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Kessel: Deal with Bruins is no ‘closer than it has been in months’

07.20.09 at 5:57 pm ET

With Matt Hunwick signed on to a two-year deal, 21-year-old restricted free agent left winger Phil Kessel remains as the biggest unchecked box left to take care of on Bruins general manger Peter Chiarelli’€™s offseason work checklist.
Both Kessel and agent Wade Arnott appeared to have not made much progress in potentially landing either a one-year deal or multi-year deal with Boston this summer, and the amount of cap space keeps shrinking with each signing.

The B’€™s had roughly $4.3 million in cap space prior to signing Hunwick, and a hockey source told that the defenseman’€™s contract was for $2.9 million over two years. That leaves less than $3 million currently under the salary cap to take care of their sniper. Kessel led the Bruins with 36 goals scored last season in 70 games and paired with Boston center Marc Savard to form a lethal 1-2 duo on the B’€™s top line last season, and put up solid numbers in the playoffs despite playing with a bum right shoulder that eventually needed offseason surgery for a torn labrum and rotator cuff.

Part of the issue with a one-year deal from Kessel’€™s side is that his overall numbers will take a hit next season depending on how much time the shoulder rehab will take him to return to the B’€™s lineup. Both Kessel and the B’€™s expect that he could miss the first month of the season while strengthening his right wing for game duty.

Kessel had previously told reporters this summer that he wasn’€™t seeking as much as $5 million a year that some thought, and a player with similar statistics and experience ‘€“ David Booth of the Florida Panthers ‘€“ signed a six-year, $25.5 million extension ($4.25 million per year) this offseason despite some elements of salary cap uncertainty going forward for all NHL GMs.

When asked how things were going during a Monday afternoon interview with Toronto radio station AM 640, Kessel said that the two sides ‘€œare no closer’€ then they’€™ve been over the last two months. Without arbitration rights and with seemingly no teams willing to step up and sign Kessel to an offer sheet this summer as of yet, there aren’€™t many options available to the young, talented winger.

A trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs involving Kessel around the time of the NHL draft never came to fruition, and the young forward risks missing the entire hockey season ‘€“ and a year of all-important service time — if he attempts to hold out next season.

‘€œI have no clue what’€™s going to happen at this point. Obviously it’€™s been a slow process, but you never know what’€™s going to happen. I don’€™t think (a contract with the Bruins) is any closer than it has been in months’ past, or anything like that,’€ said Kessel to AM 640. ‘€œObviously you’€™d like to always stay with the team you were first drafted by, and you never know what’€™s going to happen in hockey. Hockey’€™s a weird game: guys get traded all the time and guys move on because it’€™s a (salary) cap world. Who knows what’€™s going to happen? We’€™ll see.’€

Kessel also didn’€™t have much of a reaction when he was asked about the potential June trade that might have had him going to the Maple Leafs.

‘€œI was aware of (the trade rumors), but I didn’€™t have too many calls or anything like that about and it never happened I guess,’€ said Kessel.

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