The Russian sniper asked to be traded if the Penguins kept Kessel, multiple team sources told The Athletic's Rob Rossi, though Malkin denied it when asked and said his friendship with Kessel is real.
Malkin was tired of feeling caught in the ongoing conflict between his linemate and Pittsburgh head coach Mike Sullivan, multiple team and league sources told Rossi. "By the end of last season, everybody from ownership to management to coaches believed Kessel had to go for Malkin to stay," Rossi wrote.
Kessel joined the club ahead of the 2015-16 campaign, and his incredible on-ice chemistry with Malkin played a pivotal role in the Penguins capturing back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017.
Malkin believed Kessel was content with two titles and mostly interested in his statistics, and the 33-year-old worried he'd be seen in the same light if the American remained his winger, according to Rossi's team and league sources.
The Penguins traded Kessel to the Coyotes on June 30 in exchange for forward Alex Galchenyuk and defense prospect Pierre-Olivier Joseph.