Phil Kessel has set his goal for the Arizona Coyotes this season.
The two-time Stanley Cup champion said Tuesday his aim is to lead the Coyotes back into the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
"You want to almost prove to people that you want to be better than you were in the past," Kessel told NHL.com. "I want to make this team into a playoff team. I have that in my gut to try to make that happen. Obviously, I want to be able to do whatever I can to make that happen.
"I think I can fit well and help this team get to the next level. I've been around the league a long time now, and I think I can fit in here and help the young guys grow as players and help them take the next step to make this team into a contender – take this team where we want to be."
Kessel was traded by the Pittsburgh Penguins in June along with Dane Birks and a fourth-round pick for Alex Galchenyuk and Pierre-Olivier Joseph. The move came after several weeks of speculation, which included Kessel refusing to waive his no-trade clause to join the Minnesota Wild.
"My time in Pittsburgh was coming to an end, and I felt that. … (Now), this team is starting to gel (under head coach Rick Tocchet)," Kessel said of joining the Coyotes. "They've gotten faster; they play a good two-way game. I think I can help more on the offensive end, in tight games. If you need a goal here or there or on the power play, hopefully I can get one."
The 31-year-old scored 27 goals and posted 82 points in 82 games last season, his fourth in Pittsburgh. The Coyotes, whose leading scorer, Clayton Keller, had 47 points in 82 games last season, finished four points out of a playoff spot and general manager John Chayka is hoping Kessel can give the team the push needed to reach the postseason.
"Phil's a guy that's been playing the big games and he's played on the big stage. A big part of us acquiring him was knowing we're getting that guy and those big moments," Chayka said. "He's had a lot of success. We're trying to embrace those expectations and some of that buzz.
"Talking to him, he's very motivated and he wants to show people that he's here to win."