Philadelphia Flyers should kick the tires on Phil Kessel

Phil Kessel would be an exemplary veteran add for the Flyers. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports
Phil Kessel would be an exemplary veteran add for the Flyers. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports /

Now that it is September, the Philadelphia Flyers are getting ready for training camp to start up. With Morgan Frost signed on for the next two seasons, the Flyers’ lineup is seemingly filled up and ready to go. However, there are a few aging vets out there that are still looking for a roster spot out there. One of these vets is former scoring dynamo Phil Kessel. Yes… that Phil Kessel.

Kessel is a three-time Stanley Cup Champion; twice with the Pittsburgh Penguins and just this past season with the Vegas Golden Knights. He is the current NHL consecutive games played record holder at 1,064 straight games, having passed former Flyers defenseman Keith Yandle this past season, and also became the first ever player to reach 1,000 consecutive games played. In his rookie season, he was awarded the Bill Masterton Trophy after his winning his fight with testicular cancer.

Since he broke into the league in 2006-07, he’s only scored less than 10 goals just once; in 2021-22 for a lackluster Arizona Coyotes team (he still had 44 assists). He’s been a prolific scorer throughout his career, scoring 413 goals with 579 assists. Currently, he is ranked 99th in NHL history for career points and is eight points away from reaching 1,000 total points.

Kessel is currently a free agent. The soon-to-be-36-year-old feels that he still has some gas in the tank and wants to play. How bad does he want to play? He has gone on record saying he’ll put his regular season ironman streak on the line if another team will take a chance on him. Now, he didn’t say how much he’d be willing to play for or what kind of team he’d be willing to play for, however at this point in the offseason, most teams don’t have a whole lot of change left in the piggy bank. Although, if a team loses someone important, they could free up some cap space by putting that player on injured reserve.

Which brings us to the Philadelphia Flyers. Should they sign Kessel? How good can he be? Last year, he scored 14 goals with 22 assists. That would place him seventh on the team (between Joel Farabee and Noah Cates), tied with Owen Tippett for eighth in assists, and ninth in points between Tippett and James van Riemsdyk. That’s also with him playing mostly on a third and fourth line role with the Golden Knights and averaging just 12 minutes of ice time.

What would Kessel bring to the Flyers? Besides a natural scoring touch, even if it is waning, he has leadership. He’s been on three Cup-winning squads. He’s played with some great players in the course of his career. He’s arguably a Hall of Fame player now. Like Marc Staal and the defense, he could server as a mentor to some of the young forwards.

The biggest thing in bringing him to Philly would be to see how he gels with John Tortorella. Someone with his experience may not want to play hockey in a way that only the coach wants to be done. Then again, if he wants it bad enough he may even drive the Zamboni if Torts told him to.

The other issue is his age. Playing him means that some young forward is either in the team box as a scratch or demoted to the AHL for “further development”. If Daniel Briere wants to give the young guys all the chances they can get to show what they got, would he improve this team? Would Kessel mind being a scratch ever other game if that meant that some young player could cut his teeth in the league? Maybe there could be a provision to trade him to a contender at the deadline.

Unless the Flyers management sees a lot of value in what he can bring to this team, it really wouldn’t make a lot of sense to bring him to Philadelphia. Even if the Flyers suffered a major preseason injury to a Frost, a Farabee, a Tippett, or a Travis Konecny, it would make e a lot more sense to bring up a Jackson Cates, Elliott Desnoyers, or another prospect to see what they can do at the pro level. Now if a lot of forwards got hurt, that is a different story.

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Kessel may still have some hockey left in him. If that’s the case, I hope for hockey’s sake that he finds a home somewhere and can still contribute. If, however, we have to kick the tires on an older vet still trying to do it, I’d rather bring in someone who’s been here before, like Wayne Simmonds, and give him that role of mentor/leader.