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Kessel unlikely to be traded by Penguins, GM says: report

Pittsburgh also expected to keep Malkin, could make changes on defense

NHL.com @NHLdotcom

Phil Kessel is unlikely to be traded by the Pittsburgh Penguins, general manager Jim Rutherford told The Athletic on Tuesday.

"I think that's the way things are headed at this point in time," Rutherford told the website. "I expect Kessel will probably play for Pittsburgh next season."

The 31-year-old forward had 82 points (27 goals, 55 assists) in 82 games for the Penguins this season after he had an NHL career-high 92 points (34 goals, 58 assists) in 82 games in 2017-18.

"First of all, he's a good player," Rutherford said. "He's been a good player for us. It's not as if we have to trade him.

"You have to understand that he has a (partial) no-trade clause and a lot of leverage. In situations like this, it usually doesn't work out so well for the team. That's just the way it is. So at this point, it looks to me that he will return at this season. That's how I'm proceeding moving forward."

Kessel, who was selected by the Boston Bruins with the No. 5 pick in the 2006 NHL Draft, has 823 points (357 goals, 466 assists) in 996 NHL games over 13 seasons with the Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs and Penguins. 

Video: PIT@NYI, Gm1: Kessel snaps one home from slot

Kessel, who hasn't missed a game since the 2009-10 season (774 games), has been traded twice in his career. He was acquired by the Maple Leafs in a trade with the Bruins on Sept. 18, 2009, and he was acquired by Pittsburgh from Toronto on July 1, 2015.

But Kessel isn't the only Penguins mainstay who is likely to return. Evgeni Malkin also is expected to remain in Pittsburgh.

The 32-year-old center had 72 points (21 goals, 51 assists) in 68 games this season, his lowest goal output since he had nine in 31 games in 2012-13.

"I believe in Geno Malkin," Rutherford said. "He came off a year that wasn't up to his standard last year. We all know that. But he's a great, great player. I know how good he is, and I know very well what he can do for this team."

However, Pittsburgh will not stand pat.

"Well, we're going to have to move some people to clear up cap space," Rutherford said. "A couple of players, probably.

"Changes are coming. Changes are in order, for sure. At this point in time, I don't know exactly what they are going to be. It's hard to say right now, but changes are coming. I'll say this, though. I don't think we're going to make any changes that I would refer to as massive. I'd say I'm looking to retool more than anything."

Video: DET@PIT: Kessel beats Howard with wrister for second

Rutherford did not mention specific names but did say the Penguins defense could have a new look; there are nine defensemen on the Penguins roster.

"I think it's fair to assume that there will be different people there," he said. "It's something we have to consider. We just have some extra bodies there right now. So it's fair to suspect that there will be changes on the blue line."

The GM also said Pittsburgh may not be a major player in free agency, but there is the possibility of a trade ahead of the 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver on June 21-22.

"We've got to be careful," Rutherford said. "It might feel good at first to make a big signing on July 1, but we've got young guys like [defenseman Marcus] Pettersson and [center] Jared McCann who will need raises soon, too. We can't forget about that. So we will see.

"The communication has been pretty active recently. I wouldn't say things have been quiet by any means. But it's about to pick up more, I'm sure. The closer we get to the draft, things will start to happen."

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