Phil Kessel (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Phil Kessel era in Toronto has been over for five days, but according to the winger’s friend, poker star Daniel Negreanu, the trade from the Maple Leafs took an emotional toll on Kessel.
Five days ago, Phil Kessel became a Pittsburgh Penguin in a trade that brought Kasperi Kapanen, Scott Harrington, Nick Spaling and a first-round selection back to the Toronto Maple Leafs. But even though it’s been nearly a week, it appears the trade still stings the 27-year-old Kessel.
According to poker star Daniel Negreanu, a Toronto native who has become friends with Kessel, being shipped out by the Maple Leafs was an emotional experience for the goal-scoring winger.
“I spoke to Kessel and he's obviously sad because he really loves Toronto,” said Negreanu in an interview with PokerListings.com. “But I look at it as a great opportunity for him…He's going to be able to play with (Sidney) Crosby and (Evgeni) Malkin.”
And Negreanu’s right – Kessel will likely line up alongside either Crosby or Malkin and create one of the most formidable scoring duos in the entire Eastern Conference. Kessel is a five-time 30-goal scorer and has found the back of the net 247 times in 668 games and alongside playmakers like Crosby and Malkin, almost undoubtedly the two best players he has lined up with in his career, he’s nearly certain to be a 30-goal man again.
“It’s been an interesting last couple days,” Kessel told the Penguins’ Michelle Crechiolo. “I was a little shocked. But I’m really happy to be a part of the Pittsburgh Penguins and I’m actually thrilled. It should be a lot of fun.”
But regardless of what Kessel has said publically, Negreanu said even the opportunity to play with two of the greatest players in the world hasn’t softened the blow entirely for Kessel.
“I think it'll be a great opportunity for him you know?” Negreanu said. “That part hasn't sunk in for him yet. It still just hurts for him because he wanted to win in Toronto and it just didn't work out.”
(Hat tip to Pension Plan Puppets, which spotted the PokerListings interview with Negreanu.)