SHOULD HE STAY OR SHOULD HE GO?

Josh Yohe of TheAthletic.Com spoke with Penguins GM Jim Rutherford, and Rutherford said, “I expect [Phil] Kessel will probably play for Pittsburgh next season.”

So, you get to keep wearing your Kessel No. 81 jerseys.

But keeping Kessel + the probability that no other significant player will be traded = the strong possibility that the Penguins will be stale, and fail.

Only one deal is likely: Olli Maatta will be swapped, because it’s not difficult to do that.

Otherwise, the Penguins will return with mostly the same team. Because of that (and especially because of Kessel’s presence), Coach Mike Sullivan will find it tough to implement a tighter, more disciplined system. (That’s assuming Sullivan wants to.)

These guys play the way they play. That was fine when the Penguins had the fastest, most skilled roster.

But now they don’t. And with the game getting a bit heavier (as witnessed by the teams in the Stanley Cup Final), the Penguins aren’t well-equipped in that regard, either.

Rutherford deserves to be trusted. But it looks like the Penguins are going to give their Stanley Cup-winning core a victory tour until the team falls off a cliff.

Players like Jared McCann, Marcus Pettersson and Teddy Blueger add youth and energy. But they don’t add nearly enough, and not in limited roles.

There’s every reason for the fans and locker room to love Kessel. But you’ve never coached him, and don’t understand the trickle-down.

Evgeni Malkin is likely to take a look in the mirror, adjust as he needs to, and reestablish himself as one of hockey’s top players in 2019-20.

Kessel? Not so much. He plays how he likes. That’s why, at 31, he’s been traded twice (and it would be three times except for his limited-movement clause).

Kessel comes with an expiration date. He's hit it. But the Penguins can’t act on it.

Yeah, I know: POINT PER GAME! POINT PER GAME! POINT PER GAME! KESSEL AVERAGED A POINT PER GAME!

Pittsburgh Penguins v Columbus Blue Jackets

Courtesy of Getty Images.

Mark Madden

Mark Madden

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