If you're an NHL fan chances are you'd like to see Phil Kessel's career continue in 2023-24.
He's an ironman, a three-time Stanley Cup winner, and a beloved figure who showed he still had something to give as a role-player last season. According to NHL insider Chris Johnston, there's also percolating interest among teams in bringing the 35-year-old aboard for the upcoming season.
If Kessel is going to keep his storied career going it shouldn't be just anywhere, it should be for a team where he's a logical on-ice fit — in a city that appreciates a good hot dog.
Since a possibly erroneous story about Kessel's hot dog consumption during his time with the Toronto Maple Leafs dropped, processed meat tubes have been central to the winger's brand.
— Hockey Night in Canada (@hockeynight) August 14, 2017
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) October 4, 2022
As his career nears its conclusion, it seems silly to abandon that now.
When it comes to identifying possible landing spots it would be outrageous to base suggestions wholly on hot-dog related data. So what you'll find below are logical fits for Kessel that include on-ice and between-bun considerations.
One thing to note off the bat is you'll only see American teams here. The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council of the United States estimates that 95% of American homes consume hot dogs, while Maple Leaf Foods — a Canadian food company — finds that 77% of Canadian households do the same.
That's a big enough gap to put cities north of the border out of contention — even if there are some fine hot dogs to be found above the 49th parallel.
With that important information in mind, here are a few potential landing spots for our beloved Phil the Thrill.
How it works on the ice: Kessel probably isn't good enough to crack Carolina's lineup on a nightly basis, but he's indicated a willingness to play for a team that could relegate him to the press box.
The Hurricanes ranked 15th in the NHL in goals scored last season and Kessel could put in some professional minutes on the PP2, and create the occasion spark at even strength. Carolina has also struggled to get over the hump in the playoffs and it couldn't hurt to add someone who's won it all.
From a financial standpoint, Carolina is tight against the salary cap but it still has $920K left to offer Kessel — a contract above the league minimum.
What's the hot dog situation?: Folks in Raleigh-Durham clearly like their dogs:
Not only is quantity clearly covered, Carolina has its own style of hot dogs that could be a new experience for Kessel.
How it works on the ice: The Blackhawks have been signing any functional veteran they can find to put around Connor Bedard all offseason. There's no reason Kessel couldn't join the likes of Corey Perry and Nick Foligno in showing the phenom the ropes at the NHL level.
There isn't a perfect place to slot Kessel in on the right wing at the moment, but this team isn't good enough for anything to be set in stone.
Chicago also has $12.64 million in remaining cap space and doesn't need to keep its powder dry for a trade-deadline push.
What's the hot dog situation?: Illinois ranks second in hot dogs eaten per capita and Chicago is an iconic spot to enjoy the food that may or may not be a sandwich.
Customers at its primary airport, O'Hare, consume six times more hot dogs than those at Los Angeles International Airport and LaGuardia Airport combined, according to Hot-Dog.org. That means every road trip involves a stop at a major hot dog hotbed.
How it works on the ice: Like the Hurricanes, the Sabres probably can't offer Kessel a spot in the lineup every night — and they arguably don't need more offense-only players.
That said, he could give them the odd shift on the PP2, considering Buffalo's power-play ranking (9th) was below its total goal-scoring number (3rd), suggesting some underperformance there.
The Sabres are also in possession of the longest active postseason drought, and it be might helpful to have a guy with Kessel's playoff resume in that locker room.
Buffalo has enough cap space ($8.78 million) to sign Kessel and still possess plenty of in-season flexibility to add to its roster.
What's the hot dog situation?: You may have noticed that Buffalo was third on the hot dog consumption per capita list above, and it resides in the state that spent the most on them in stores in 2022 ($111.2 million).
The Buffalo Hot Dog can also be a masterpiece when done correctly.