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Chiarelli on Dale & Holley, 9/30

09.30.09 at 2:05 pm ET
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Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli gave an interview on the Dale & Holley show Wednesday afternoon and discussed the prospects for the upcoming season as well as the Phil Kessel trade. Following is a transcript of the interview. (NOTE: Updated with complete transcript.)

How do you expect to replace the production Phil Kessel gave you last year?

His goals were a different style of goals, so as much as I say, hey, Marco Sturm is going to get his 20-25, maybe to 30, and we believe Bergeron is going to — I really believe [Patrice] Bergeron will have a big year this year. He’s been tremendous in the preseason, so he’s going to score more. The younger players will continue to improve. Milan [Lucic] will score more and [David Krejci] will score more, and Morris on the back end will increase the offense. As much as  Is say all that, we will miss the style of goals Phil scored, because the speed will back off the [defense]. So, we will miss that. Don’t get me wrong, we will miss that. I believe we will make up for the goals with those guys that I mentioned, we just won’t score them the same way.

Why were you so confident that this was a trade that would help the Boston Bruins?

I’m not one who is going to trade a player that has his talent, his ability. He’s got tremendous skill, tremendous speed, and he’s young. The fact of the matter is that he made it clear that he did not want to stay in Boston, that he wanted out. That makes it hard for me to sign him. In fact, that made it impossible for me to sign him, because it takes two to sign a contract. So, now you’re looking at, ‘OK, well do I just give him whatever he wants?’ I could not get a number from him. I did not get one number from him in the negotiation. Unfortunately, that the reality of the business now. Whether it’s another team, or whether it’s an agent and a player, they have tools that they can use against you, and you have to face reality. Having said all that, what we got in return I thought was very, very good. You may get a Phil Kessel out of that, you may get a player that may help us sooner rather than later. You have to balance that, but at the end of the day when there’s someone that doesn’t want to work this us and is unequivocal about it, I have to address it.

You never had an idea of what Phil Kessel wanted to stay in Boston?

I had an idea what he thought he was worth. But I couldn’t get to the next step. I liken it a little to when we had Brad Stuart here and I had to trade him. I’m not trying to vilify Phil, and I’m not trying to vilify Brad — I didn’t try to vilify Brad. He wanted to move to the West Coast and he didn’t want to sign an extension with us. We had offered him some good terms. When these players — they have an option. Part of this new CBA is mobility. That’s what they got when they got this new CBA. You’ve got earlier free agency age, and you’ve got the ability to decide at least to a certain degree where you’re going to play. Whether it’s when you’re UFA, and in Phil’s case when he was restricted. It just so happened that there was a team — one team, and that’s all it takes — one team that was prepared to pay him what he wanted and was prepared to do an offer sheet. In an offer sheet scenario, we get a first, second and third. We ended up with two firsts and a second, which is a huge upgrade from a first, second and third. A first-round pick, you’re talking about an impact player — the chances for an impact player. We were happy with our return. It was a real difficult 3-4 weeks. But at the end of the day, when someone does not want to be in Boston and play with us, I have to take that under consideration.

It seems to me that you’re better off, especially this year, if you can trade some of those picks and get somebody who can help your team this year.

That’s a good point, too. You don’t just make a deal to make a deal. Obviously, it’s something that we’re going to look at, something that we took into account when we made the deal. So, it gives us options. Certainly it’s something that we’ll look it. We have to see how our team grows. I’ve never been part of a Stanley Cup-winning team, but I’ve been a part of teams when you don’t make a move sometimes that’s a good move, and when you make a move sometimes that’s a bad move. We just have to be careful.

If [Krejci] is ready to go for you tomorrow night, is that a bit of a surprise given medically where he was in this offseason?

What David told me shortly after the surgery is, he told me that he’ll be back. Now that’s an optimistic athlete saying that. I’ve heard that type of remark before. But he worked so hard in the summer. Obviously, we supervised his rehab. Each step along the way, I got reports back that he’s ahead of schedule, he’s further ahead in his schedule, he’s further ahead. It surprises me a little, but based on the reports I got, based on when I saw him a couple of times over the summer and what he was doing, it’s just a mild surprise. He really worked hard to get where he is.

Were those reports [about interest in Toronto's Tomas Kaberle] accurate. And if so, why didn’t that deal go through?

Those reports were accurate. It didn’t go through because we just didn’t meet the terms. We didn’t agree on terms. There were reports of miscommunication. I thought I was fairly clear, the Maple Leafs GM thought he was fairly clear. But in the end, obviously we weren’t. In the heat of the battle sometimes, you might gloss over some term of a deal. For whatever reason, it didn’t work. But you’re right, the reports were accurate.

Even if you have a miscommunication, that is something that you couldn’t revisit after the draft?

There was something that we felt was fundamental to the deal that they felt wasn’t fundamental to the deal, and that was the seventh overall pick. That was gone, so it puts a different spin on how you look at a deal. And we went out and got a defenseman. Obviously, we did revisit it, because we ended up traded Kessel to Toronto.

Has Derek Morris won that tryout [to be Zdeno Chara's linemate]?

I think he’s going to get the first look. The way that the games were scheduled and placed in training camp, it was hard to truly try it out until the end. We were happy at the end with Derek’s play there. My guess, based on my discussions with Claude, based on the last few practices, is that they’ll start together.

Who are you looking for to make a significant jump? Whose game in your mind has to go up another level or two?

I can’t really say. We had a tremendous regular season. That’s part of the battle because you’ve got to get to the playoffs. And I thought we had a lot of good individual performances. So, I can’t really say I need a real specific jump from somebody. I I’m looking more toward the normal growth of progression from our younger guys. I’m looking more toward, for example, the new additions becoming better under our good coaching staff. So, off the top of my head, I think Bergeron is going to have a good year. That will be a big jump. So, I guess there’s one player that I expect there to be a jump. Obviously, Marco coming back. I think there’s going to be some rust on Marco, some rust on David Krejci, just because of the injury and inactivity from last year. We have a tough start. While it’s at home now, and we all talk about when it was away, we were on the road, it was a disadvantage, now we’re looking at it at home and we’ve got some tough teams. There’s going to be some rust. But I expect Bergeron and Sturm to have good improvements.

I’m guessing in the offseason you wanted to make it even more tough to play against the Bruins with the re-signing of [Mark] Recchi and the acquisition Steve Begin.

I think Mark Recchi played very well for us. We were losing some veterans in [Stephane] Yelle, [Shane] Hnidy and [P.J.] Axelsson, so we felt we wanted to have that veteran presence still. And Mark obviously brings good play and the veteran presence. And [Recchi] already having been here, it’s a double whammy as far as the added experience, and he does play hard and he plays greasy — I call it greasy. Begin is a player that plays hard. Toronto’s loaded up, Ottawa’s gotten a little tougher, so the East, especially the Northeast will be tougher. I guess people are following our lead to a certain degree. It will be interesting divisional games this year.

Is there any type of resentment at the way Toronto went after one of your players?

I am friends with Brian [Burke, Toronto's GM], we have a personal relationship and a professional relationship. I think the end result of this transaction was exactly the same as an offer sheet, other than the fact that we got more in return for it. He’s got a business to run. I respect that. It certainly was a different dynamic, dealing under these circumstances and with him. So, that’s what I can tell you right now.

If [Tim Thomas] performs at the level you want through the course of this contract, he’ll be the difference, not the norm, won’t he?

Not necessarily. Those are some of the risks we have to take. When you’re saying the exception rather than the norm, there’s been a lot of goalies that have played well into their late 30s and even their 40s. But there are also goalies that basically stop playing when they’re 33 or 34. It depends on your sample size. Tim is unique in the sense that his body is less exposed, so to speak, from having played the rigors of NHL hockey for a long time, and that can wear down a person. One of the things he said in our discussions when we were leading up to this contract — I guess it’s natural that he would say this— he feels he’s getting better, he feel he’s improving still. And I’ve seen that in his game. While there may be an apex in his career before the end of his contract, it’s a risk we’re prepared to take. Listen, he’s the Vezina goalie, he’s been sharp this year and he’s a proud guy. You have to take risks in this business, calculated risks, and that was one we were prepared to take.

Is it fair to say you have a little more confidence in your backup goaltender this year, because of the physical problems Manny Fernandez had a year ago? You’re not concerned about that with Tuukka Rask.

You’ve got to weigh that with the fact that Tuukka is a rookie. But, you’re right. Manny had a stretch there last year where he was tremendous, and then the physical problems reared their ugly head again. Tuukka’s put his time in in the minors. He had a terrific camp. He had a very good camp last year. He’s a very good prospect and now he’s an NHL player. We’re excited to have him there. You’re right, the injury thing is not as much of a worry — I’ll find something else to worry about.

When did you start thinking about Derek Morris being a Bruin, and why did you start thinking about him being a Bruin? What is he going to bring to your team?

We tried to acquire him at the trade deadline. We already had him in our sights, even the year before. He’s a player that has underperformed for a variety of reasons the last few years. He was a player that was on a track to make the Olympic team. For some reasons, it didn’t follow the projection. But there are a lot of elements to his game, to his defensive game, and the offensive side of his defensive game that we felt could complement our defensive corps very well. While in essence we had to give up Aaron Ward to get Derek Morris — and Aaron Ward was a warrior — we felt that what Derek brought, the net result was going to be a positive. What he brought — and you’ve seen his puck skills, his stick skills, his poise — we felt that that would help Zdeno. Whether he was paired with him or not, it would take minutes — because he can log a lot of minutes, Derek. There were a number of reasons why we went after him. We didn’t want to commit long-term to Derek to start. We have some issues — not issues, but we’ve got players that will have to be paid, whether it was the one we just traded or there are future players that have to be played. He was good, he was flexible from the term of a contract perspective. It was a good fit. He’s been really good in camp. We just felt that he could add to our defensive corps.

Are you concerned with the loss of players like Stephane Yelle and P.J. Axelsson that the penalty-killing unit will suffer and that could make a difference for your team?

I really believe that penalty-killing is more of a function of your coaching staff — not to put any pressure on our coaches. But more of a function of our coaching staff than the personnel. You have to have the right mentality of the staff and you have to have the right mentality of the player. I think we’ve got guys who can fill those spots. Part of this job is the turnover of players and the infusion of young players. It’s the cycle of life, and we’ve got to be consistent with that. It is something that we obviously looked at when we were making these moves. It’s something where we felt that the people that we have in place could pick up the slack.

I think that [front office/coaching] stability off the ice is going to help the team on the ice.

I’d like to think so. It allows us to continue — to use an oft-quoted word — our “plan.” But really, that’s what it is. The message I send to our management staff, the message I send to the coaches, the message the coach sends to the players, it all dovetails with one another. It’s consistent and it’s what we want the players to hear. When you make changes, whether as coaches or managers, it takes a while before the organization picks up momentum again. I’m certainly grateful that my contract was extended, and I’m sure, speaking for Claude [Julien], I’m sure he was also. I think only better things will come forward.

Is tomorrow night’s opponent, Alexander Ovechkin, the most dynamic offensive player in this league now?

Yes, I think he is. His size, his strength, his enthusiasm — I think he is. He’s a mountain of a man on the ice. Not so much of height — he’s 6-2 — but he’s just a block, and he can fire the puck from anywhere. This guy’s a special, special player.

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