There’s little debate that the Pittsburgh Penguins’ trade for Phil Kessel was a positive move and some believe that he is the final piece. However, this trade was “Penguin-esque” and more about adding star power than actually improving the hockey club. In all actuality, the Penguins’ front office’s job is to sell tickets and that’s much easier when every season they add another star player.
Whether or not adding that star player helps the team is a different story, but it makes the front office’s job a lot easier. There’s an overarching theme in Pittsburgh and it’s been about keeping fans interested despite the team failing to meet expectations every season since 2008-09. One has to wonder if trading for Kessel was an actual hockey decision or if it was just another gimmick to aid ticket sales.
Well, Las Vegas believes that it was a move to aid ticket sales and not help the team compete in the playoffs. In the latest odds from OddsShark.com, they peg the Penguins as 11/1 to win the Stanley Cup. For some context, teams with similar odds are the New York Rangers and Anaheim Ducks. The thing Vegas sees is that adding Kessel isn’t enough to get the Penguins to the Cup.
Sure, Sidney Crosby had 84 points in 77 games and Evgeni Malkin had 70 points in 69 games, but the regular season does not matter. Well, it matters that the team gets a playoff berth, but that’s it. Regular season scoring titles are a nice addition to the game and the Penguins are very lucky that they exist because they have something to celebrate.
The longer that Crosby and Malkin play, the more it’s looking like the 08-09 Cup will be the only one they hoist. They were young, hungry and on entry-level contracts and now they both make more than $8 million per season.
The extra money they have commanded, and rightfully so, is the same reason why it’s become very hard to compete for a Stanley Cup. Often times the Penguins’ salary cap situation is compared to the Chicago Blackhawks and it’s not a fair comparison.
It’s easy to say that Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Bryan Bickell make more than Crosby, Malkin and Kris Letang, but consider that Toews’ and Kane’s contracts only just jumped to $10.5 million per season. Look what’s happening to the Blackhawks, they had to trade Brandon Saad because they didn’t have the money to keep him, they’re shopping Patrick Sharp and it’s rumored that Brent Seabrook could be traded as well.
Chicago’s championship window might be closing as these new contracts kick in, just like Pittsburgh’s looks to be. Sure adding Kessel and his 61 points in 82 games, in a “down year” is a great addition to the team, but he’s another high salary player.
Well, if you’re a Penguins fan, you can at least be happy about what losing Kessel has done to the Toronto Maple Leafs’ odds to win the Cup. They start the season as 66/1, tied with the Philadelphia Flyers and the Colorado Avalanche. Only five teams’ odds are worse, the New Jersey Devils (75/1), the Florida Panthers (75/1) and the Arizona Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes all at 100/1.