Phil Kessel hasn't missed a game five seasons, but he always felt like they ended too early. He expects that is about to change.
The nine-year veteran spent the past six seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs before he was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday.
"Being in Toronto, I got to play in one playoffs in all my years there," Kessel told reporter Dejan Kovacevic on Thursday. "But that's the best time of the year, right? Playoff hockey. Hopefully, I'll get to play in many in Pittsburgh."
Kessel, 27, was traded with forward Tyler Biggs and defenseman Tim Erixon to Pittsburgh for forwards Kasperi Kapanen and Nick Spaling, defenseman Scott Harrington, and two conditional draft picks.
Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford said Wednesday that Kessel, a 20-goal scorer in each of the past seven seasons, was their No. 1 offseason target.
"I'm just so excited, I really am," Kessel told DKonPittsburghSports.com. "For it to be Pittsburgh … with everything that franchise has meant and two of the best players in the world there … I never would have thought I'd have the chance to play with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, to play on a team like the Penguins. It's just amazing. I'm so pumped."
Kessel had 247 goals and 520 points in 668 NHL games, including his first three seasons with the Boston Bruins. He has played every game since the 2009-10 season, but with the Maple Leafs made the Stanley Cup Playoffs only in 2013.
"Obviously, I'm looking forward to this and having a fresh start," Kessel said. "I'm actually really excited about that part of it."
In 82 games last season, Kessel had 25 goals and 61 points, including 25 on the power play.
"Toronto was a place I loved, and it's not easy leaving that, even with everything else," Kessel said. "That's the first thought. And then after that, I just see this as an opportunity, a great opportunity to be part of something special in Pittsburgh with some great players."