As the 2023-24 regular NHL season is starting, one long-time player who wants a job still hasn’t found a home. That’s ex-Toronto Maple Leafs player Phil Kessel. The current NHL free agent market has seemed to ignore the long-time veteran who also holds the NHL’s Iron Man record.
Does this mean that he’s done as an NHL player? While his skills have declined over the seasons, he’s still been able to put some points on the board. I’m sure he thinks he still can.
Kessel Is in Good Health and Ready to Rumble
Kessel’s situation seems a bit perplexing. Despite being in good health, the three-time Stanley Cup champion has yet to secure any kind of a contract. It would seem that interest in him seems to be dwindling. In fact, reports are that Kessel is willing to end his remarkable Iron Man streak for the sake of employment.
Still, he’s facing challenges in the current market. Could it be his decline in scoring?
Kessel has long been celebrated for his offensive ability. However, the past season saw a dip in his production. He had his lowest point total (36) since his rookie year. Furthermore, during the playoffs, the 35-year-old was frequently scratched from the lineup by the Vegas Golden Knights.
I’m guessing that other teams have seen this and interpreted it as evidence of his decline. It might have further eroded his appeal to potential suitors.
These Days Teams Might Choose Speed and Defense Over Scoring
One factor working against Kessel is his reputation for not being a strong defensive player. Although he boasts an impressive resume with three Stanley Cup championships and an NHL Iron Man with a remarkable streak of consecutive games played, the current NHL context seems less forgiving for players who are no longer the offensive forces they once were. That would be especially true if they lacked defensive contributions.
Thinking about Kessel’s NHL career, it’s impossible to ignore his accomplishments. He’s not everyone’s cup of tea; and, in Toronto, many fans do not remember him with favour. However, he is a resilient player. In his career, he’s battled back and recovered from testicular cancer in 2006.
He’s also contributed with multiple teams. These include the Boston Bruins, Maple Leafs, and Pittsburgh Penguins. In short, Kessel has left his mark on the league. He especially played a crucial role in the Penguins’ 2016 Stanley Cup victory. Although he wasn’t as productive for the Golden Knights, he still played a part in their Stanley Cup run.
In short, Kessel has put together a storied career. Now, he faces uncertainty about his future in the hockey world. Good luck to him, whatever happens.