Phil Kessel meets with Canucks in Vancouver

Phil Kessel has arrived in Vancouver at the age of 36.

The former Toronto Maple Leafs and Pittsburgh Penguins player is in town to meet with the Canucks. This news was first reported by Rick Dhaliwal of the Athletic and later confirmed by the team. Canucks fans spotted Kessel at the Vancouver airport on Tuesday with his Vegas Golden Knights hockey bag.

According to Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin, Kessel will be working out in Abbotsford this week.

Kessel is one of the most accomplished players in NHL history, having won Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016 and 2017. He added a third championship last season with the Vegas Golden Knights. In 17 NHL seasons, Kessel has tallied 413 goals and 579 assists for 992 points.

The Madison, Wisconsin native is known as much for his sense of humor and love of hot dogs as his on-ice skills. Images of Kessel celebrating his Cup wins by eating hot dogs out of the Stanley Cup bowl have become iconic.

Kessel played in all 82 games for Vegas last season but hasn’t played in an NHL game this season. It seems that both the team and the player are being cautious before agreeing to a contract. Kessel will meet with the Canucks and practice with their American League team in Abbotsford before signing a contract.

Known for his ability to score goals on the rush, Kessel is also valuable on the power play and can contribute offense from the bottom-six forward positions.

The Canucks recently freed up some salary cap space by trading Andrei Kuzmenko for Elias Lindholm, making it possible to sign Kessel to an affordable deal. However, given the current makeup of the Canucks’ forward group, the fit might be a bit questionable.

At this stage, Kessel would probably sign a one-year, bonus-laden contract around the league minimum. Adding his experience and scoring touch could bolster Vancouver’s already potent attack.

The Canucks have emerged as one of the NHL’s best teams in 2023-24, sitting first overall with a 35-12-6 record under new head coach Rick Tocchet. Kessel played for three seasons under Tocchet while with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Arizona Coyotes.

Whether Kessel ultimately lands in Vancouver or elsewhere, it appears the NHL ironman is not done playing hockey yet. He has his sights set on 1,000 career points and, perhaps, one more Stanley Cup.