The Vegas Golden Knights have signed veteran right-winger Phil Kessel to a one-year, $1.5 million deal. Kessel adds to an already stacked Golden Knights roster and is on pace to break the NHL record for consecutive games played this season. On top of the consecutive games streak, he is just one goal shy of recording his 400th career NHL goal.
On Thursday, the Golden Knights introduced Kessel in an introductory press conference and the three-time All-Star did not shy away from taking a shot at his former team, the Arizona Coyotes:
“It’s going to be nice playing on a team that wants to win.”
Expectations with Vegas
With Vegas, the Madison, Wisconsin native figures to slide into either the second or third line filling in the void left by Max Pacioretty, who was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes this off-season. Expectations are that with the Golden Knights, Kessel should at least see the potential of his production increasing to the point close to what he had in his four seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins. It is not likely he will see those numbers again, but with a line-up that Vegas has and the aggressive offensive strategy that coach Bruce Cassidy likes to go with, the chances are better than none for that to happen.
We saw what Kessel could do with talent around him in Pittsburgh and Toronto. He has spent the past three years with Arizona, which does not have the line-up and star power compared to the Penguins and Maple Leafs. Last season with the Arizona Coyotes, Kessel scored a career-low eight goals with 44 assists for 52 total points. The Coyotes were last in the NHL in scoring last season with 206 total goal scored. Kessel’s 44 assists, accounts for just over 21 percent of the Coyotes goals. During his first two seasons in Arizona, we faced the shortened seasons due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and projecting the numbers he had over that time span, his numbers would still be nowhere close to what he previously had.
Record-Breaking & Milestone time frame
If all things go to plan, there is a chance we will see Kessel get goal 400 in his first game as a Golden Knight at the Los Angeles Kings on October 11 or at home against the Chicago Blackhawks on October 13. There is also a chance, Kessel’s 400th comes on a night where he either ties the NHL Iron Man mark on October 24 against the Maple Leafs or the next night at the San Jose Sharks, when he breaks the record.
Breaking down Kessel’s career
The 2022-23 season will be Kessel’s 17th season in the NHL. Through 1,204 games played, he has 399 goals and 557 assists for a total of 955 points. Kessel was originally drafted fifth overall by the Boston Bruins in 2006 NHL Entry Draft. With the Bruins the first three seasons of his career, he scored 66 goals and 60 assists. After his rookie season, Kessel became the first roookie to win the Bill Masterston Trophy for overcoming his battle with testicular cancer. Prior to the 2009-10 season, Kessel was dealt by the Bruins to the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he would spend the next six seasons.
With the Maple Leafs, he was named to the NHL All-Star Team three times (2011, 2012 and 2015). Prior to the 2015-16 season, Kessel was traded from the Maple Leafs to the Penguins, where he would thrive and be an essential key to the Penguins run for the Stanley Cup in back to back seasons. In Pittsburgh, he would play four seasons before moving on in yet another trade sending him to Arizona, where he has been the last three seasons.
What Kessel means for the Golden Knights
The thing with Kessel is that he will be an active player on the ice and has the potential to thrive in Cassidy’s offensive system. Overall, it is a solid pick up for the Golden Knights. He is not expected to see much ice time on penalty kill situations but should factor well in power play situation. His presence brings in someone that has not only been a factor on a Stanley Cup winning squad, but also knowing how to co-exist on a roster that is loaded with stars gives a great locker room vibe.