Pittsburgh Penguins forward Phil Kessel recently vetoed a trade and the team is no longer seeking to move him, general manager Jim Rutherford said Monday.
FILE PHOTO: Men’s ice hockey player Phil Kessel of the U.S. watches his teammates take shots during a team practice at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics February 20, 2014. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
“I’m not actively pushing to trade him at this point,” Rutherford said on 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh. “If someone comes along with a deal that makes sense, we’ll take a look at it, just like most of the other players.”
Kessel, a 13-year veteran with 357 goals and 466 assists in his career, reportedly nixed a trade to the Minnesota Wild, which were not on Kessel’s list of approved trade destinations. Rutherford said he tried to put together the deal anyway.
“From a team point of view you can’t have the player controlling the trade because if you do it’s not going to work out for the team, so at this point and time I view it that Phil will return with the team,” Rutherford said.
Kessel, 31, had 27 goals and 55 assists in 82 games for the Penguins last season, his fourth with the team. He helped Pittsburgh win the Stanley Cup in 2016 and 2017.
He is under contract through the 2021-22 season.
Rutherford said the team is “trying to retool” after a 44-26-12 season in which Pittsburgh was swept by the New York Islanders in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
“That doesn’t mean he has to be traded,” Rutherford said of Kessel. “He’s been a really good player for us. … He’s an impact player and will be for a few more years.”
Rutherford said there also are no hard feelings about the rejected trade.
“He’s a player that deserved to get the position he’s in where he had a no-trade and pick eight teams that he would go to, and otherwise he would have some say in whether he’d go to other teams,” Rutherford said.
“I don’t think there’s anything out of the ordinary here. He’s exercising his right. Obviously, it’s frustrating for the team when you feel that the trade that we were going to make was the right thing for the Penguins, but at the same time Phil didn’t do anything wrong.”
—Field Level Media