The Vancouver Canucks: Why Was Phil Kessel Not Signed?

In the past couple of days the news has emerged that the Vancouver Canucks decided not to sign Phil Kessel before the trade deadline. This decision came as something of a surprise to many, who believed that the team was set on signing the unrestricted free-agent. Since summer 2023 there were rumours that Kessel would come aboard for the Canucks, so this last-minute choice has sent ripples through the NHL. The cut-off for eligibility in the postseason was 2pm CT on March 8th, meaning Phil Kessel is now unable to partake in the playoffs.

Photo by Aditya Chinchure on Unsplash

Phil Kessel is a well-known and reputable ice hockey player, who, at the age of 36, is a three-time NHL All-Star. In the past, he has played for teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs, Vegas Golden Knights, and Boston Bruins, and has amassed an impressive 993 career points. Signing Kessel would have been a win for the Vancouver Canucks, but unfortunately scheduling and financial issues meant it was not a possibility for the 2024 season. As a result of this announcement, sports analysts have indicated that this may have an adverse effect on the team’s chances, and odds. So for those betting in Canada, this may be something to watch out for, as the decision to not sign Kessel was unexpected, and is sure to send shockwaves through predictions for upcoming games. They’re currently the 10th-favourites for the title (which would be their first) this season, with odds of +1500. However, they were -150 favourites for their last outing against the Jets, a game which ended in a 5-0 win for the Canucks, so there’s still hope for the team this season.

So why did the team decide to withhold from bringing Kessel on for the remainder of the season? At a press conference recently, Patrik Allvin (general manager of the Vancouver Canucks) stated that although Kessel is a “well-respected player” and a “great person”, “unfortunately at this point it wasn’t a fit for us”. Although this is speculation only, there are some who believe that maybe Phil Kessel wasn’t appropriate in terms of the financial situation of the team. The minimum salary requirements for Kessel were weighing in at $775,000 for the year, which would have forced the Canucks into freeing up over $500,000 in salary.

The Canucks are choosing to see this as an act of patience, rather than feeling like they missed out at the NHL trade deadline. Already, the team are at the top of their game, on top of the Pacific Deadline and predicted to have a huge improvement on their last season. Many industry experts expected them to continue this trajectory by recruiting some of the best names in the business as part of a final push, but instead the team have chosen to bide their time. Allvin was quoted as saying in response to these thoughts that “the team we have is good enough to compete”, and that no new players are necessary for them to carry on with their winning streak.

Although Kessel will not see a season with the Canucks this year, there are still some fresh faces to watch out for. One such player is Arshdeep Bains, who made his debut with the team earlier in 2024 against the Colorado Avalanche in Denver. Bains grew up a fan of the Canucks, who are his hometown team, and always dreamed of being able to play for them one day. It’s a big moment for both him, his family, and the team, as he becomes the fourth Punjabi player to enter the NHL.