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Why signing Phil Kessel makes sense for the Chicago Blackhawks

Mario Tirabassi Avatar
September 12, 2023

I’m going to try to put all of my Phil Kessel meatballiness away here, but I am being serious. Phil Kassel joining the Chicago Blackhawks makes sense on both ends of the deal. I’ll explain…

Kessel is a living legend in the sport of hockey. His enigmatic personality, along with his top-tier talent level, have made him a folk hero to hockey fans of all walks of life from big guys to lazy guys to funny guys to DGAF guys, Phil is just the man. On top of his personality, Kessel has a legitimate argument for being a Hockey Hall of Famer with 1,286 games played, 413 goals, 992 points, being a three-time Stanley Cup Champion, and the active NHL Ironman streak holder with 1,064-straight games played.

Apr 13, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Las Vegas Knights forward Phil Kessel (8) is pictured during a game against the Seattle Kraken at Climate Pledge Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports

He’s also still a free agent after being a part of the Vegas Golden Knights this past season, lifting his third Stanley Cup.

But lifting the Cup this past June came with some pride-swallowing by Kessel after he was benched in the first round of the postseason by Vegas and failed to get back into the lineup before the end of the postseason. He put up 14 goals and 36 points in a full 82-game season with Vegas, and turning 36-years-old prior to the beginning of the 2023-24 regular season doesn’t scream “prime Phil Kessel” any longer. And although he’s turning 36 soon, it helps him in a way because he’s eligible to sign a one-year minimum contract with bonuses. So for teams potentially up against the salary cap, Kessel could be a very cheap option.

The Ironman streak lives because it only counts regular season games played, not postseason, but that is not something that Kessel wants to keep teams from being interested in signing him. Recently, Sportnet’s Eliotte Friedman reported that Kessel has made it clear to teams that being an every day player and continuing his Ironman streak is not a priority to him when it comes to playing in the NHL for the 2023-24 season, which he has expressed multiple times is his goal.

This is where the Blackhawks come in and actually make a ton of sense for Kessel.

Coming into the organization on a one-year, minimum deal, or even on a PTO coming into camp and then signing once the season begins, gives the Blackhawks virtually nothing lost in their cap space and gives Kessel an incredible roster opportunity to play a significant role on a team that won’t be pushing him out of the lineup anytime soon. Kessel could easily play a regular role for the Blackhawks in their top-nine forwards group and play a role off the ice for a team that is likely to not be any good again this season. Yes, having Connor Bedard makes things better and more interesting, but this Blackhawks squad is still going to pick in the top ten of the NHL Draft next summer. His demeanor could be a benefit to the dressing room when things aren’t going well, much like Alex Stalock did last season. Players love to play with him, and even more so, they just simply love to be around him.

Sure, Kessel isn’t signing up to be the court jester for a lousy team, but if he plays well on a very flippable and affordable one-year deal with the Blackhawks, come trade deadline time, he becomes an option for teams looking for another piece to their puzzle as contenders.

Oct 13, 2022; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Vegas Golden Knights center Phil Kessel (8) steals the puck from Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Jarred Tinordi (25) during the second period at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Kessel would get the opportunity to play more games in Chicago than likely anywhere else in the league and gets a chance to play with young up-and-coming players like Connor Bedard and Lukas Reichel, to potentially give him a youthful boost in what would be his 18th NHL season.

For the Blackhawks, you get another marketable player for a team that is going to have exponentially more eyes on it than last year’s squad. You have a player fans will gravitate towards, even if only for two-thirds of the season, that will take just a little bit more of the pressure and attention every day off of Bedard. Plus, if they are interested in selling milestones, Kessel is eclipse 1,300 NHL games played, you have the active Ironman streak for however long it lasts, and he is eight points away from 1,000 in his NHL career. If a player like Colin Blackwell or Joey Anderson or Reese Johnson or Boris Katchouk are sitting because Kessel is playing his way into the lineup and remaining there, so be it. There are more “Kessel” Blackhawks sweaters to be sold and potential draft capital on the table for Phil than any of those bottom of the roster players.

And for those that fear Kessel would take ice-time away from a young developing player, he has already expressed that staying in the lineup as an every day player is not a priority and there really isn’t a young forward here, yet, that shouldn’t be in the lineup that Kessel would/could block. Bedard, Reichel, Kurashev are all lineup locks with or without Phil around.

It makes too much sense to me and we haven’t even considered the food sponsorships and endorsement opportunities that would be brought Kessel’s way, another selling-point for him on coming to Chicago. At the very least, extending a PTO opportunity for Kessel would be very much appreciated by this Blackhawks fan.

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