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Chiarelli: ‘disturbed when they talk about us being cheap’

Posted By Joe Haggerty On September 4, 2009 @ 12:44 pm In General | 10 Comments

Chiarelli said that the most important part of Kessel situation is maintaining team balance

Chiarelli said that the most important part of Kessel situation is maintaining team balance

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.”


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