Kessel, 35, recorded 36 points in 82 games last season — his lowest point total since his rookie year. He dressed in only four of the Vegas Golden Knights’ 22 playoff games en route to their Stanley Cup victory, but only regular-season games count toward the ironman streak.
The Madison, Wisc., native hasn’t missed a regular-season contest since Oct. 31, 2009.
While there’s no guarantee he gets a contract for the 2023-24 season, Friedman noted Kessel is improving his chances by telling teams ahead of time that upholding his ironman streak isn’t a priority.
Two seasons ago, the Philadelphia Flyers ended the previous ironman leader's streak when they made Keith Yandle a healthy scratch at the tail end of the 2021-22 season. Friedman pointed out how Yandle’s streak almost ended at the start of the 2020-21 season with the Florida Panthers, but that several of the team's players pushed back.
Kessel, who embraced his role as a ‘glue guy’ during the 2023 playoffs, is one of the NHL’s most fascinating players. From enduring a battle with testicular cancer in his rookie season to being put under the microscope with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Kessel’s been no stranger to adversity throughout his 17-year career.
The three-time Stanley Cup champion has collected 400 goals and 992 points in 1,286 career games. A three-time NHL All-Star who represented Team USA at the Olympics on two occasions, Kessel has six 30-plus goal seasons and four 80-plus point campaigns to his name.
While Kessel combined for just 22 goals over his last two seasons, one has to wonder if fatigue contributed to his decline in production. If his energy is monitored and he’s put in the right spots, Kessel could very well provide a team with secondary scoring and power-play utility.