|Lucic ready to remain in Boston ‘a long time’||10.08.09 at 10:02 am ET|
That being said, B’s winger Shawn Thornton told the rookie to forget about taking the veterans out to celebratory dinner. He’s expecting designer watches for all his teammates following the 21-year-old winger’s big contractual score.
“I want watches with that contract,” said Thornton. “Forget about dinner. We want Breitlings.”
All joking and designer watches aside, Lucic made it clear to Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli and head coach Claude Julien during last year’s exit interview meetings that he loved Boston. When it came time to think about his NHL future, he didn’t want to play hockey anywhere else. Not even in his hometown of Vancouver where the Canucks — among other NHL teams — would have made a run at the overpowering left winger had he reached restricted free agency.
“He expressed to me that he loved being a Bruin, and that he wanted to a Bruin for a long time,” said the B’s front office man. “I love the way Milan plays. I love the way he carries himself on and off the ice. He’s a very humble person and he deserves this.”
The B’s general manager didn’t immediately jump into extension talks with Lucic, and instead first dealt with David Krejci, Phil Kessel and the rest of his roster-building decisions over the summer. But once the team was solidified and Kessel’s situation was mercifully addressed, the two sides quickly found some mutual ground and finished negotiations on a three-year deal worth $12.25 million.
For Lucic, it’s a hefty reward for throwing his body the last two plus seasons and relishing the physical style that has come to define his game. The hulking forward has enough skill to skate with top-line players, and could end up being an annual 25-goal scorer when it’s all said and done. He’s one of the most ferocious, punishing physical forces in hockey. There aren’t many that combine those two brutish and beautiful skills into one player package, and there isn’t a better place than Boston to incubate such a talent.
What made this such a good fit for Lucic when there might have been a Kessel-esque $5 million plus per year offer sheet waiting for him on July 1?
“My first year here was a great experience for me, and the culture that we created in the room as teammates and the coaching staff wanting us to get better,” said Lucic. “Peter [Chiarelli] wants us to be competitive and be up there with the other three teams in Boston. Just the city itself is such a great sports town, and you want to be a part of that for a long time. I know I do.”
It’s a whopper of a raise for Lucic, who jumps from this season’s rookie salary of $685,000 to the $4 million mark next season, but it also continues a trend of huge second contracts for young NHL stars coming out of their entry-level rookie deals. Chiarelli said the second-contract phenomenon was something he continues to be uncomfortable with, but assured it was a league-wide issue likely to be addressed during the next CBA negotiations.
“Milan has been a very good performer for us. His skill set, his character set and his physicality are all tremendous assets to our organization, and typify what it means to be a Bruin,” said Chiarelli.
Lucic’s contract gives the Bruins roughly $42 million in salary dedicated to next season’s team with plenty of free agents hitting the market next summer. Blake Wheeler, Mark Stuart and Tuukka Rask will all be restricted free agents while Marc Savard, Derek Morris, Steve Begin, Andrew Ference and Thornton will all be unrestricted free agents come July 1. Per CBA rules, Chiarelli can negotiate with players like Savard, Ference and Thornton all through the year, but has to wait until Jan. 1 to potentially open talks with Morris and Begin.
Not all of Boston’s free agents will be returning given the expected movement downward of the $56.8 salary cap level for next season.
“It’s a difficult task because not only are you talking about the [RFA's], but you’re also talking about other guys who are in the last years of their contracts and want to stay here,” said Chiarelli. “It’s not easy. There are a lot of uncertain things that you’re waiting to see happen, so you can plan better. We obviously just went through a lot of this stuff with Phil [Kessel]. I do my best and this is certainly a piece of the puzzle.
“It’s just my day-to-day business. We have to make the tough decisions, and act proactively.”
The pact also allows Chiarelli another round of winnable negotiations with Lucic, who will still be an RFA after the 2013 season when his three-year extension expires. It’ll be interesting to see how close Lucic gets to the hockey idol he’s most closely compared to — Cam Neely — and how his body handles the jarring physical style the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder plays over the next four years.
Savard has skated with Lucic on Boston’s top line for the better part of two years, and sees a young hockey pup that still has plenty of room to grow moving forward in his career.
“He’s your prototypical Bruins, I think,” said Savard. “It’s good for him and organization. They made a big step forward today. He’s a young leader right now and I think he’s going to take bigger steps in that role down the line.
“We’ve talked about [Lucic's upside] a lot. I’m always going to push him for more, and I know he wants more. He’s always hungry and he always wants to help the team win. He wants to produce every night, and I think that’s a bonus. He’s a big guy for somebody to be taking them under their wing, but I’ve definitely taken him under my wing. I’d like to be here with him to continue watching him grow.”
With Lucic now in the books through the 2012-13 season, it might just be Savard’s turn to make a big contract announcement over the next few months. There’s no telling what Thornton will expect for gifts if that deal ever comes to fruition.
|Milan Lucic on D&H, 10/7||10.07.09 at 7:30 pm ET|
When did you start talking about contracts?
During the preseason, right around the start of camp. Peter [Chiarelli] came up to me and we had a little meeting. We talked about extending and staying here. It all started last year during our year-end meetings. I had a meeting with Peter and I talked to him and told him I wanted to be a Bruin for a long time and it was my goal to stick around in Boston. Because it’s such a great organization. I love playing at the TD Garden and playing in front of the Bruins fans because they’ve been so great. I’ve grown to love this city and I just love being here, everything about it.
Was it an easy negotiation?
It went pretty smoothly. I think both parties came to an agreement pretty well. In the end we’re both happy, we’re both thrilled, we’re both excited and that’s the main thing.
Were you worried about it being a distraction?
Maybe, a lot of guys tend to think about it a little too much, when it’s a contract year. It’s always sticking in the back of your head. You’re always thinking about it. But now that it’s over for me I don’t have to think about it anymore and I can just go out there and play and help the team win.
|Benning signs multi-year extension with B’s||09.30.09 at 5:53 pm ET|
B’s GM Peter Chiarelli announced Wednesday afternoon that Bruins assistant general manager Jim Benning has agreed to a multi-year extension with the club. Benning is entering his fourth year with the B’s — and third season as assistant GM — after departing the Buffalo Sabres organization following a 12-year run in their front office. Don Sweeney was also named an assistant general manager of the Bruins last week, and both Sweeney and Benning will share the far-ranging hockey duties encompassed by the role.
‘Jim plays a critical role in our management group,’ said Chiarelli. ‘He takes a very aggressive and proactive approach in his recommendations and assessments underscoring his tremendous management ability and experience. His player evaluation is amongst the tops in the industry and his business acumen supplements our group greatly. We were very fortunate as an organization to hire him in 2006 and we are even more fortunate to secure him for the long term.’
Benning and Chiarelli will hold a Thursday morning press conference at the TD Garden to further discuss the deal and the assistant GM’s role within the organization.
|Transcript: Bruins Media Day Press Conference||09.28.09 at 9:28 pm ET|
The Boston Bruins held their pre-season media today this morning. The session started with a press conference panel of owner Jeremy Jacobs, principal owner Charlie Jacobs, head coach Claude Julien, general manager Peter Chiarelli, and vice president Cam Neely. The transcript from the press conference is below.
Pressure to live up to last year’s 116 points within the sports culture of Boston?
Jeremy Jacobs: Simple answer? Yes. There is an expectation on my part and the community at large. I share the same goal, my ambition is to win a Stanley Cup and I think we have the personalities in place from management, coaching and players. So, I look for a great season and will be disappointed if there is anything less than that.
How impressed are you with the brain trust that has been put together in the front office?
Jeremy Jacobs: I think he [Peter Chiarelli] has done a great job. We’ve extended our relationship and our contract and I expect that we are building on something. Every body here [the media] are all totally and justifiably critical when we stumbled at first but we got it going and stayed with it and I think the organization is working really well and I think there are personalities in place to run it.
On sending Brad Marchand and Zach Hamill down and the depth of the organization.
Chiarelli: I think both of them have had tremendous camps and I told Zach this morning that, we had talked about him playing at the rookie tournament and when some of the other guys just didn’t play. That was good thing that he did, you could see it in how he played in the main camp. I said that most importantly it was the work he did in the development camp, the summer camp, so you have to build on it when you go down to Providence. I told him he had a good camp. I told him he has to work on his battles when he goes down low and I thought the speed caught up to him a little bit at the end.
When I talked to Brad I told him that he had a very good camp and that he was on the right track and while his game is always simple, sometimes down in Providence it tended to get a little complicated and we tried to fix that and he tried to fix it during the camp. So, two young kids, both speak well for the future.
Those guys and the guys we assigned down on Saturday. I like our depth here. It is in different sorts, it’s not just a finesse player here or something but players that can fill in different capacities.
On health situation at the start of the year.
Chiarelli: As of today, I haven’t talked to the training staff, but as of today I believe we will be pretty healthy at the start of the year unless something were to happen between now and then. You hear of a lot of these teams with groins and hips and, you know, it was a condensed training camp this year and we had maybe one more game than maybe we wanted to. So, I think Claude [Julien] can speak to this, but I think the off day yesterday was good and I think we will get some productive work in between now and the start of the year.
On having first five games at home.
Julien: Well, first of all I think the first part of the season is probably more important no matter whether you are on the home or on the road than most people think and it’s been brought to our attention every year that teams in good shape on Thanksgiving are usually the teams that end up in the playoffs. So, we are aware of that and the important-cy of getting off to a good start but even more so this year in front of our fans. No doubt the first five games in front of our fans will be crucial in their minds.
Filling Phil Kessel‘s Shoes.
Julien: We are confident with the team that we have here, no doubt. We have Marco Sturm back and healthy so, as a group we are a strong team. We fell stronger as well with some young guys having matured and Marco Sturm in as I mentioned he was out most of last year. David Krejci is ahead of the curve right now and we’re hopefully looking forward to seeing him in the opener. All in all I think our team is in great shape. Tuuka Rask is going to be a great goaltender to support Tim [Thomas].
We’re very confident and I think this Kessel issue for us is in the past and we’re moving forward.
Addition of ECHL Redding team helping the organization.
Chiarelli: We will providing some players there as those who won’t be on Providence. So, anytime you can expand your organization depth wise it’s going to help in the long run. I think we are probably going to provide two or three players there, so, it is a good addition. The last few years we have had east coast affiliates and I think they are affiliated with a couple other teams so they have good staff there and good for the development of our young guys.
On what the race for the conference will look like.
Julien: I am not one to look at these situations as a whole and just sit there and say that we have to be at the top. I think we have to work our way to the top, just like we did last year. There is nothing different except that the challenge will be bigger. There is more respect towards our team this year so obviously there are teams around our conference who are certainly improved. Philadelphia is one of those teams with [Chris] Pronger on the back end, they are certainly going to be a better team. I don’t think I am going to spend all my energy worrying about what’s on the outside. I think it’s important to worry about your back yard and for me it is about the preparation of our team. I have said all along that if teams want to beat us, they are going to have to adapt to us, because we are not going to adapt to others. We play our style of game and we feel confident with it and we will go forward with it as well.
Patrice Bergeron has an extra bounce to his skates this pre-season?
Julien: I think Patrice has taken off where he left off last year. You know, he went through a lot and we were patient and helped him along the way to find his game again but what he went through is something that you don’t want to see again and I think he had a great second half and even the playoffs. I have mentioned that before, he was one of our best forwards in the series. I think he was excited about it when he left here last year and is excited about coming back and I think that is a continuation of what you saw last year.
For someone who has played in the finals twice, what does this team need to do to reach that mark?
Neely: We just need to learn from last year. As a player you learn from the experiences you go through. I think when we got to the finals in 1988 it was the first time for a lot of us to be in the finals and I think a lot of us, including myself, were thrilled to be in the finals. Then, in ‘90, we understood what happened in ‘88 and we don’t look at it like we are excited to be in the finals. You have to remember two years ago, for a lot of our players it was their first time being in the playoffs and a lot of our key players, it was the first time for them. So, the learned from that series and took it a little bit further last year and what I always have these guys try to remember is how it felt to win those games and how it felt to lose that final game and you can learn from that. I think we have a lot of guys that know we should have gone a little deeper than we did and I think they’re hungry to get back to that challenge to go a little deeper.
Will the team be actively searching the waiver wire as the league wide roster cut deadline looms?
Chiarelli: Waiver acquisition that we’d look at? You basically react to that. You have a general idea of who is going to be on and we will look at who is on today. We will see who is up there and I suspect we will see some activity as far as trading players, for teams that are under cap crunches. So, I will be fielding some calls but I don’t anticipate anything happening.
On Versus and Direct TV customers not seeing opening night.
Jeremy Jacobs: I think you are right, it doesn’t look good. The commissioner and everybody in the league office is doing what they can do but the situation is not within our control. We know how unhappy the whole hockey world is. I think the best thing is that everybody should be put on notice that if they want to watch our game with what the circumstances are, if they want to watch our game get to a location where they can see it from. Right now it does not look good to be broadcast. They are moving at glacial speed.
Giving Sturm a try out on the top line with Savard considering how the speedy Kessel played there.
Julien: We’d certainly like, to a certain extent, put some speed again on that wing and Marc is good at finding those guys so we will give those guys a try. Like I mentioned through training camp there is nothing carved in stone. We are going to put the best lines together as we can possibly find and if that means tweaking them and moving them around we will until we find the right combination. I think right now it is worth having a look at and Marco has played the off wing before and he feels comfortable there as well so, again, there is a guy who hasn’t played in a while so we have to take that into consideration whether he’s on top of his game or whether he is trying to find it again.
With the stable situations in the front office and on the ice, what are the tweaking points that could be made during the season?
Chiarelli: Structurally I do not foresee anything. I mean, we always exchange ideas and philosophies where we hope to improve the communication between the management, the coaching staff and the team. We always look to improve. I can’t tell you anything that we haven’t told you already, I know there are some themes that Claude and I have talked about that we want to impress on the team all year. Besides that, I am happy where we are at. We always look to improve but there will nothing really significant from within the management group.
|Chiarelli: Kessel ‘no longer wanted to play in Boston’||09.19.09 at 12:03 pm ET|
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.”
|Kessel Traded To Leafs for draft picks||09.18.09 at 9:59 pm ET|
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 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.
|Report: Kessel is steering toward a Maple Leafs trade||at 10:16 am ET|
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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