Phil Kessel signs with Vegas Golden Knights; ironman streak in sight

phil kessel vegas golden knights
Nov 29, 2019; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Arizona Coyotes center Phil Kessel (81) looks towards a referee after being taken down during an overtime period against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Phil Kessel was in limbo for most of the summer until late Wednesday night. The Vegas Golden Knights announced signing the veteran forward to a one-year deal with an AAV of $1.5 million.

Vegas was definitely in need of some additional scoring on the wing after having no choice but to jettison Max Pacioretty to the Carolina Hurricanes. It was a cap savings transaction as the Knights moved his $7M hit for future considerations.

Kessel, 34, registered 8 goals and 52 points in 82 games last season for the struggling Arizona Coyotes. That won’t exactly replace what Pacioretty brought offensively, as he averaged .86 points per game in Vegas. However, playing with players like Mark Stone or Jack Eichel could be a boon at a bargain price for both sides.

Phil Kessel eyes ironman streak

phil kessel
Nov 16, 2021; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; Arizona Coyotes right wing Phil Kessel (81) waits for a face off against the St. Louis Blues during the second period at Enterprise Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

By signing Kessel, Vegas brings in a two-time Stanley Cup champion with 956 points under his belt in 1,204 regular-season games. Furthermore, he’s just 8 games away from claiming the ironman streak.

Defenseman Keith Yandle broke Doug Jarvis’ mark of 964 back in January. A controversial healthy scratch by the Philadelphia Flyers ended his streak at 989 consecutive games.

The Coyotes helped Kessel keep his streak alive late last season against the Detroit Red Wings. He played one shift for 30 seconds before hitting the locker room and boarding a private charter to attend the birth of child.

“Phil wanted to play the whole game,” Armstrong said. “We had talked to the doctors and his wife and got a feel for it. We thought let’s keep the streak alive and our owner (Alex Meruelo) said we’ll take care of him, get him a private plane and get him back there. It was everybody on the staff, but at the end of the day it’s our owner stepping up and making sure he takes care of the players.”

GM Bill Armstrong, NHL.com

Crucial season for Vegas

Head coach Peter DeBoer was let go at the end of the season after not making the playoffs, a first in the Golden Knights young franchise history. Of course, faulting just DeBoer isn’t fair after all the injury issues the team suffered.

New head coach Bruce Cassidy, who was fired by the Boston Bruins, takes over a veteran team that has a lot of questions. However, no one on the team has more individual pressure than Jack Eichel.

The Knights gave the Buffalo Sabres a nice package and took on his full $10 million cap hit. That forced them to trade fan favorite Max Paccioretty away to the Carolina Hurricanes for nothing this summer to become cap compliant.

Eichel will now need to be the new face of the franchise and become their best player if that trade is going to be deemed a success. Last season, after a year of not playing and having neck surgery, he scored 25 points in 34 games. The 25 year-old center will need to find that point per game pace he had before his neck issues began to plague him early in the 2020-21 season.

Getting back to the playoffs won’t be easy with the team’s top goalie Robin Lehner expected out for the season. The Knights will be looking for an answer via trade at some point but have elected to go with unproven net minders Laurent Brossoit and Logan Thompson to start the season.

Will Eichel be able to lead this team back to the playoffs? If he can, it will be the first time he’s tasted postseason action in his career.

The Knights helped their cause by signing Kessel but really need to address their situation in goal soon.