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Report: Kessel and top pick offered for Toronto defenseman, seventh pick

06.26.09 at 9:51 am ET
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MONTREAL — According to a report by Bob McKenzie of TSN.ca, B’s GM Peter Chiarelli and their front office cohorts have made their first move of the weekend and offered restricted free agent winger Phil Kessel and their first round pick to Toronto for four-time All-Star defenseman Tomas Kaberle and the seventh pick in the 2009 draft.

According to the report, Leafs GM Brian Burke is “canvassing the league to see if there are any better offers out there”. Kessel scored a team-high 36 goals and 60 overall points in a breakout year for the Bruins, but hasn’t been able to come to an agreement with Boston on a contract for next season and beyond.

Kessel is rumored to have been on the trade market for weeks, and Kessel’s agent, Wade Arnott, didn’t deny any of the Kessel trade rumors in a phone conversation with WEEI.com earlier this week.

Kaberle is a 31-year-old skill defenseman with a palatable cap hit of $4.25 million per season for the next two years, and is widely-considered a puck mover and power play contributor. Kaberle was limited to 57 games with injuries last year, and is certainly not at an all-time high value-wise. Kaberle missed significant time last season with a broken right hand. The 10-year veteran has a no-trade clause in his contract, but there is a window in the clause that permits a trade of Kaberle between the NHL entry draft and Aug.15, a clause activated when the Leafs failed once again to make the playoffs.

For more updates on the Bruins and their weekend activity at the NHL draft, check in with the Big Bad Blog for updates.

UPDATE:  TSN is now amending their report and stating that the Bruins offered Phil Kessel and a future draft pick for Kaberle. Doubtful the Bruins would do this without also getting Toronto’s 2009 first round pick at the No. 7 spot back in return. B’s GM Peter Chiarelli gave a warm, welcoming “no comment” about the rumors when met with the assorted hockey media this morning, and intimated that he first learned of them when he got on his computer this morning. We’ll have more later.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Phil Kessel, Tomas Kaberle,

Bruins make qualifying offer to Kessel, negotiations continue

06.24.09 at 12:07 pm ET
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Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli and the rest of the Boston front office are surely be training their concentration and focus on the annual NHL Entry Draft this weekend in Montreal — and some of the misdirection and conflicting smoke signals consistent with the process have already begun.

But amid the usual subterfuge, however, the B’€™s brain trust will also be dealing with real big club issues like the ongoing negotiations with restricted free agent goal-scoring winger Phil Kessel. Both Chiarelli and Kessel’€™s agent, Wade Arnott, are expected to be in Montreal on Wednesday, and plan to continue discussions on the 21-year-old superstar’€™s future in Boston.

The B’€™s made a qualifying offer to Kessel this week — a perfunctory move by Chiarelli to keep Kessel a restricted free agent (RFA) if the July 1 free agency period comes and goes without any movement on a contract. An RFA must receive a “qualifying offer” from his team, or he becomes unrestricted, and the qualifying offer will be 100 percent of last season’s salary for players making under $800,000, and 75 percent of last season’s salary for those making over $800,000.

According to the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, a restricted free agent can accept an offer sheet from other teams. But the RFA’s old team can match the offer or receive compensation, as in the previous free agent system. If both sides can’t come to an agreement prior to training camp and no offer sheets are received, a restricted free agent must sign a contract within 14 days of the opening of training camp, or be ineligible to play that season. This is designed to prevent lengthy holdouts in contract disputes.

Arnott didn’€™t voice much in the way of surprise that a deal has yet to be reached with his speedy young superstar. Kessel’€™s agent felt like there might be some progress made in his client’€™s situation over the next few days with all the key players in the same place.

‘€œWe’€™ve had discussions at this point with Peter, but nothing to report actually,’€ said Arnott of negotiations that have been ongoing for the last few weeks. ‘€œI’€™m not surprised. We know July 1 is coming, but we’€™re all going to see each other starting (Wednesday) for draft weekend. July 1 will be right around the corner as well, but I’€™m not surprised (that there’€™s no contract).’€

There’€™s been wild speculation that Kessel will be traded before July 1, and that his name has been tossed around in several potential deals that could both, 1) allow the Bruins to move way up in the draft and net one of the top four close-to-NHL-ready talents among the eligible group of amateur players, and, 2) fortify a need amid a less-than-ideal situation at the defenseman position.

Chiarelli said in general that — given salary cap considerations and particular player situations — there have been plenty of eye-opening names available on the NHL trade market this summer. But that doesn’€™t necessarily mean that deals will be pulled off throughout the weekend.

‘€œBased on what I’€™m hearing in general conversations I’€™ve been having, there seems to be more significant players out there,’€ said Chiarelli. ‘€œSo activity prior to the actual trade has actually increased.

‘€œI don’€™t know that there’€™ll be any more trades than we’€™ve seen in the past, but I get the sense that there’€™s more activity, conversations and discussions. I would assume that — I know that — the other managers are thinking conservative like myself. Before you take on something (in trade) you really have to think twice about it. There is increased activity, but I don’€™t know if that translates into trades.’€

There’€™s also a school of thought among some the extended negotiations and trade rumors are a tool being used by the Bruins to speed up the maturation of a sometimes immature young player in Kessel. Think something similar to the technique being employed by the Celtics with Rajon Rondo and trade rumors this summer — a development that might help a younger, immature individual snap into that next phase of maturation as a player.

There have been times in his first three years in Boston where the 21-year-old hasn’€™t always been on the same page with Boston’€™s coaching staff, and there’€™s a continued feeling Kessel is only just scratching the surface in terms of what he can do with his speed and shot.

Arnott wouldn’€™t confirm or deny any of the trade speculation, but instead deferred all potential thoughts about a Kessel trade to the one man that would potentially pull the trigger on a trade that could send the young superstar out of Boston.

‘€œYou know what? It’€™s a good question. I can’€™t comment on that,’€ said Arnott. ‘€œThat is something for Peter to answer for you. I suggest you ask him that question.’€

During a recent conference call to discuss the NHL draft, Chiarelli, of course, wouldn’€™t comment on anything involving the ongoing negotiations with Kessel.

In general, Arnott gets the sense that there’€™s going to be plenty of wheeling and dealing on the floor of the Bell Centre this weekend and there’€™s optimism that the two sides can bridge some gaps to hammering out a deal.

‘€œThe sense, the sense we get is that there’€™s more discussions and obviously publicly you see that there are more player issues around the league at the NHL level. You combine that with the draft, and there might be an opportunity (for trades and signings),’€ said Arnott. ‘€œObviously with the economics and the times that we’€™re in, you add all of that up and there’€™s definitely a great opportunity for movement.’€

While visiting a local school for a Bruins-related community event last week, Kessel himself denied that his side has made any demands of $5 million a year for a contract. But it’€™s clear his elite credentials combined with his on-ice skills and production set put him in the $4 million a year NHL neighborhood of fellow young superstars like Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin.

There’€™s been further speculation that Bruins management is set against giving Kessel more money than the $3.75 million per year that’€™s already been awarded to fellow restricted free agent David Krejci. It appears that — given Boston’€™s salary cap outlook over the next few seasons — there’€™s a required level of creativity and outside-the-box thinking in the contract negotiations, and perhaps talks have even involved a one-year deal for Kessel in the 2009-10 season.

A repeat of anything close to last year’€™s 36-goal season would then further cement his resume for a long-term contract and give him the arbitration rights that he doesn’€™t currently hold headed into this summer’€™s negotiations. One thing remains the same, however: Kessel has told his representation that he doesn’€™t want to go anywhere else but Boston for next season and beyond.

‘€œPhil is the player and he wants to stay in Boston,’€ said Arnott. ‘€œPhil is open-minded (with regard to contract talks) and his first priority is still to remain with the Bruins.’€

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Sources: Flyers are favorites to take on Bruins at Fenway

06.22.09 at 9:11 pm ET
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Sources confirmed months ago the Bruins have been awarded next year’€™s NHL Winter Classic and will play at Fenway Park on Jan. 1, and multiple reports had previously indicated that the Washington Capitals would be the Black and Gold’€™s opponent in hockey’€™s showpiece event.

The Boston Metro has reported that Boston College is already confirmed to play in an outdoor college hockey game that’€™s been added to the festivities. Boston University is also in talks to play in the outdoor college hockey game paired with the Winter Classic, according to the Metro report. NHL sources have also confirmed a second portion of the report to WEEI.com that the Philadelphia Flyers have taken the lead as the opponent for the Bruins on Jan. 1, 2010.

Several reports had named Washington as the leader in the clubhouse to take on the B’€™s on New Year’€™s Day, but multiple sources revealed to WEEI.com that there are concerns from NBC over television ratings with the Capitals ‘€“ who are being pushed by the NHL to be the choice. NBC is instead campaigning for Philadelphia, according to one source, and the odds are improving by the day that the Flyers will be traveling to the Fens in January.

The lackluster playoff ratings for NBC during an opening round Stanley Cup playoffs matchup between Alexander Ovechkin and his Washington Capitals vs. the New York Rangers — the hockey team from the nation’s #1 TV market — is believed to at least be partly behind the network’s motives.

Last season’s first round’s Game 6 between the Rangers and Capitals drew a paltry 0.7 rating, off 30% from a 1.0 for Red Wings/Predators Game 6 during the 2008 playoffs. An expected marquee matchup pitting Ovechkin against the Rangers averaged a mere 0.7 for two games on NBC, which was down 22% from a 0.9 for two comparable Red Wings/Predators matchups in ’08.

Surprisingly the 1.4 rating for NBC’s Game 1 between the Capitals/Penguins was 18% below the 1.7 that Penguins/Flyers Game 3 drew on the network just two weeks prior in the first round of the 2008-09 postseason. That may be the exact kind of number that NBC is looking at in pulling the strings for the Broad Street Bullies.

Locally in Washington, playoff TV ratings for Capitals games were labeled a disappointment as they were down from the 2007-08 postseason — a surprising development given the dream matchup between Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby in the second round of the playoffs. (Haggs’ Note: I had a Washington Caps’ official check in with me and assure me that the Caps’ local ratings were way up during the playoffs last year, and that didn’t have any bearing on NBC’s decision.)

In a conference call with Washington reporters Capitals GM George McPhee stated that he hadn’t heard anything from the NHL about the Winter Classic, and expressed doubt that the Caps would be a part of the game at Fenway Park.

“I have not,” McPhee said when asked if he had heard anything from the NHL regarding the Winter Classic. “You think we would know by this point.

“It doesn’t sound like we will be part of it. Maybe that’s not a bad thing. When you go, you have to play in front of 40,000 or 50,000 of the other team’s fans. …I would just assume if we were in it that we would know by now.”

The Bruins and NHL officials are expected to make the Winter Classic announcement official next month in a press conference at Fenway Park. Expect the Flyers to be the hockey team that suits up against the Bruins inside the Lyric Little Bandbox on Yawkey Way unless NBC has a change of heart concerning their top choice.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Fenway Park, Philadelphia Flyers,

Bruins make it a hat trick at NHL Awards Show in Vegas

06.18.09 at 9:56 pm ET
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The Bruins had themselves quite a time in the pleasure-filled city of Las Vegas, and that was even before they hit the casinos and good times waiting for them on the Vegas Strip. It was a clean sweep of the biggie awards for the B’s candidates at the NHL Awards show in Las Vegas on Thursday night.

After Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez accepted the Jennings Award Trophy together, Zdeno Chara was named an NHL First Team All-Star and Thomas accepted the Vezina Trophy for the league’s best goaltender in a landslide victory over the competition. B’s head coach Claude Julien followed with a pretty comfortable victory for the Jack Adams Trophy and — in a tight win over offensive-minded blueliner Mike Green — Chara came away with his first career Norris Trophy.

Chara finished with 1032 overall points and 68 first place votes while Green finished with 982 total points and 50 first place votes in an incredibly tight voting race.

Julien was named the winner of the 2009 Jack Adams Award, which is awarded ‘€œto the head coach who has contributed the most to his team’€™s success,’€ Chara was named the winner of the 2009 Norris Trophy, which is awarded “to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position’€ and Thomas was named the winner of the 2009 Vezina Trophy, which is awarded ‘€œto the goalkeeper adjudged to be the best at his position.’€

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Ference undergoes successful hernia/groin surgery at MGH

06.17.09 at 6:31 pm ET
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Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference underwent successful surgery to repair an abdominal hernia and perform an adductor release at Mass General Hospital on Wednesday, according to a release from the Boston Bruins. Ference missed all but three games of the playoffs due to the abdominal/groin injuries, and was one of several key injuries along the blueline for the B’s during the postseason. Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli has pointed to the injuries of Ference and fellow D-man Matt Hunwick as having a significant effect on the B’s ability to break out of their own zone during the playoffs.

Ference is expected to be fully healthy and ready to go for the 2009-10 season after putting up 16 points in 47 games last season following a broken leg and hernia/groin issues. The surgery was performed by Dr. David Berger and Dr. Peter Asnis at Mass General Hospital and will force Ference to miss approximately four to six weeks of his normal offseason training time.

Chiarelli agrees to four-year pact that will take B’s through 2013-14

06.16.09 at 3:39 pm ET
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The Bruins and GM Peter Chiarelli formally discussed a four-year contract extension that will kick into gear following the fourth and final year of his original contract during the 2009-10 season. Chiarelli and Principal for Delaware North and the Bruins Charlie Jacobs were on hand to answer questions at the TD Banknorth Garden on Tuesday afternoon, and the B’s GM indicated that discussions will begin with Claude Julien on a contract extension in the ensuing weeks.

Jacobs intimated Julien and members of the coaching staff were running under the same contract length as their GM, which meant they are set to enter the final year of their contracts. Don’t expect Boston’s Jack Adams award candidate to wait very long for his own contract extension now that Chiarelli has been taken care of.

Jacobs said that the B’s ownership had already decided to extend Chiarelli and avoid any “lame duck” possibilities prior to the playoff run, and it was only a matter of time before the father and son reworked the contract agreement with their top executive.

“It seems like it was just yesterday that we were up on the dais being the next GM. It’s happened so fast. He has grown and there’s no question about it,” said Charlie Jacobs. “If you think about the guy that was up there three years and the GM that we just heard, there is a lot of difference. It’s reflected in the team’s performance, it’s reflected in his decisions and the coaching staff and management staff he’s assembled over the last 36 months, which is really strong.

“You’ve got to judge the body of work. We’ve had highs and lows, but we’ve had many more highs. This wasn’t something that we talked about whether we wanted to do it or not, (extending Chiarelli)  is something that we felt like we had to do.”

For his part, the 44-year-old Bruins general manager is midway through a stunning hockey success story in Boston that’s taken place over the last three years — and Chiarelli is excited to see what lies ahead for a hockey club that excelled during the regular season before falling in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Chiarelli clearly has some challenges to keep his present team intact while avoiding the pitfalls of a shrinking salary cap, and it all starts with restricted free agents Phil Kessel and Matt Hunwick along with valued free agents like P.J. Axelsson and Mark Recchi. Kessel is the big ticket free agent still under Boston’s control, and the B’s front office has until July 1 to negotiate with him. Reports have indicated Chiarelli and Kessel’s agent, Wade Arnott, are far apart in contract negotiations, but the B’s GM has been tight-lipped against the contract talks. He wouldn’t comment on any progress — or lack thereof — with his remaining restricted free agents in Kessel, Matt Hunwick and Byron Bitz heading up to the July 1 deadline — a date when RFAs can begin fielding offer sheets from other NHL teams.

“This gives the management group the latitude to do things and to continue on with their vision or plan,” said Chiarelli. “What we’ve tried to do since I’ve been here is try to instill certain attitudes and philosophies among the players, the employees, the staff and the coaches. This (contract) allows us to do that.

“We’re entering into a new level of expectation that’s exciting and — let’s be honest — more demanding. It’s more demanding, but you have to like a challenge. What I saw in the playoffs is guys that were sacrificing their bodies on every shift, and we’re not at that point yet. It makes it more clear where we have to be, and we’re getting there. I saw that at various stages this year, but it’s certainly more clear now when you see every player on every shift (in the Stanley Cup Finals) sacrificing their body blocking a shot or taking a check.”

Several times over the last few weeks, B’s owner Jeremy Jacobs made the observation that he hadn’t hired Chiarelli as GM simply for a four-year term, but instead viewed the Bruins exec as the kind of personality that should remain in the organization for the “rest of his professional life.” Chiarelli certainly wasn’t backing away from those kinds of expectations, but also knows — in this day and age — that things can change very fast in an NHL front office.

“I love the city and it’s a great place to bring up a family, and that’s important to me,” said Chiarelli, who was named Hockey Executive of the Year by The Sporting News. “The organization is something that I want to be a part of. I don’t want to be jumping around. Hockey is a tough sport.

“You’ve seen it with coaches and players, and now I think you’ll probably see it among GMs that people will be jumping around. That’s something I don’t want to do. Nothing is guaranteed in life, but I’m very happy to be here and I want to be here for a long time.”

Read More: Boston Bruins, Charlie Jacobs, Peter Chiarelli,

Chiarelli signs multiyear contract extension with Bruins

06.15.09 at 6:19 pm ET
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In a move that was expected to transpire at some point before the NHL draft at the end of June, the Bruins announced Monday afternoon that GM Peter Chiarelli has signed a multiyear contract extension with the Black and Gold. Chiarelli was entering into the fourth and final year of a deal that he signed when he took the B’s reigns back in May 2006. The B’s executive had been negotiating with Jeremy and Charlie Jacobs over the course of the last few months, and it was fully expected that Chiarelli would remain with Boston for next year and beyond.

Chiarelli and Charlie Jacobs will hold a press conference in Legends at the TD Banknorth Garden at noon on Tuesday, and it’s also expected that Chiarelli will discuss his own situation as well as provide updates on the upcoming NHL draft and current contract negotiations with restricted free agents like Phil Kessel and Matt Hunwick.

The B’s GM deserved plaudits — and a new pact — for steadily steering the organization back from oblivion over the three years after taking hold of a beleaguered franchise with an expansion team-level roster. Chiarelli and the B’s staff have stocked an NHL roster full of young, improving players — with some as holdovers from Boston’s prior front office regime — and built the foundation around a pair of big-ticket free agents in Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard.

Young skilled players like Phil Kessel, David Krejci, Blake Wheeler and Milan Lucic have all made the jump to the NHL level during Chiarelli’s tenure, and the B’s GM locked down All-Star goaltender Tim Thomas to a four-year deal earlier this spring. Goaltender Tuukka Rask and center Zach Hamill represent another wave of talented youngsters that have performed well at Providence, and stand ready to support the Boston hockey club in the near future.

Chiarelli was named the NHL’s Executive of the Year by the Sporting News for the 2008-09 season, and watched his hockey team improve by 22 points last season en route to capturing the Eastern Conference title. The B’s season ended in a Game 7 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in the Stanley Cup semifinals, but the organization is clearly on the right track.

Chiarelli has made missteps — signing Dave Lewis as his first coach and trading away prospect Kris Versteeg rank as the two biggest gaffes during his three seasons in charge of hockey operations. But the GM earned a contract extension for his overwhelmingly impressive body of work in Boston.

The GM’s biggest mandate was to come in and make the Bruins a tough, “hard to play against” unit with equal parts grit and skill, and he’s succeeded in molding a group of players into that classic image of a successful hockey club. Chiarelli’s work remains incomplete as he faces an important summer of negotiations with free agents — and potential trade talks if those contract discussions don’t go as well as expected — amid a shrinking salary cap. With a completed contract extension in hand, Chiarelli is now free to focus on the other tasks calling for his attention.

It’s also expected that Chiarelli will now turn toward a contract extension for head coach Claude Julien and members of his coaching staff — who are all expected to return for the 2009-10 season — after the Jack Adams Award finalist posted 94 wins over the last two seasons behind the Boston bench.

Before joining the B’s in 2006, Chiarelli was under the employ of his hometown Ottawa Senators for seven seasons, five as their director of legal relations and two as assistant GM. Chiarelli played four seasons of college hockey at Harvard, where he served as the team’€™s captain. He had 21 goals and 28 assists for 49 points in 109 collegiate games before earning his degree in economics in 1987.

The elder Jacobs gave plenty of evidence that an agreement was  looming — perhaps to be announced after the Stanley Cup Finals were over — when he spoke with WEEI’s “Dale & Holley” last week.

‘€œI made this observation a few weeks ago. I didn’€™t hire Peter for four years. I hired him for his career. Peter wants to stay a Bruin. He sees this as a long range career relationship and I see the same. It’€™s evolving,’€ said Jeremy Jacobs. ‘€œI kind of see him in a long term executive relationship and I think he sees himself in the same spot.”

Read More: Boston Bruins, Charlie Jacobs, Peter Chiarelli,
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