first joined the Penguins organization as an 18-year-old kid, when Pittsburgh drafted him in the fourth round (99th overall) of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.
The Penguins are the only NHL team the now 24-year-old Kennedy has known, and his love for the city and the team runs deep.
That’s the reason why the energy winger signed a two-year deal on Friday – choosing to forego testing the unrestricted free agency waters – to stay in Pittsburgh.
“I’m excited to be here,” he said. “I have good friends here. I’m comfortable with the team and the coaching staff. It helps out a lot that I know everyone and I know what to expect, and I know what they expect from me.
“The part that’s amazing about the city is that they’re so supportive of their teams. When you walk down the street and everyone says hi, good game last night, it shows how passionate they are about hockey. It’s nice to see in such a big city.”
Entering this summer, Kennedy was a restricted free agent for the first time in his career. He’s thrilled both sides were able to reach an agreement by noon on Friday, and is excited to continue donning the black and gold for the foreseeable future.
“It’s always a little nerve-racking not knowing where you’re playing,” he said. “But I knew I wanted to be back in Pittsburgh, and I thought we’d get something done for sure. It ended up coming through and I was very happy with it.”
Kennedy’s decision to re-sign with Pittsburgh is significant considering the fact that he’s coming off the best season of his NHL career.
“Going through the whole negotiation process with Tyler – he could have really been pushing the envelope, but he wasn't,” Penguins general manager Ray Shero said. “He liked it here, he liked the situation. He’s a young, improving player. He saw the benefit of staying. So the two years (we signed him to) I think bridges a gap for us, and also gives him a chance to continue doing what he’s doing.”
I’m excited to be here. I have good friends here. I’m comfortable with the team and the coaching staff. It helps out a lot that I know everyone and I know what to expect, and I know what they expect from me. ... It’s a great team and I think we have a good chance of bringing another Cup here. - Tyler Kennedy
With Sidney Crosby
and Evgeni Malkin
sidelined for much of the second half of the 2010-11 campaign, Kennedy was given an opportunity to show what he was capable of with a larger role and increased minutes.
The 5-foot-11, 183-pound forward absolutely shined, going on to set new career highs in goals (21), assists (24), points (45), power-play goals (7) and games played (80).
No. 48 proved his ability to step up when needed, with a good portion of those 21 goals being game tiers or game winners.
“I thought I had a pretty good year,” he said. “The coaching staff really believed in me and they gave me the ice time. It was nice.”
Kennedy’s game has always been about the speed, tenacity and energy adding an offensive punch. He thrives within head coach Dan Bylsma’s up-tempo, aggressive system that focuses on keeping play contained within the offensive zone.
But now that he’s proven capable of fulfilling a number of roles for the Penguins, Kennedy is looking forward to continuing to contribute to Pittsburgh’s success.
“I expect to play well next year; I expect to play well every year,” he said. “All I can do is work hard and try my best. I just want to try to stay consistent and try to help the team win.”
Kennedy won a Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 2009. But he’s confident that with the talent and camaraderie in the Penguins locker room, the team will be a legitimate contender to raise it again in the near future.
“It’s a great team and I think we have a good chance of bringing another Cup here,” he said. “I’m excited for the city and I’m excited to be here.”