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Chiarelli: Kessel ‘no longer wanted to play in Boston’ 09.19.09 at 12:03 pm ET
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Peter Chiarelli said multiple times that Phil Kessel's agent told him July that he no longer wanted to play in Boston

Peter Chiarelli said multiple times that Phil Kessel's agent told him July that he no longer wanted to play in Boston

Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli met with the media on Saturday morning to discuss dealing leading-scorer Phil Kessel to the Toronto Maple Leafs for three high draft picks over the next years, and stated pointedly on several occasions that the 21-year-old winger “no longer wanted to play in Boston”.

Kessel and agent Wade Arnott had, according to Chiarelli, informed him of a couple of reasons why he no longer wanted to a Bruin, and privately gave the GM a couple of reasons why he needed a change of NHL address.  That spurred the B’s to trade away Kessel for draft picks in excess of the draft pick compensation for a potential offer sheet, and the Maple Leafs emerged as the only team with the draft pick assets and available cash to swing a trade-and-sign for Boston’s restricted free agent.

One of those reasons behind Kessel’s desire to leave is believed to be B’s coach Claude Julien’s “tough love” relationship with him over their two years together. Some believe that Kessel never forgave the coach for benching him during his first playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens, and preaching the importance of a two-way game over simply being a glorified floater on the ice. Kessel scored 36 goals and was a +23 during his breakout season with the Black and Gold last winter, and much of that on-ice success can be traced back to Julien’s “no soft play allowed” coaching style.

“He had his best season under this coach. Enough said on that,” Chiarelli said of Kessel and Julien. “We stress defense first. We stress competitiveness. Having said all that, what were we, first or second in the league in goals scored? And he had 36, 37 goals? Got him a nice raise.”

The B’s coach, for his part, didn’t get all soft and fuzzy on the relationship he had with a slow-to-mature Kessel during their two seasons together in Boston, but he also didn’t feel like the player/coach dynamic was a big factor in the disconnect between Kessel and the Bruins. In his mind, the coach had done everything possible to make things work for both the player and the hockey club.

“I even told him in a conversation that I didn’t get a (salary) bonus for making him into a bad player. Everything I did was to try and make him a better player, and I think that message was understood,” said Julien. “I think last year his season proved that. He seemed to understand the concept of our team, and besides the 36 goals he was a + player. I feel good personally that I did my best to make him the best player I could, and the rest of that stuff has nothing to do with me.

“I’m not going to sugercoat this. He was no different than any other player that you deal with at times. You never have smooth relationships because there’s challenges along the way. What you need to do as a coach is to convince those guys and make them understand and believe that this is what you need to do to be the best team possible. This is what you need to be the best player possible as well. We all know Phil has always grown up as a superstar player, and those guys are a bit of a bigger challenge. But I can tell  you last year there were no issues with him resisting, and there shouldn’t have been because his season proved that it was very successful.” 

Chiarelli addressed the addition of the draft picks and the options that it provides the team with $1.7 million under the salary cap. The swap gives the B’s a grand total of five draft picks in the first two rounds of next year’s draft (two first-rounders and three second-rounders), and affords them plenty of assets should they need a particular player at this season’s trade deadline. The Nashville Predators were the other team seriously in on Kessel and a deal with them would have centered on affordable, young prospects (Ryan Ellis, Jon Blum, Colin Wilson) more than draft picks. But no other team — aside from Brian Burke’s well-heeled Maple Leafs – was willing to pay the 21-year-old $5.4 million a year for four years of restricted free agency and one year of UFA status from Kessel.

In so many ways this move by the Bruins smacks of a New England Patriots-style manuever where there was a particular value on a player, and the B’s front office fortified their long-term future once Toronto’s contract offer shot up into the hockey stratosphere. Many of the same factors and beliefs that were at play in the Richard Seymour deal earlier this month are now rearing up on Causeway Street.

Chiarelli added that he could have matched a potential offer sheet from Toronto and then stored Phil Kessel on LTIR (Long Term Injured Reserve) for the entirety of the regular season if the B’s front office felt it was necessary. That would have been a largely punitive move toward the player, and would have forced the B’s to clear off enough space for his gigantic raise in salary.

Chiarelli surely would have been forced to trade off an Andrew Ference or a Chuck Kobasew — or perhaps Michael Ryder – simply to squeeze Kessel’s $5.4 million under the salary cap. That’s not even broaching the contractual decisions that await Chiarelli next season when Milan Lucic, Blake Wheeler and Marc Savard are all looking for new deals. None of his other available options seemed prudent or feasible once Chiarelli viewed the Kessel situation in totality.

“At the end of the day, we want players that want to be here,” said Chiarelli, who also said the perceived threat of the offer sheet played prominently into the eventual trade. “I know this player is a good player. Obviously he is. He can skate and he can shoot the puck. But we want players that want to be here, and we want to grow the team with those type of players. This isn’t about — and I know the history here — but this isn’t about frugality. There was some significant offers made, and there was little to no attempt to negotiate from the other side.

“Phil’s agent gave me a couple of reasons,” added Chiarelli when asked if he knew why Kessel wanted out of Boston. “I was surprised. I don’t know if really there were other reasons. He has that right as a restricted free agent and he can choose (where he signs). It’s all part of this new CBA whether it’s restricted free agency or unrestricted free agency, it comes earlier and arbitration comes earlier so (a player’s) mobility and choice of location comes earlier.”

There were an overflow of ”it’s a business” type quotes from the Bruins players in the aftermath of the Kessel deal, but interesting viewpoints from team Captain Zdeno Chara and close friend Blake Wheeler came to the fore. Several times  during their three years together,  frustration cropped up with Chara toward the youngster’s game, and then bubbled over in practice.

The towering defenseman hinted afterwards that the young sniper still has a few things to learn about being a successful player in the NHL, and some of it simply comes down to a commitment toward off-ice training and improvements to his game. One imagines that Chara will teach Kessel a few of these painful lessons the first time he ventures into the corners of the TD Garden ice decorated in a Maple Leafs sweater.

“We all know he’s a young, skilled player. When you have young players like that – and not just young players but even older players — you have to realize that you can learn something every day, as they say,” said Chara when asked if he had moments of frustration with #81 during his time in Boston. “He has to realize that learning is a part of the game, and sometimes it’s a little easier and sometimes it’s a little bit harder.” 

While Chara said he hadn’t spoken with Kessel at all, Wheeler still chats regularly on the phone with his former University of Minnesota teammate “3 or 4 times a week” and never got the impression that Kessel was quite so dead-set about not coming back to the Bruins.

“Our conversations were never too  much about hockey or the business aspect of it. It was more like ‘whatever happens, happens,” said Wheeler. “We never had that particular conversation. At the end of the day, maybe, if he had to pick he would have wanted to be here (in Boston). But it just didn’t work out.”

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Kessel Traded To Leafs for draft picks 09.18.09 at 9:59 pm ET
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Phil Kessel finally has found a new home after a protracted summer of fruitless negotiations with the Bruins as a restricted free agent, and landed in Toronto as part of a much-discussed deal that sent three high draft picks back to Boston.  Late Friday night, the Bruins confirmed the deal, which had been reported as a done deal on both TSN and ESPN earlier in the evening. The Bruins scheduled a press conference for 11 a.m. Saturday at the TD Garden for Boston GM Peter Chiarelli to discuss the bold, but not unexpected, move.

The Spoked 'B' and Phil Kessel filed for divorce on Friday night when he was traded to the Maple Leafs

The Spoked 'B' and Phil Kessel filed for divorce on Friday night when he was traded to the Maple Leafs

The Bruins are set to receive Toronto’s first- and second-round draft pick in 2010, and the Leafs’ first-round pick in 2011. With only $1.7 million worth of room under the salary cap, there was a distinct limit on potential position players coming back to Boston in the deal — and in the end there wasn’t a single prospect or established player sent to the B’s in exchange for a 21-year-old sharpshooter that led the team with 36 goals scored last season.

TSN reported that Kessel agreed to a five-year, $27 million contract with the Maple Leafs, which amounts to $5.4 million per season in average salary and in a cap hit to the Maple Leafs. Kessel had denied that he was looking for a $5 million per season contract earlier this summer while speaking with reporters, but the youngster earned that and then some from Toronto GM Brian Burke. Amazingly, Kessel becomes the highest paid player with the biggest salary cap hit on a Maple Leafs team in desperate need of scoring — and makes nearly $1 million more per season than defenseman Mike Komisarek’s $4.5 million per season.

WEEI.com first reported the schism between Kessel and the Bruins in negotiations several weeks ago, and the young goal-scorer reportedly steered a trade to Toronto by refusing to entertain a contract with any of the other potential trading partners for the Bruins. The Nashville Predators publicly voiced interest in Kessel, but the young sniper was determined to find a landing spot for himself in Toronto.

The question now becomes how an introverted young hockey superstar, known to shun the spotlight, will deal with the heightened scrutiny and attention he’s sure to receive as the new face of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Kessel will be Toronto’s highest-paid player at $5.4 million per year, and — as such — will be labeled as the savior for a downtrodden hockey franchise looking to Burke for a way out of the Northeast Division cellar. Kessel has never dealt with the pressure of being “The Man” in a hockey-crazed environment like Toronto, and there are some legitimate questions how he’ll handle the added attention.

Both teams are rolling the dice here. The B’s are keeping the rest of their team intact amid salary cap limitations, and banking that Kessel will never become a game-changing 50-goal scorer with the Maple Leafs. If that happens, then the Bruins could regret the move for years to come. The Maple Leafs are gambling that the 21-year-old hockey wunderkind is just growing into his fast skating speed and deadly wrist shot, and Kessel will turn into the dynamic offensive force Toronto was missing on their roster. 

The 21-year-old winger led the Bruins last season with 36 goals, and he added 24 assists to total a career-high 60 points in 70 games. The return to full health of left wing Marco Sturm from left knee surgery along with continued offensive improvement for Blake Wheeler, Milan Lucic and David Krejci will off-set Kessel’s offensive productuon in the minds of B’s executives, but none of those players have the youngster’s set of scoring tools. His game-breaking ability can’t be duplicated by anybody else on the roster, and that’s certainly a factor that looms large if the B’s go through offensive struggles during the regular season.

Kessel was the team’s third-leading scorer in the playoffs, collecting six goals and five assists in 11 games. In fact, throughout his B’s career Kessel was a point-per-game player in the playoffs with 15 total points in 15 playoff games over the last two seasons. But the young forward clashed with B’s coach Claude Julien over his willingness to always play the kind of impassioned two-way hockey that the Bruins coach demands, and was benched for three games during the 2007-08 playoffs.

Kessel, drafted with the fifth overall pick in 2006 out of the University of Minnesota, ends his Bruins career with 126 points on 66 goals and 60 assists in 222 regular-season games.

Kessel, who had offseason rotator cuff and labrum surgery and is expected to be sidelined at least until November, overcame testicular cancer in 2006, his rookie season in the NHL. In 2007, the Wisconsin native was awarded the Masterton Trophy for perseverance and dedication to hockey. Kessel also missed 12 games with a bout of mononucleosis and the shoulder injury last season.

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Report: Kessel is steering toward a Maple Leafs trade at 10:16 am ET
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Phil Kessel should be careful about wishing he was playing for Toronto

Phil Kessel should be careful about wishing he was playing for Toronto

The Toronto Maple Leafs are the first choice as a landing spot for B’s winger Phil Kessel, according to a TSN report by Bob McKenzie, and could aggressively come at the Bruins with an offer sheet by this weekend if an agreeable trade isn’t completed. The report underscores genuine interest in Kessel on the part of the Nashville Predators and a desire for the B’s to ship the 21-year-old scorer off to the Western Conference if all things were equal, but the young sniper is reportedly steering a deal exclusively toward Toronto.

The reports paint a picture of Kessel in a cat-bird position of being able to refuse any other contract offers from other teams so long as the Maple Leafs are interested in his sniping services, and estimates that the B’s restricted free agent is in line to cash in on an offer sheet from the Maple Leafs in the neighborhood of five or six years at an annual cap hit of $5.5 million. That’s a healthy step up from the previous estimates that the young forward was looking for a pact of  roughly $4.5 million per season, but speaks to just how badly Toronto needs some offensive punch.

The Boston Globetossed out a potential three-way deal between the Rangers, Bruins and Leafs that would net the B’s draft picks and equally unsigned RFA Brandon Dubinsky, but not sure that’s anything more than some creative spit-balling. It would involve a lot of moving parts to get three teams moving onto the same page this close to the regular season.

A Leafs/Bruins trade has been centered largely upon draft picks during multiple conversations between Toronto GM Brian Burke and Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli, but the talks have also also included several young, cost-effective players possibly being sent Boston’s way during a potential deal.

Former UVM skater Viktor Stalberg is one intriguing forward prospect that caught the eye of more than one Bruins player during Wednesday night’s preseason game at the Air Canada Centre. It wouldn’t be shocking to see the former Catamounts forward included in part of a package that already includes multiple draft picks in excess of the offer sheet compensation required to potential sign Kessel (a first round pick, a second round pick and a third round pick).

By all accounts Kessel and agent Wade Arnott are now steering the USS Kessel straight toward Toronto and seem to be locking in on Boston’s Northeast Division rival while holding the requisite leverage that they could simply sign an offer sheet with Toronto should Chiarelli trade him anywhere else. That threat takes on added significance with so many teams so close to finalizing their salary cup numbers and finishing player payroll budgets just shy of the Oct. 1 season-opening deadline to get under the $56.8 million cap.

One cavaet that the Kessel camp should consider carefully before pushing so strongly for a long and prosperous deal with the Maple Leafs: Kessel is significantly Garbo-esque when it comes to dealing with the pressure and expectations from a good-sized media market like Boston, and playing under the the raised pressure and super-sized scrutiny synonymous with the Maple Leafs jersey would be taking it to a much higher level.

The 21-year-old sniper will be paid like a sniping savior for the huddled and weary masses of Leafs Nation, and he isn’t yet equipped with the tools to deal with those kinds of lofty expectations. It could get ugly if Kessel underwhelms while coming back from a shoulder injury, or if his sometimes softer-side-of-Sears approach clashes with the dynamically stern duo of Ron Wilson and Brian Burke. By all accounts Kessel seems hell-bent on a final destination of Toronto, but this could be a classic case of “be careful what you ask for” when the young skater finally gets it.

Interesting comments from B’s coach Claude Julien speaking during the first days of camp about the work put in over the summer by Blake Wheeler. The second-year player put in a great deal of work in the weight room gaining 15 pounds of muscle, and appears on the verge of some very good things working toward a potential spot on the top line with Marc Savard and Milan Lucic.

Julien began the answer addressing Wheeler’s impressive work, but also seemed to provide some pretty interesting comments about where the disconnect might have been with a rare scoring talent like Phil Kessel. The 21-year-old winger made the Bruins team during his first year of pro hockey in 2006-07 under the structurally-challenged regime of Dave Lewis, and developed some bad habits amid an undesirable, losing atmosphere at a crucial point in the young hockey player’s development.  

“The one thing that really played in Blake’s favor was that he had the opportunity to play on a team with a successful regular season,” said Julien.  ”When you win games — and see what it takes to play on a successful team that wins games on a night-in, night out basis — then you’re learning properly.

“Not everybody has the opportunity to be put into those [winning] situations, and you can play a lot — but you’re playing for a team that’s struggling at the bottom of the standings. It doesn’t mean that you’re growing in the right environment. [Blake] was able to [learn properly], and I think that’s an advantage he had over other players.” 

Hmmm. I wonder who the “other player” is?

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Report: Predators have submitted offer for Kessel 09.17.09 at 1:06 pm ET
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The Nashville Predators have made a formal offer to the Bruins for 21-year-old sniper Phil Kessel, according to a report in the Tennessean, and that offer included draft picks and young prospects. Preds GM Dave Poile confirmed the report with the newspaper, and also handicapped his team’s chances against offers from the Toronto Maple Leafs for the talented forward. According to a CBC report, the Leafs are offering a pair of first rounders and a second round pick — and possibly a player — to Boston for the unsigned restricted free agent.

That collection of high draft picks sent along for Kessel — along with a potential Bruins draft pick getting shipped back up to the Leafs in exchange for the scorer — could be the best of both worlds for the B’s: it sets the Bruins up to be a major player at the next couple of NHL drafts if they wanted to make a move on a player, and it allows the team to fit snugly under the salary cap this season without moving any more primary pieces.

“I certainly believe in being aggressive and persistent and going after what I want. But I’ve made it clear what we can do,” Poile said to the newspaper. “It’s fairly apparent what other teams are doing. If (Chiarelli) gets two firsts and a second, he’s getting really good compensation. But it is all in the eye of the beholder for a 21-year-old player who scored 36 goals.”

It’s been obvious for weeks that Kessel wouldn’t remain with the Boston Bruins, and both B’s GM Peter Chiarelli and Kessel have maintained that they’d like the situation to be resolved prior to the start of the NHL season on Oct. 1. For Kessel, he’d like to know where he’s going to be playing when he comes back from off-season shoulder surgery in late November, and Chiarelli needs to work out a deal prior to the NHL salary cap locking in at $56.8 million during the first day of the regular season.

The Minnesota Wild and New York Rangers are also reportedly in the running, but there may be a surprise team or two in the mix for the 21-year-old Kessel’s services. A deal has been imminent for Kessel since he went back to Wisconsin following the Team USA Orientation camp in August, and now it appears that the contractual impasse is about to get bridged using a third party.

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Report: Nashville Predators covet Kessel in potential deal 09.12.09 at 7:40 pm ET
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The Nashville Predators are one of several teams in the running for a potential Phil Kessel trade with the Boston Bruins, according to the Tennessean, and Nashville GM David Poile confirmed interest to the newspaper in a report published Saturday. Poile admitted that he’s spoken with both Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli and Kessel’s agent, Wade Arnott, in recent days, and had nothing but flattering things to say about the 21-year-old sniper.

 ”He’s a young player that scores goals,” said Poile, who also admitted that the Preds wouldn’t be interested in signing Kessel to an offer sheet “and that’s very much of interest to us. We’ve talked concepts. I’d be very interested to see if there might be something he would like from the Predators.”

The Preds have a long list of younger players that could be intriguing to Chiarelli including Russian KHL refugee Alexander Radulov, first round draft pick and former Boston University skater Colin Wilson, Jonathan Blum, Ryan Ellis, Cody Franson and Ryan Suter. Including within those talented puck youngsters are a plethora of talented young defensemen that could supply a serious talent transfusion to a B’s blueline stock that doesn’t boast the greatest amount of depth organizationally.

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‘State of the Bruins’ Meeting set for September 17 09.11.09 at 12:22 pm ET
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The Boston Bruins will hold their annual “State of the Bruins” Town Hall Meeting on Thursday, September 17 at 6:30 p.m. ET at the TD Garden.  Attending this year’s State of the Bruins from the Bruins organization will be Owner Jeremy Jacobs, Principal Charlie Jacobs, General Manager Peter Chiarelli, Vice President Cam Neely, Head Coach Claude Julien, forward Milan Lucic and defenseman Derek Morris.

The Town Hall Meeting gives Bruins season ticket holders and premium ticket holders a forum to speak directly with Bruins personnel and to ask questions and provide comments about the organization and team.  In addition, everyone present at the “State of the Bruins” will get an exclusive first look and the opportunity to pre-order the Winter Classic jersey, which will be unveiled at the event. Bruins alumni and NESN color commentator, Andy Brickley will serve as the evening’s moderator.

The Bruins executives will discuss the current “State of the Bruins” before the question and answer session begins.
The “State of the Bruins” meeting will follow the first official on-ice day of Bruins training camp held at TD Garden on the morning of Sunday, Sept. 13 beginning at 10 a.m. The Bruins will celebrate the opening of the club’s 2009-2010 campaign by holding a used equipment sale and offer fans free breakfast, courtesy of TD Bank, as part of the first full day of 2009 Bruins Training Camp on September 13.

On Sunday, the first day of official on-ice work for the team, fans will have access to two practice sessions beginning at 10:00 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., free of charge.  Doors will open at 9:30 a.m. and breakfast, including breakfast sandwiches, fruit, yogurt, coffee and juice, will be served on a first-come, first-served basis.

In conjunction with the open training camp sessions, Bruins fans will have the opportunity to purchase equipment used by Bruins players from past and present.  Items that will be available include skates, socks, pads and helmets, among others.  A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Boston Bruins Foundation. The used equipment sale will begin at 8:30 a.m. for Bruins season ticket holders and 9:30 a.m. for the general public.

The 54-player Bruins training camp roster is listed below.

2009 BRUINS TRAINING CAMP ROSTER (SUBJECT TO CHANGE):
Forwards (31):
Jamie Arniel, Steve Begin, Patrice Bergeron, Byron Bitz, Jordan Caron,
Zach Hamill, Jordan Knackstedt, Chuck Kobasew, David Krejci, Drew
Larman, Guillaume Lefebvre, Mikko Lehtonen, Jeff LoVecchio, Milan Lucic,
Brad Marchand, Matt Marquardt, Lane MacDermid, Kirk MacDonald, Levi
Nelson, Tyler Randell, Mark Recchi, Yannick Riendeau, Michael Ryder,
Marc Savard, Max Sauve, Vladimir Sobotka, Marco Sturm, Shawn Thornton,
Blake Wheeler, Trent Whitfield, Jason Wilson

Defensemen (16):
Andrew Bodnarchuk, Johnny Boychuk, Ryan Button, Zdeno Chara, Drew Fata,
Andrew Ference, Alain Goulet, Matt Hunwick, Rob Kwiet, Adam McQuaid,
Derek Morris, Zach McKelvie, Jeff Penner, Mark Stuart, Dennis Wideman,
Andy Wozniewski

Goaltenders (7):
Adam Courchaine, Matt Dalton, Michael Hutchinson, Tuukka Rask, Kevin
Regan, Dany Sabourin, Tim Thomas

Unsigned Restricted Free Agents as of September 10 (1)
Phil Kessel

Bruins season ticket holders and premium ticket holders wishing to attend should log on to their ticket holder account and print their State of the Bruins tickets by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, September 14. This will be a ticketed event, as State of the Bruins tickets will be scanned at the TD Garden turnstiles. Any questions can be directed to the Bruins Fan Relations Department at 617.624.BEAR (2327).

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B’s sign Wozniewski to a one-year contract 09.09.09 at 5:19 pm ET
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The Boston Bruins announced on Wednesday afternoon that they’ve signed 29-year-old veteran defenseman Andy Wozniewski to a one-year contract. Wozniewski played mostly in the AHL last season for both the Peoria Rivermen and the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Penguins, and racked up 3 goals and 18 assists in 74 games.

Wozniewski also played a single game for the St. Louis Blues last season, and has 12 career points and 81 penalty minutes in 77 NHL games played for the Blues and Maple Leafs in his career. Wozniewski also played 17 games as a freshman for UMass-Lowell in 1999-2000 before transferring to the University of Wisconsin. Wozniewski should provide the Bruins with additional depth along the blueline if injuries hit during training camp or the early season months.

It’s expected that Wozniewski would likely break training camp with the Providence Bruins should the Black and Gold blueline corps remain healthy through the exhibition season.

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