NHL.com continues its preview of the 2013-14 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout September.
Last season, Kennedy managed six goals and 11 points in 46 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Those numbers continued the statistical decline from his career year in 2010-11, during which he scored 21 goals and 45 points. On a team featuring NHL stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin (both carrying outsized contracts) Kennedy entered the 2013 offseason a restricted free agent with an uncertain future.
SHARKS 30 IN 15 RELATED STORIES
It just so happened that around the same time, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson was looking for another forward to help take their north-south, up-tempo attack to the next level. Wilson liked what he saw in Kennedy, a player known for his pace, ferocity and knack for scoring important goals. On a team with lines in flux up and down the top nine, Wilson also valued Kennedy’s flexibility over six seasons in Pittsburgh.
On draft day, Wilson traded the No. 50 pick to get Kennedy, and promptly signed him to a two-year, $4.7 million contract.
"We've done a lot of research on him," Wilson told the Sharks' website. "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."
Kennedy is poised to see major minutes on a top line with San Jose, even more so now that his chief competition – wings Marty Havlat and Raffi Torres – will likely both start the season on the injured reserve. So far in training camp, Kennedy has skated mostly on a line centered by Joe Thornton, a player who remains one of the League’s premier passers, and Brent Burns, a converted defenseman unafraid to clear space in the offensive zone.
"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."