Phil Kessel wants to play again but are the Oilers an option?

Apr 6, 2023; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Vegas Golden Knights right wing Phil Kessel (8) awaits a face off against the Los Angeles Kings during the first period at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 6, 2023; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Vegas Golden Knights right wing Phil Kessel (8) awaits a face off against the Los Angeles Kings during the first period at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports /

We consider whether the combination of the Oilers’ struggling offence and Phil Kessel wanting to return to the NHL, makes Edmonton a viable option.

It’s an understatement to declare the 2023-24 campaign has not began as hoped for the Edmonton Oilers. Despite opening with four games versus three teams who failed to make the playoffs last season, they have manged just one win.

There is plenty of blame to go around, when it comes to pinpointing where things have gone wrong thus far. However, one such area is the lack of production from wingers predicted to have a positive impact this season, specifically Connor Brown and Evander Kane.

Brown was considered the Oilers’ main offseason addition, but has done effectively nothing to justify the signing to date. Meanwhile, Kane is looking nothing like the player who was so effective for the team just two seasons ago.

Now in fairness to both, there are injury factors to consider which could be compromising their effectiveness. Brown only played four games last season due to an anterior cruciate ligament issue, while Kane lost a significant portion of the 2022-23 campaign due to wrist surgery.

The question is, will either or both players be able to overcome their issues — regardless of what these are — and perform more like what each is capable of? Or do the Oilers need to start looking elsewhere, to boost the forward position?

Kessel looking for an NHL team

If the answer is the latter, who should general manager Ken Holland and company consider? One such possibility could well be Phil Kessel.

As per TSN‘s Chris Johnston, Kessell is eager to return for a 18th season. The hockey Insider claims he’s been close with a couple of contracts in the last two weeks and is expected to join a team at some point.

The winger has three Stanley Cup championships on his resume, including one from last season with the Vegas Golden Knights. He also holds the NHL all-time ironman streak, at 1,064 games and counting.

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Some might question how effective Kessel can still be. Last season’s 36 points was his lowest total since his rookie campaign, in 2006-07.

However, the 36-year-old’s extensive experience could prove useful, especially come playoff time. Additionally, despite receiving media criticism over the years about his work ethic, the reality is he’s always been a popular teammate.

While not perceived as a motivation for Kessel, it’s also worth noting he currently sits on 992 career points. Certainly it would be a notable career achievement, to reach the 1,000-point mark.

Is Kessel a fit for the Oilers?

So what about the Oilers specifically? Could the winger provide a spark, to help the likes of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, while also making up for the shortfall of any teammates?

In truth, it’s debatable about how much of an impact Kessel would have on the team. Although the counter is it couldn’t be any worse than the likes of Brown and Kane, if they continue on their current trajectory.

Of course, even if the Oilers are interested in the 2006 fifth overall draft pick, there’s the not-so-small matter of their precarious salary cap situation. As per CapFriendly, at the time of posting they have just $382,760 available, and that’s with a 21-man roster as opposed to the maximum of 23 players.

For Kessel’s part, he played last season in Las Vegas on a $1.5 million contract. Prior to this, he did play two seasons on consecutive $1 million base deals, albeit also both with $5 million signing bonuses.

If it’s any help to the Oilers — and again keeping in mind only if they do have any genuine interest in the three-time All-Star — they do have four two-way contracts on their NHL roster. These include Dylan Holloway, Adam Erne, Philip Broberg and Vincent Desharnais, although we’re confident in predicting Holloway isn’t going anywhere this season.

Next. Evander Kane needs to be better. dark

Ultimately though, we don’t believe Kessel is a viable option for the Oilers. There’s just too many factors as to why it wouldn’t be a prudent decision for the organization.