout for Kessel with the Bruins make sense for Kessel to be a spark to bring in from the press box every few games?
Given his history with the Bruins, both during his time here and as an opponent, the irony would be something. Let’s not also forget that the Bruins and Kessel didn’t exactly part ways on good terms. After scoring 66 goals and adding 60 assists in 222 regular season games and nine goals and six assists in 15 playoff games with the Bruins, Kessel requested a trade amid a contract stalemate with then Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli. Chiarelli found a taker in then-Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke and traded the disgruntled winger to the Leafs in exchange for a 2010 first-round pick (Tyler Seguin), a 2010 second-round pick (Jared Knight), and a 2011 first-round pick (Dougie Hamilton). The 21-year-old restricted free agent then signed a five-year, $27 million contract with the Leafs.
All three players the Bruins used with those picks were eventually traded by the Bruins, with Seguin and Hamilton gone before they hit their prime years.
The past is the past, though, and Kessel did make the list of Top 100 Bruins ever. His goal in Game 6 of the 2008 Eastern Conference quarterfinals series with the Montreal Canadiens had TD Garden ‘vibrating’ and was part of the rebirth of the franchise that led to the success of the last 16 years.