Golden Knights’ Phil Kessel motivated to play for team that wants to win
LAS VEGAS (AP) — For the Vegas Golden Knights, signing Phil Kessel to a one-year, $1.5 million deal was a way to bolster their depth at forward. For the 16-year NHL veteran, it was a chance to play for another team that can contend.
“Phil’s an established NHL veteran who has enjoyed great success,” Vegas general manager Kelly McCrimmon said Thursday, a day after the move was announced. “He’s been consistently productive over his entire career. He’s been a Stanley Cup champion on two occasions, he has a high-end skill set, probably unique in some respects to the rest of our forwards, which is a little bit of where the appeal was for us.”
The 34-year-old Kessel, who has 399 goals and 557 assists in 1,204 career games with Boston, Toronto, Pittsburgh and Arizona, spent the past three seasons with the Coyotes. Arizona went 25-50-7 last season.
Kessel has appeared in 982 consecutive NHL games, the longest active streak, and is seven away from tying Keith Yandle’s record of 989.
Last season, Kessel had a career-worst eight goals along with 44 assists. His 52 points were his highest since registering 82 during the 2018-19 season with the Penguins, with whom he won back-to-back Stanley Cup championships. He’s a goal away from becoming the 13th American-born player to score 400 NHL goals.
“When you get a chance to play on a good team that wants to win, you’re always looking forward to it,” Kessel said. “Over the last couple years you get lost here and people don’t view you anymore like you used to be viewed, and I don’t think that’s the case. I’m very motivated to come in here and help this team and try to contend. I’m very motivated and I think I’m going to have a great year.
“When you want to win and everyone on the team wants to win, it’s a different feeling, a different vibe. Arizona, they had great guys, all the players, they’re great kids and a lot of good people there. But when you don’t want to necessarily win and contend, it becomes difficult as a player, especially when you came from Pittsburgh and I wanted to win.”
McCrimmon also said Thursday that goaltender Robin Lehner has had one hip surgery and is expected to have another in approximately 10 weeks. Lehner, who started 44 games for Vegas last season and finished 23-17-2, also underwent shoulder surgery during the offseason.
McCrimmon said the Knights will move forward with Laurent Brossoit and Logan Thompson as their goalie tandem.
“Laurent is a proven NHL goaltender that’s enjoyed a good career. I thought he played a lot of real good hockey for us last year,” McCrimmon said. “And in Logan Thompson, like a lot of you, I think were really excited and intrigued by his talent, his upside, his competitiveness. He made a real good impression in a short sample at the end of last season.”
McCrimmon also said that after signing restricted free agents Brett Howden, Nicolas Roy and Keegan Kolesar, he was “hopeful and optimistic” to wrap up negotiations with Nic Hague by the time training camp opens.
“Those players are so important to the makeup of our team,” McCrimmon said. “They have all really developed, they’re all 25 or younger and they all have become really good players on our team.”
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