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Kessel will be missed by Penguins, Crosby 'loved playing with him'

Captain says forward traded to Coyotes was 'fun to be around'

by Mike Zeisberger @zeisberger / Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- Phil Kessel was a good teammate and a "lot of fun to be around," Sidney Crosby said Friday.

The Pittsburgh Penguins center said he is aware of media reports suggesting that Kessel was an issue inside the locker room and at times on the ice. The Penguins traded Kessel to the Arizona Coyotes for forward Alex Galchenyuk and defenseman prospect Pierre-Olivier Joseph on June 29.

"I loved playing with him," Crosby said at the NHL Player Media Tour. "Obviously he's a unique personality and that kind of thing, but I loved playing with him. What he's able to do, the talent. The plays he's able to make. He can change a game with one shot.

"I know things happen. I know players, coaches, things don't always go perfectly and sometimes that gets magnified with him. But I loved playing with him. He was a lot of fun to be around. We have a lot of Cups together."

Video: Phil Kessel on joining the Coyotes, expectations

Crosby said replacing Kessel's offense won't be easy. Kessel had 303 points (110 goals, 193 assists) during his four seasons in Pittsburgh and helped the Penguins win the Stanley Cup in 2016 and 2017 with 45 points (18 goals, 27 assists).

"There was a lot of talk at different points about [Phil being traded]," Crosby said. "It's tough to lose Phil. We won a couple of Stanley Cups together, we had some great memories together. He obviously had a big impact on our team too. He put up a lot of points year after year. It's not easy to fill that. We'll have to find a way to do it.

"I know that [Galchenyuk] is excited to come to Pittsburgh and have an opportunity. Either way, [trades] are something that happen. But they're never easy to see, especially when it involves someone you've played that long with and had success with."

Video: 31 in 31: Pittsburgh Penguins 2019-20 season preview

Penguins wing Patric Hornqvist shares Crosby's sentiments.

"I loved to play with Phil," Hornqvist said at the NHL European Player Media Tour in Stockholm last month. "I think the media made such a big deal with him by suggesting he didn't try hard and things like that. But he was one of our best players when we won that first Cup and he was a huge part of our success.

"Yeah, there were times where he might not have played his best hockey. But when the game was on the line you could always rely on him. It's such a gift to have, to have that firepower when you really need it.

"I love him as a person. I'm going to miss him as a teammate. We're going to miss him as a teammate."

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