Phil Kessel felt ‘lost’ in Arizona with Coyotes’ direction

Aug 25, 2022, 7:13 PM | Updated: Aug 26, 2022, 7:01 am

Phil Kessel #81 of the Arizona Coyotes skates with the puck during the third period of the NHL game...

Phil Kessel #81 of the Arizona Coyotes skates with the puck during the third period of the NHL game at Gila River Arena on December 15, 2021 in Glendale, Arizona. The Rangers defeated the Coyotes 3-2. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Former Arizona Coyotes forward Phil Kessel spoke with the media on Thursday for the first time since signing a one-year deal with the Vegas Golden Knights.

Kessel joined the Coyotes with an impressive goal-scoring resume across 13 years in the NHL but saw Arizona make numerous trades getting rid of key players in exchange for draft picks. Kessel did not make it sound like that’s what he was told would be the team’s direction.

“They said we were going to win and try to win and compete and obviously that’s not what happened and it’s going to be nice playing on a team that wants to win,” he said. “When you want to win and everyone on the team wants to win, it’s a different feeling and a different vibe.

“Arizona, they had great guys. All the players, they’re great kids, and a lot of good people there. But when you don’t want to necessarily win and contend it becomes difficult as a player, especially when you came from Pittsburgh and I wanted to win.”

Kessel, a veteran with 181 career goals, spoke on how he feels a player’s value across the league can go down in Arizona.

“Obviously, I think, over the last couple of years you get lost here and people don’t view you anymore like you used to be viewed,” Kessel said. “And I don’t think that’s the case. I’m very motivated to come in here and help this team and try to contend.”

Kessel was acquired by the Coyotes in June 2019 and had three years left on an eight-year contract he originally signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Kessel had point totals of 38 and 43 in his first two seasons in Arizona before 44 assists (52 points total) last year was the fifth-highest mark of his career.

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