Phil Kessel, a seasoned NHL veteran and unrestricted free agent, may find himself back in familiar territory after the Vancouver Canucks expressed serious interest in acquiring the enigmatic winger.
"I can tell you right now that the Canucks still talk and discuss Kessel, keep in regular contract with his agent, and they like his experience," Canucks insider Rick Dhaliwal said (via CHEK TV)
The potential move aligns with Kessel's deep connections to the Canucks' current management. Jim Rutherford, the architect behind the Pittsburgh Penguins' successful acquisition of Kessel in 2015, now serves as the president of hockey operations for the Vancouver Canucks.
This link to Rutherford, who orchestrated a blockbuster trade leading to consecutive Stanley Cup victories, adds weight to the credibility of the Canucks' interest in the skilled winger.
Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet, who enjoyed a successful stint as an assistant coach during the Penguins' championship runs, also maintains a strong relationship with Kessel.
The bond between the two was evident when Kessel was traded to the Arizona Coyotes, where Tocchet served as head coach at the time. Tocchet recently spoke highly of Kessel's abilities.
"There's value in Phil, I think he can still play 100%," Tocchet said.
According to Rick Dhaliwal, the potential acquisition of Kessel by the Canucks presents a low-risk gamble at this point in the season.
"Kessel doesn't cost you anything, It's a gamble yes, but there are not assets to be given up and it will be a cheap price," Dhaliwal said.
Insider Rick Dhaliwal talks about Phil Kessel's biggest obstacle
Dhaliwal highlighted that the biggest obstacle facing this potential reunion is the uncertainty surrounding Kessel's conditioning.
"The big issue? Conditioning, He has not played in 8 months and he played only 4 playoff games for Vegas last year when they won the Stanley Cup, that will be Kessel's biggest issue. Are you in shape?" Dhaliwal said.
Despite the potential hurdles, Dhaliwal suggests that a resolution to Kessel's free agency may be imminent.
"The Kessel decision is not far away, some say soon, Not sure where this goes, but the Vancouver Canucks are poking around Phil Kessel," Dhaliwal said.
As the Canucks explore the possibility of bringing Phil Kessel north of the border, the hockey world awaits a decision that could mark a return for the seasoned winger.