|09.10.09 at 3:18 pm ET|
A fascinating multi-layered piece from Elliotte Friedman on his CBC blog on Wednesday afternoon appears to be a meaningful shot over the bow of Phil Kessel and agent Wade Arnott amid reports that Kessel has moved on from potential contract talks with the Bruins. According to a Boston.com account, hockey sources claim that Arnott has informed Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli that both player and agent are beginning to negotiate with the 29 other NHL teams holding potential interest in the restricted free agent.
Not much of a shock there as Kessel’s camp and the Bruins haven’t really spoken at all through an entire summer to negotiate a fair deal for the 21-year-old sniper. So now they’re moving on to teams that might be willing to pay the $4-5 million freight that Kessel’s market should likely bear on the free agent market. The B’s have roughly $1.7 million in cap space with training camp set to begin this weekend, and the two sides are looking at a contactual chasm as wide as the Grand Canyon. Tough to refute a lot of Friedman’s observations in a column culled from discussions with unnamed Bruins sources, but they are damning to Kessel nonetheless.
One thing should be added to Friedman’s revealing snapshot of Kessel from some eyes within the walls of Causeway Street. Kessel led the Bruins with 36 goals and was among the top 20 goal-scorers in the NHL last season while ranking 116th in the NHL in terms of power play ice time per game. That should give hockey followers an idea of how much higher his hockey production can rise. Kessel also missed a dozen games while fighting through mononucleosis and the late-season shoulder injury that resulted in off-season surgery, and would have easily cleared 40 goals had he remained healthy.
Among the interesting tidbits from Friedman are:
–Kessel wouldn’t play through a torn labrum and torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder until teammates informed the young winger that fellow teammates were playing through much worse injuries.
–The talented winger is a gifted skater and shooter that enjoyed a breakout season in 2008-09, but much of Kessel’s production was attributed to Kessel’s pairing with Marc Savard last season. Kessel needs to skate witha gifted passer that can get him the puck in spots where he can utilize his blazing speed, but that could be said of just about every scorer worth their salt in the NHL. Without a crafty playmaking “piece” like Savard skating with him, Friedman wrote, a Kessel experiment would fail.
–Kessel is compared to hulking winger Milan Lucic in terms of work ethic and willingness to improve his strengthwith weight room dedication, and Kessel isn’t looked upon favorably. There’s been whispers throughout Kessel’s years in Boston that the youngster is averse to needed weight room work and is slow to absorb constructive criticism from the coaching staff and teammates. It’s part of the reason he’s been mentioned prominently in trade rumors in each of his three seasons with the Bruins, and it’s why the goal-scorer is again on the verge of being dealt away to another NHL destination.
One other hockey fact that rings true about the Kessel/Lucic comparison: Looch is going to be a cornerstone player for years to come with the Bruins, but the youngster doesn’t possess the hands, speed and shot to score 36 goals in a season.
Kessel is also compared with 23-year-old Krejci, and again the goal-scoring phenom isn’t cast in a favorable light. Krejci is more respected in the room for playing through a hip injury that required surgery without a complaint during the season, and he was awarded with a three-year, $3.75 million contract that is actually viewed as very club-friendly in many circles.
The Bruins set something of a ceiling for Kessel in their own minds with the $3.75 annual salary awarded to the playmaking Krejci, but goal-scoring players with Kessel’s skill-set always command more salary than their assist-happy, two-way playing brethren. An elite – or potentially elite — goal-scorer is the most rare and valuable commodity in today’s NHL. Kessel is the only skater on the Boston Bruins roster with that kind of potential, and nobody can match his blend of speed, skill and wrist shot on the roster.
–Kessel has had some fairly well-documented run-ins with B’s coach Claude Julien during their two years together in Boston, and culminated in Kessel getting benched three games in favor or Jeremy Reich for the 2007-08 playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens. Reportedly they’ve argued on things as trivial as the stick that Kessel is using in games and the youngster isn’t very receptive to criticism of any kind.
Apparently the Bruins have also required “good cops” in the Bruins locker room — teammates on the winger’s side that make sure Kessel has the proper support system in place within the B’s dressing room. Kessel would be extremely uncomfortable under the Toronto microscope if that’s where he were to eventually end up when he’s ready to play in mid-to-early November. That situation would be further exacerbated if Kessel doesn’t have the very-same support system in place with the stern Ron Wilson and blustery Brian Burke running the Maple Leafs Show.
One unnamed Bruins teammate referenced Kessel’s combination of youth and immaturity, and assumed that he’ll learn as he gains age and experience. That should be true, and his goal totals should also grow as he gains more power play time and enters his hockey-playing prime. Ruling out growth and improvement in an asset so skilled as Kessel would be unwise, but it appears that too much water has already traveled under the bridge between player and hockey team. How many times does a player have to hear his name involved with aborted trade proposals before he begins to believe that his own hockey team truly doesn’t want him on the roster anymore?
Two? Three? Maybe four?
A difficult free agency negotiation and countless trade rumors during Kessel’s career have taken their toll on the essential bond of trust between player and organization, and it appears that the end is in sight soon. All that remains is to see what hockey sweater Kessel will wear next season. Because it certainly doesn’t appear that it’ll be the Black and Gold of the Spoked ‘B’.
|09.09.09 at 5:19 pm ET|
The Boston Bruins announced on Wednesday afternoon that they’ve signed 29-year-old veteran defenseman Andy Wozniewski to a one-year contract. Wozniewski played mostly in the AHL last season for both the Peoria Rivermen and the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Penguins, and racked up 3 goals and 18 assists in 74 games.
Wozniewski also played a single game for the St. Louis Blues last season, and has 12 career points and 81 penalty minutes in 77 NHL games played for the Blues and Maple Leafs in his career. Wozniewski also played 17 games as a freshman for UMass-Lowell in 1999-2000 before transferring to the University of Wisconsin. Wozniewski should provide the Bruins with additional depth along the blueline if injuries hit during training camp or the early season months.
It’s expected that Wozniewski would likely break training camp with the Providence Bruins should the Black and Gold blueline corps remain healthy through the exhibition season.
|09.08.09 at 2:01 pm ET|
Marc Savard and Zdeno Chara were the two building blocks for Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli when the hockey executive first came onto the scene in Boston, and the 32-year-old center — entering the final year of a four-year deal he signed on July 1, 2006 – said that he’s hoping to sign another deal allowing him to finish his hockey career in Boston.
Savard was the B’s leading scorer with 25 goals and 63 assists last season, and has blossomed into an All-Star player under coach Claude Julien. Entering the final year of his $5 million per year deal with a great deal of financial uncertainty in the NHL’s future, Savard isn’t bothered by the unknown and is simply focused on driving the B’s toward a Stanley Cup.
Savard said he’s fully recovered from the left knee injury suffered in the playoffs against the Carolina Hurricanes, and he skated “10 or 15 times” before hitting the practice ice with his teammates at Ristuccia Arena for the first time on Tuesday morning.
“It’s a great city and I’ve enjoyed my time here so far,” said Savard, from the Bruins Foundation’s annual golf tournament at The International in Bolton, MA. “It’s a place that I’d like to finish if the chance comes and I’m excited to get the season going. Things keep getting better and our team keeps getting better, so that only helps everybody when that happens. I want to stay here. This is a place I love. I love the people. I love the fans. This is where I want to be.
“I’m not worried about the contract at all. (Peter and I) have a good relationship. Ever since I came to Boston I’ve given everything I had and if things work out well — and I think they will — then I’m going to be here for a long, long time.”
Savard was also visibly peeved when asked about getting snubbed by Hockey Canada when team officials announced the lineup for their Olympic Team Orientation Camp this summer. The crafty centerman was conspicuously absent from an admittedly talented roster of players, and that’s not sitting well with the two-time All-Star. Savard said that he shared an agent, Larry Kelly, with Steve Yzerman, one of the hockey minds charged with constructing the Canadian National Team, and that private campaigning with the Team Canada Executive Director for an invitation didn’t quite work for the skilled B’s pivot.
Savard has instead decided to turn the first half of the 2009-10 hockey season into a resume tape for Team Canada to watch what they might be missing out in Vancover come February. Though he was on the driving range at the International and excited for a day of golf with his teammates, Savard couldn’t hide the sting of disappointment at being left off the squad.
“I was pretty upset about it,” said Savard, who then cast his head down toward the ground as he talked about it. “I feel that I had a chance to at least go to the camp. I didn’t really come out and say anything. I had a lot of calls for a couple weeks after that. It’s something I didn’t want to talk about. I was pretty mad about it. I’ve had to prove myself over and over again. I’m hoping to get off to a good start. I still haven’t counted myself out, so I guess that’s all that matters.
“I’m going to go out and do what I do…try to prove somebody else wrong. I’m worried about the Bruins and winning games. I didn’t really talk to anybody (behind the scenes) but my agent had Yzerman as a player and he did most of the talking. I don’t know what happened, but I have to just keep trying to prove them wrong and have a good start to the season.”
|09.07.09 at 5:54 pm ET|
The Bruins rookies got off to a good start during the preseason rookie tournament in Kitchener, Ontario with a 6-5 win over the Maple Leafs rooks on Monday afternoon. Center Zach Hamill, who the B’s expect to make a big jump in his second full year of pro hockey this season, totalled four points in the overtime victory, and set up the game-winning OT goal on a pretty give-and-go with Jamie Arniel. Adam Courchaine started in net for the Black and Gold.
Hamill experienced ups and downs during his first full season in Providence last year while battling through a thumb injury, but B’s officials hope that the soon-to-be-21-year-old undersized center can look toward David Krejci as a model for success in the NHL. The 2007 first round pick scored 26 points (13 goals, 13 assists) last season, but is expected to make a big jump up in production from the pivot this season.
The B’s rookies will practice on Tuesday and then drop the puck against the Ottawa Senators rookie team in another tournament game on Wednesday.
|09.06.09 at 11:15 am ET|
With the tumult between Phil Kessel, Kessel’s agent Wade Arnott and Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli still freshly established on Friday, the Toronto Maple Leafs entered the conversation this weekend when they reacquired their own 2010 second round pick. The Leafs seized back their 2nd round pick in the 2010 draft (one that they originally owned but traded away to Chicago) by sending a second round pick and a third round pick in 2011 to the Chicago Blackhawks for that one pick Saturday afternoon.
On its face the move didn’t seem all that consequential. Perhaps just a clerical move to get back a pick they had carelessly tossed away. But it could be a harbinger of things to come, and a sign that Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke has his eye on a restricted free agent named Phil Kessel. Per CBA rules, a team intent on signing an RFA to an offer sheet must still own all of their original draft picks that would be surrendered as compensation for plundering another team’s restricted free agent cabinet.
The Leafs are clearly missing a goal-scoring forward among their current roster of players headed into the 2009-10 hockey season, and Burke has already shown interest in Kessel after attempting to trade with the Bruins for the 21-year-old sniper during the NHL Entry Draft in June. Chiarelli has been steadfast in his cemented stance that he’ll match any offer sheet within reason to keep Kessel, and then make the appropriate trades needed to clear off the salary cap space.
“I’ve said publicly and I’ll say it again that I want Phil to be on our team,” said Chiarelli on Friday after announcing Claude Julien’s much-deserved contract extension. “And I’ll do everything I can do to put him on our team, within reason, with the balance that I’m talking about. If it means moving players, I’ll do it. If it means matching offer sheets I’ll do it.’
The B’s have roughly $1.1 million in cap space, and would be looking at jettisoning $3-4 million in cap space to keep Kessel in the fold. That would likely mean waving goodbye players like Chuck Kobasew and Andrew Ference — or perhaps even a bigger piece – if the Bruins wanted to keep the 36-goal scorer in Black and Gold for the near future. Burke’s draft maneuver also puts the Leafs in better bargaining position in trade talks with the Bruins over Kessel, and might be one of the Toronto GMs famous bluffs to cajole a deal out of Chiarelli.
It should also be noted that fellow RFA Brandon Dubinsky is also in a similar position to Kessel with his New York Rangers team at this point, and may also be a target of Burke’s Saturday transaction. The 23-year-old Dubinsky has notched back-to-back 40 points seasons with the Rags, but is not nearly the pure offensive force that Kessel continues to mature into.
Here are the RFA compensation requirements according to the average annual salary handed out in the offer sheet contract, and what the Bruins would receive should Toronto, San Jose or another interested party come looking for Kessel in these final weeks before the season begins. It’s also worth nothing that Burke was furious when Edmonton Oilers GM Kevin Lowe signed one of his players, Dustin Penner, to an unwieldy offer sheet when he was GM of the Anaheim Ducks. That signing caused Burke to rail about the inflationary nature of sending out offer sheets to restricted free agents, but the Toronto GM might just be poised to pull off the exact same puck caper.
Here are the offer sheet compensation tables:
$994,433 or below None
Over $994,433 to $1,506,716 Third-round choice
Over $1,506,716 to $3,013,434 Second-round choice
Over $3,013,434 to $4,520,150 First-round and third-round choice
Over $4,520,150 to $6,026,867 First-round, second-round and third-round choice
Over $6,026,867 to $7,533,584 Two first-round choices, one second- and one third-round choice
Over $7,533,584 Four first-round choices
|09.04.09 at 12:44 pm ET|
While Claude Julien’s contract extension was the big Bruins announcement of the day on Friday morning, B’s general manager Peter Chiarelli addressed the ongoing saga of restricted free agent Phil Kessel, who remains unsigned with training camp less than two weeks away.
Chiarelli fired away at Kessel’s agent Wade Arnott for creating a “bit of a media war” and using some of the tools in his agent arsenal to coax the wheels of progress moving in negotiations. Arnott had told reporters that the Bruins had only submitted one contract proposal for Kessel prior to the NHL draft, and that it was quickly dismissed.
When talking cold, hard salary figures, the B’s head front office man also preached “balance” within the Kessel negotiations, and noted how important it is to hold down the inflationary nature of the “second contract” that hockey players like Kessel are getting after their rookie entry level deals.
Chiarelli even joked that he should ‘just give (Kessel) a pailful of money and it will be done.’
‘It’s a different system now. It really is a different system now and to be a hard-liner so to speak, you have to keep in mind what these players make after their entry-level contracts,” said Chiarelli. “The percentage of increase is huge. And what it does is it throws everything else out of whack. So there’s a balance that you have to keep. And Phil’s a terrific young player.
‘And I’m responsible to our team and the fact that there’s a fixed-cost system that may go down, all parties considered have to look at the team, have to look at their own interest and you see more sacrifices made on both sides now. These are things that a lot of people don’t understand or they fail to look at. It’s a lot more of a balancing act now than ever.
‘Hey, if you’re pushed toward the cap, you’re in a position where you have to balance it even more. That’s the position that we’re in. I’ve said publicly and I’ll say it again that I want Phil to be on our team. And I’ll do everything I can do to put him on our team, within reason, with the balance that I’m talking about. If it means moving players, I’ll do it. If it means matching offer sheets I’ll do it.’
Chiarelli has never had a holdout during his tenure as the GM of the Bruins and deservedly has earned plaudits for taking care of young potential free agents like Patrice Bergeron, Dennis Wideman and David Krejci with lucrative contracts in the recent past. But there’s only so much cash growing under the salary cap tree, and NHL teams simply can’t hold on to every single one of their puck assets from season-to-season.
Kessel and his representation see a player who should make something comparable to fellow young scorers like Alexander Semin, David Booth and Jeff Carter ($4-5 million on a multi-year contract), and the B’s brass was surely hoping that Kessel would take something in the Zach Parise neighborhood ($3.125 million a year) for the greater good of the hockey club.
Chiarelli vowed that a potential training camp holdout wouldn’t affect a tight-knit, veteran group in the B’s dressing room, and revealed the only thing that bugged him was the notion that the Black and Gold are being too frugal with their funds. In this era of the NHL, according to the Bruins G.M., it’s got nothing to do with being spendthrift or affluent. It’s just about squeezing under the cap with as many assets as possible, and it’s difficult to see how they’ll be able to do that if Kessel seeks market value.
‘It becomes a distraction because the other party starts making it a distraction,’ he said. ‘I understand all the tools of their trade, too. I used to be an agent. So you deal with it. We have a strong room, we’ve got strong leadership. It’s just part of the game.
‘I just get a little disturbed when they talk about us being cheap. Because it’s not about that. Look at some of the second contracts we’ve given ‘ Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci. It’s not about that. It’s about a balance.’
|09.04.09 at 12:23 pm ET|
Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien was entering the final year of a three-year pact signed in the summer of 2007, but added onto that deal with a multi-year contract extension announced by B’s general manager Peter Chiarelli on Friday morning at the TD Garden. Chiarelli wouldn’t disclose the terms of the deal, and also said that he hasn’t yet embarked on expected extensions for the other members of the B’s coaching staff.
“Claude has shown tremendous propensity to get the maximum results for our team. To me, Claude is a roll-up-your-sleeves kind of guy that really connects with the players,” said Chiarelli. “I think he commands the respect that a coach needs to get to be successful while maintaining a common sense, humble approach. We’re very happy that he’s in the mix for years to come.”
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