There is no doubt about Phil Kessel’s ability to score some goals, he has put up 30 goals or more in five of his last nine seasons. Fans in Pittsburgh must have been very excited to hear that Kessel is going to be wearing black and yellow, playing along side Sidney Crosby and/or Evgeni Malkin. With top tier talent feeding the puck to Kessel, he should be putting up career numbers for the next few seasons. How many goals will he get in his first year as a Penguin? 30? 40? The sky is the limit for the Penguins and Phil Kessel but at what cost?
It is no secret that Penguins have some huge money tied up in keeping Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the roster but to add Phil Kessel is another large expense to add more scoring. Kessel’s contract has him locked up at an average $6.8 million a year for the next seven years. On top of that, if Kessel loves it so much that he wants to stay in the steel city, he stays. In that contract is a no move clause, as well as a limited no trade clause which means Kessel has a say if and where he goes. Looking at this single contract might not seem like a big deal but it certainly adds to a problem that can bite the Penguins pretty bad down the road.
When you add Phil Kessel’s contract to Crosby’s, Malkin’s, Letang’s, and Fleury’s contracts, the Pittsburgh Penguins have $38Million tied up in those five players. This money will be tied up till the end of the 2018-19 season when Fluery’s contract expires. The salary cap is set at $71.4 million this year and by doing the math, that’s roughly 53% of what the Penguins can spend as far as cap wise. Hopefully for the Penguins the cap will rise but with the Canadian dollar falling, it might not be happening soon enough.
This investment in players that are in their prime is great for the win now but it ties up too much money and it is harder to diversify the team. This was seen last season when the Penguins were dealing with injuries and almost didn’t make the playoffs. This also has a bigger impact in the long run, all of the players under these large contracts are in their late 20’s and the contracts will go till they are in their mid 30’s, how fast will these players decline? The Penguins will have these declining players and not enough money to spend to attract other elite talents or be able to trade them at will.
This is great move in the short term but this contract, unless there are any changes, will definitely hurt the Penguins long term. Money tied up into aging players, for a very long time, is never good for the future of the franchise. Penguins general manager, Jim Rutherford will look like a genius if this plays out right or if it goes wrong, he will look like the man that hurt the franchise.
Don’t worry though, the Blackhawks have $46.4 million tied up long term in seven players, so they will likely be in worse shape down the road.