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Thomas and Kessel commence Team USA tryouts

08.18.09 at 11:59 am ET
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Vezina Trophy winning goaltender Tim Thomas and unsigned sniper Phil Kessel are the only two Bruins representatives attending Team USA Orientation Camp this week at the Seven Bridges Arena in Woodridge, Il. — and both players were among the 34 skaters invited to appear Monday for workouts and team-bonding exercises leading up to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Kessel, a restricted free agent without arbitration rights, is mired in a contract stalemate with the B’s that clearly isn’t headed for a quick ending. The increasingly rare chance that another team swoops in with a $4-5 million per year offer sheet for Kessel could change the tenor of negotiations, or the 21-year-old winger could drop all contractual demands and agree to something in the neighborhood of David Krejci money (three years for $3.75 per year).

Unless either of those things happen — and both seem to have long shot chances of happening — then it could be an address-changing trade that ends up shifting some movement from one or both sides, as Kessel clearly wants his contract situation resolved before the NHL regular season begins in October.

In some interesting comments made to the USA Today’s Kevin Allen on Monday, Kessel said that he fully expects to be signed — one way or the other — by the time the regular season begins on Oct. 1. There had been some speculation that last season’s 36-goal scorer would be A) out until December with rotator cuff/labrum surgery on his right shoulder and B) could hold out until Dec. 1 before finalizing his contract.

Kessel put that notion to bed on Monday, and said that he intends to be ready for game-action by early-to-mid November. According to the player, he already has 95 percent strength in his shoulder. and should be ready to skate some time in September. 

The young B’s winger also admitted that the two sides are in something of a “stalemate”, but that some kind of resolution will be made when the NHL season commences on Oct. 1. It’s been a very civilized negotiation between agent Wade Arnott and B’s GM Peter Chiarelli thus far, and Chiarelli has already made statements that Kessel will be returning to Boston next season barring an outlandish offer sheet from another NHL team. To this date, there hasn’t been one offer sheet given to an RFA player this summer.

“It’s at a stalemate and I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Kessel said to the USA Today. “…I think it could go either way at this point.”

Is there a date that Kessel expects to sign by?

“There is no date,” Kessel said to the USA Today. “Either way it will get done before the season for sure.”

Fellow 21-year-old young gun Anze Kopitar struck it rich with the LA Kings for a multi-year deal that’s going to pay him $6.8 million per season for the next seven years, but a better comp for Kessel continues to be Florida Panthers forward David Booth. Booth has similar service time and stats to Kessel, and inked a market-setting six-year, $25.5 million deal this summer as a restricted free agent.

The cap hit amounts to $4.25 million per season for the Panthers, and that is exactly what just about every hockey observer outside the negotiations felt that the young B’s superstar would eventually settle in for. It remains to be seen when that actually happens, but it’s safe to say it’ll be in September if Kessel has his druthers.

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