Jim Rutherford spent a lot of time trying to trade Phil Kessel this spring.
That investment finally paid off Saturday evening, when the Penguins sent Kessel, minor-league defenseman Dane Birks and a fourth-round draft choice to Arizona for Alex Galchenyuk and defensive prospect Pierre-Olivier Joseph.
In addition to those players, the Penguins picked up a little salary-cap space in the deal. Galchenyuk, 25, has one year left on a contract with an annual average value of $4.9 million. He will be eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer.
Kessel has three years left on a contract that carries an annual salary-cap hit of $6.8 million.
Joseph, the 23rd player taken in the 2017 draft, is an intriguing prospect -- he is mobile and skilled, although he needs to add weight to a 6-foot-2 frame that, at last report, carried 161 pounds -- but Galchenyuk is the centerpiece of the deal for the Penguins.
He is 6-foot-1, 207 pounds and had 19 goals and 22 assists in 72 games with the Coyotes in 2018-19:
Montreal claimed Galchenyuk with the third choice in the 2012 draft, and he had his best offensive season with the Canadiens in 2015-16, when he put up 30 goals and 26 assists in 82 games.
"He's a highly skilled player, and he can shoot the puck," Rutherford said. "He can score when things are going for him."
Rutherford said while the details will be sorted out at training camp, he envisions Galchenyuk as a right winger who will have an opportunity to fill a top-six role.
"He can play all positions, which is a nice option, because (Mike Sullivan) likes to move guys around," Rutherford said. "I probably see him as a right winger. He'd be playing on his off-wing, but he's played there before. It's a place he's had success.
"(Galchenyuk's role) is going to play out, according to what he does, but he's certainly capable of (playing on the top two lines). That's a possibility."
One thing Rutherford likes about adding Galchenyuk that might not be immediately apparent is his contract has just one year remaining.
"I won't (try to re-sign him immediately)," he said. "That's another thing that gives us some options going forward. We'll see how it goes, whether we re-sign him or use that cap space. That's something we wouldn't have been able to do if we still had Phil.
"That's just part of how our world works now. But that's another thing I like about it, actually. A player who has an expiring contract."
Joseph had nine goals and 38 assists in 62 games in 2018-19, which he split between Drummondville and Charlottetown in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
"He's a good young defenseman," Rutherford said. "He really skates. ... He'll turn pro, come into camp and we'll get a look at him. He's a young defenseman, so he's going to need some development time in the American Hockey League.
"With defensemen and goalies, it takes longer (to be NHL-ready). It's going to take some time, but it's good to have a guy like him in the pipeline. He can get stronger, but that's a pretty standard thing for someone that age."
Kessel was acquired from Toronto in 2015, and won the Stanley Cup in each of his first two seasons with the Penguins.
He had 27 goals and 55 assists in 82 games last season, but fell out of favor with Sullivan, at least in part because of his lack of commitment to the defensive aspects of the game.
Kessel had a solid relationship with Rick Tocchet when Tocchet was an assistant coach with the Penguins. He now is head coach in Arizona, which is why the Coyotes were on the eight-team list of clubs to whom Kessel would accept a trade.
"I've talked to them since the end of the season, because Phil made me aware that's the place he'd like to go," Rutherford said. "If I can accommodate a player, I'm going to try to do that, as long as you can figure out how to make it work for our team."
Kessel disputed Rutherford's contention that he made several requests to be traded -- "I'm not sure that's exactly what happened," Kessel said. "I think he's a little bit mistaken there" -- and it's clear that some of Kessel's relationships here had soured a bit, but there don't seem to be any hard feelings, either way.
"He played a big part in us winning those two Cups," Rutherford said. "He's been a very good player here, and he's a good person."
MATT SUNDAY GALLERY
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