Phil Kessel traded to Arizona Coyotes; Pittsburgh Penguins get Alex Galchenyuk, cap space

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The Arizona Coyotes got a major boost in their bid to get to the playoffs.

And the Pittsburgh Penguins got a good return and salary cap room for the upcoming free agent signing period.

Phil Kessel, 31, who played a big role in Pittsburgh’s recent back-to-back Stanley Cup titles, was traded to the Coyotes, along with a 2021 fourth-round pick and defense prospect Dane Birks, for forward Alex Galchenyuk and defense prospect Pierre-Olivier Joseph.

“Phil Kessel is a proven winner, an elite goal scorer and one of the most productive point producers in the NHL for a sustained period of time,” said Coyotes general manager John Chayka. “His dynamic scoring ability fits a specific need for this team and instantly elevates us to another level.”

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The Coyotes, who last made the playoffs in 2012, fell four points short last season. They were a strong defensive team but ranked 28th in the league in offense at 2.55 goals per game.

Kessel can help there. He has scored 174 points over the past two seasons and has scored 30 or more goals six times in his career. He also averaged nearly a point a game when the Penguins won Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017.

“We couldn’t have done it without him, and for that, we are grateful,” said Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford. “With that being said, we are excited to welcome a young, skilled player in Alex, and add depth to our defense with first-round draft pick Pierre-Olivier Joseph.”

Galchenyuk, 25, has topped 40 points the past five seasons, with a high of 56 in 2015-16. He could add to that total if he plays with Pittsburgh’s talented centers.

He lasted one season in Arizona after being dealt there last offseason for Max Domi. He had played for the Montreal Canadiens before that.

The Penguins save close to $2 million in cap space on the deal and have $5 million left to pursue someone when free agency opens Monday. Chayka told reporters that no salary was retained in the deal.

The deal reunites Kessel with Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet, who was an assistant coach on those Penguins’ Stanley Cup teams.

“I’m very excited to be part of the Coyotes,” Kessel said on a conference call Saturday. “Obviously me and Rick (Tocchet) have a great relationship. He’s a friend of mine, I think he’s a great coach and I want to help him do great things here.”

Contributing: Richard Morin, Arizona Republic

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