“Well, from the moment that the Penguins got off to a slow start this year - once it was by the two or three or four-week mark - Jimmy Rutherford realized that the slow start wasn’t just a slow start, that there was maybe something wrong with the team,” began McKenzie. “He basically made it abundantly clear there’s two untouchables on this team: One is Sidney Crosby, the other one is Evgeni Malkin. So Phil Kessel, Kris Letang, and you name it - anybody else can be had for the right price.
“But obviously for a player like Letang or Kessel, the price was going to be significant, and it would not be entered into lightly. And it’s not something they were necessarily desirous of doing, but they were open to it if they got the right offers.
“And I don’t think anything has changed on that front, other than maybe a recognition, just a reinforcement that Phil Kessel is a real good hockey player. It was funny, the last game - and it doesn’t happen very often - but 5-on-5 Kessel and Crosby actually got teamed up and that’s not been a combination that we’ve seen much 5-on-5 - obviously on the power play it has been.
“So I just think it’s Jimmy Rutherford being open to trading anybody not named Crosby or Malkin. But anybody recognizing there would be a real significant premium for a player like Phil Kessel if they were to go down that road.”
Kessel has an additional three seasons beyond this one remaining on his contract, which carries a remaining $6.8 million cap hit. $1.2 of the original $8 million cap hit is being retained by the Toronto Maple Leafs from the 2015 trade between the two teams.
Kessel has a modified no-trade clause, no-move clause in that pact.
Contract-related info via CapFriendly