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Kessel thanks Toronto Maple Leafs fans for support

by Mike Battaglino

Former Toronto Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel on Sunday expressed gratitude to fans in the city, his first public remarks since being traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins on July 1.

"I want to thank all of the Toronto fans for all the support you have shown me," Kessel wrote on his verified Twitter account. "I will miss you and this city and always consider Toronto home."

Kessel, who is from Wisconsin, is a five-time 30-goal scorer with 227 goals in 668 NHL games, including 181 goals with Toronto during the past six seasons.

"Toronto was a place I loved, and it's not easy leaving that, even with everything else," Kessel told after the trade. "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."

Kessel, forward Tyler Biggs, defenseman Tim Erixon and a second-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft were traded to Pittsburgh for defenseman Scott Harrington, forwards Kasperi Kapanen and Nick Spaling, and first- and third-round picks in 2016.

"Obviously, I'm looking forward to this and having a fresh start," Kessel said in July. "I'm actually really excited about that part of it."

Kessel, who had 25 goals in 82 games last season, is signed for seven more seasons with an $8 million NHL salary-cap charge, according to Toronto retains $1.25 million per year of Kessel's salary.

"It's a nice addition to our team, obviously," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby told CTV News Atlantic on July 9. "He's a great scorer, he brings a lot, and offensively he's going to help any team. So we're happy to have him, and I think from talking to him he seems like he's excited, and I think it'll be something that everyone's looking forward to this season, a lot of anticipation."

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