Wilson spent a second-round pick for Kennedy (No. 50) in a draft he believed had the strongest crop of talent since the now-famous 2003 class. Five days later, Wilson signed Kennedy, who was set to be a restricted free agent, to a two-year, $4 million contract.
"We've done a lot of research on him," Wilson said. "He's the type of guy that he's won a Cup, he's a very competitive guy, he's been able to go up and down the lineup which is one of the things we were looking for. Players that can play a third line role but also go up to the second or the first. Shoots the puck, highly competitive, and he's a high-energy guy too. He practices the way he plays. It drives people to be better."
In other words, Kennedy was a perfect fit for the type of game Wilson and coach Todd McLellan want the Sharks to play. Since last season, McLellan has been hammering home the importance of playing of a fast, hard and gritty north-south game and getting pucks to net.
"They want to play an up-tempo game, and that's kind of my style -- up-tempo and try to get pucks to the net," Kennedy said.
So far, Kennedy has been as advertised, McLellan said.
"He's quick. He has the ability to shoot the puck a lot," McLellan said. "I think he plays fast, he plays hard and, certainly from what I understand, he's a pretty supportive guy around his teammates."
The Penguins drafted Kennedy in the fourth round of the 2004 NHL Draft. In six seasons with Pittsburgh, he scored 76 goals and had 168 points in 372 career regular-season games. He also appeared in 76 Stanley Cup Playoff games, including 24 during the Penguins' run to the championship in 2009. He has scored 12 goals to go with 15 assists in the postseason.
Kennedy isn't a prolific scorer, but throughout his career he has shown a knack for scoring big goals. He has scored 15 game-winning goals in the regular season and six in the playoffs. He scored three playoff game-winners in 2009 during Pittsburgh's championship season.
"He's scored some big goals," Sharks forward Joe Pavelski said. "Obviously he works hard. That's his best asset. He works. That's great to have. He's tenacious on the forecheck. He shoots it good. He's around the puck a lot. He's going to get his opportunities."
Having played on a Penguins team packed with super stars such as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, Kennedy is used to being on the ice with high-profile players. So a top-line job with Thornton and Burns shouldn't be too much for Kennedy to handle, if that's where he ends up.
"I'm excited to be with those guys," Kennedy said. They're two great players, and it's a great opportunity. Obviously I think I can play, but it's a great challenge, and I've got to work and prove myself. It's a great challenge for me."
Thornton said he likes what he's seen from Kennedy.
"He's very, very competitive, a good skater, likes to shoot the puck," Thornton said. "Just a real good, solid player that's very competitive. Hopefully he's going to be a nice addition to our line. He's quick and he loves to shoot the puck, so I think he should fit really well with me and Burnzie."
Being traded didn't come as a shock to Kennedy. After all, he was approaching free agency on a Penguins team that faced a salary-cap crunch and had over a combined $17 million going to Crosby and Malkin this season. What's more, Kennedy's average ice time had dipped to 12:28 last season from 14:22 the season before.
In the 2010-11 season, Kennedy had career highs in goals (21), assists (24) and points (45). His numbers dropped to 11 goals and 33 points the next year. Then last season he had just six goals and 11 points in 46 games.
After last season, Kennedy met with Penguins general manger Ray Shero.
"Ray and I had a good talk," Kennedy told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after he was traded. "He's been very respectful, and he put me in a great situation. He kind of knew I had to move to a place with a little better of a chance. I kind of fell off the map [in Pittsburgh]."
Kennedy said he felt excited and invigorated when he learned he had been traded to the Sharks.
"I was excited to come to this organization," Kennedy said Thursday. "I've only heard good things about it. I've never lived on the West Coast, and it's been crazy. You know, the sun, the great atmosphere in the room. It's been awesome. Whenever something new comes along you have to embrace it and get the best out of it."
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