The Vegas Golden Knights scooped up one of the last remaining notable free agents Wednesday, agreeing to a one-year deal with American forward Phil Kessel.
The deal carries a price tag of $1.5 million, and ensures another veteran presence on a team looking to return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after missing out last season.
Kessel, 34, who has 956 career points, is the leading active NHL Iron Man, having played in 982 consecutive contests. And his first goal with Vegas next season will be the 400th of his career.
Indeed, in a league full of uncertainty — especially the last few seasons with COVID-19-related concerns and postponements abound — one of the very few constants, night after night, has been the consistent effort of Kessel, who began his active games streak way back on November 3, 2009.
And while his production has tailed off through the years, the veteran right wing managed to author eight goals and 52 points last season for the rebuilding Arizona Coyotes, who had to take on large, expiring contracts just to get to the salary-cap floor.
A 2006 first-round pick of the Boston Bruins, who took him No. 5 overall, Kessel has scored at least 20 goals in 12 of his last 14 seasons. His average time on ice dipped last season to 16:40 as the Coyotes continued to promote prospects from their American Hockey League affiliate, but Kessel can still score, can still get into the tough corners to battle for loose pucks, and as one of the more animated players in the game, he usually does all of this with a smile on his face.
The Golden Knights, now coached by Bruce Cassidy after he was fired by the Bruins in the offseason, have acquired a right-handed shot in Kessel, who could garner minutes on one of their top two lines and potentially be a key cog in front of the net on the power play.
A Wisconsin native, Kessel played for Team USA in two Olympic Games, and three World Championships. In addition to the Coyotes and Bruins, he’s also played for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Pittsburgh Penguins.