|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?
|Report: Predators have submitted offer for Kessel||09.17.09 at 1:06 pm ET|
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.
|Report: Nashville Predators covet Kessel in potential deal||09.12.09 at 7:40 pm ET|
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.
|A resolution may be near for Kessel, Bruins||09.10.09 at 3:18 pm ET|
A fascinating multi-layered piece from Elliotte Friedman on his CBC blog on Wednesday afternoon appears to be a meaningful shot over the bow of Phil Kessel and agent Wade Arnott amid reports that Kessel has moved on from potential contract talks with the Bruins. According to a Boston.com account, hockey sources claim that Arnott has informed Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli that both player and agent are beginning to negotiate with the 29 other NHL teams holding potential interest in the restricted free agent.
Not much of a shock there as Kessel’s camp and the Bruins haven’t really spoken at all through an entire summer to negotiate a fair deal for the 21-year-old sniper. So now they’re moving on to teams that might be willing to pay the $4-5 million freight that Kessel’s market should likely bear on the free agent market. The B’s have roughly $1.7 million in cap space with training camp set to begin this weekend, and the two sides are looking at a contactual chasm as wide as the Grand Canyon. Tough to refute a lot of Friedman’s observations in a column culled from discussions with unnamed Bruins sources, but they are damning to Kessel nonetheless.
One thing should be added to Friedman’s revealing snapshot of Kessel from some eyes within the walls of Causeway Street. Kessel led the Bruins with 36 goals and was among the top 20 goal-scorers in the NHL last season while ranking 116th in the NHL in terms of power play ice time per game. That should give hockey followers an idea of how much higher his hockey production can rise. Kessel also missed a dozen games while fighting through mononucleosis and the late-season shoulder injury that resulted in off-season surgery, and would have easily cleared 40 goals had he remained healthy.
Among the interesting tidbits from Friedman are:
–Kessel wouldn’t play through a torn labrum and torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder until teammates informed the young winger that fellow teammates were playing through much worse injuries.
–The talented winger is a gifted skater and shooter that enjoyed a breakout season in 2008-09, but much of Kessel’s production was attributed to Kessel’s pairing with Marc Savard last season. Kessel needs to skate witha gifted passer that can get him the puck in spots where he can utilize his blazing speed, but that could be said of just about every scorer worth their salt in the NHL. Without a crafty playmaking “piece” like Savard skating with him, Friedman wrote, a Kessel experiment would fail.
–Kessel is compared to hulking winger Milan Lucic in terms of work ethic and willingness to improve his strengthwith weight room dedication, and Kessel isn’t looked upon favorably. There’s been whispers throughout Kessel’s years in Boston that the youngster is averse to needed weight room work and is slow to absorb constructive criticism from the coaching staff and teammates. It’s part of the reason he’s been mentioned prominently in trade rumors in each of his three seasons with the Bruins, and it’s why the goal-scorer is again on the verge of being dealt away to another NHL destination.
One other hockey fact that rings true about the Kessel/Lucic comparison: Looch is going to be a cornerstone player for years to come with the Bruins, but the youngster doesn’t possess the hands, speed and shot to score 36 goals in a season.
Kessel is also compared with 23-year-old Krejci, and again the goal-scoring phenom isn’t cast in a favorable light. Krejci is more respected in the room for playing through a hip injury that required surgery without a complaint during the season, and he was awarded with a three-year, $3.75 million contract that is actually viewed as very club-friendly in many circles.
The Bruins set something of a ceiling for Kessel in their own minds with the $3.75 annual salary awarded to the playmaking Krejci, but goal-scoring players with Kessel’s skill-set always command more salary than their assist-happy, two-way playing brethren. An elite — or potentially elite — goal-scorer is the most rare and valuable commodity in today’s NHL. Kessel is the only skater on the Boston Bruins roster with that kind of potential, and nobody can match his blend of speed, skill and wrist shot on the roster.
–Kessel has had some fairly well-documented run-ins with B’s coach Claude Julien during their two years together in Boston, and culminated in Kessel getting benched three games in favor or Jeremy Reich for the 2007-08 playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens. Reportedly they’ve argued on things as trivial as the stick that Kessel is using in games and the youngster isn’t very receptive to criticism of any kind.
Apparently the Bruins have also required “good cops” in the Bruins locker room — teammates on the winger’s side that make sure Kessel has the proper support system in place within the B’s dressing room. Kessel would be extremely uncomfortable under the Toronto microscope if that’s where he were to eventually end up when he’s ready to play in mid-to-early November. That situation would be further exacerbated if Kessel doesn’t have the very-same support system in place with the stern Ron Wilson and blustery Brian Burke running the Maple Leafs Show.
One unnamed Bruins teammate referenced Kessel’s combination of youth and immaturity, and assumed that he’ll learn as he gains age and experience. That should be true, and his goal totals should also grow as he gains more power play time and enters his hockey-playing prime. Ruling out growth and improvement in an asset so skilled as Kessel would be unwise, but it appears that too much water has already traveled under the bridge between player and hockey team. How many times does a player have to hear his name involved with aborted trade proposals before he begins to believe that his own hockey team truly doesn’t want him on the roster anymore?
Two? Three? Maybe four?
A difficult free agency negotiation and countless trade rumors during Kessel’s career have taken their toll on the essential bond of trust between player and organization, and it appears that the end is in sight soon. All that remains is to see what hockey sweater Kessel will wear next season. Because it certainly doesn’t appear that it’ll be the Black and Gold of the Spoked ‘B’.
|Chiarelli: ‘disturbed when they talk about us being cheap’||09.04.09 at 12:44 pm ET|
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.’
|Sharks free up cap space for Phil Kessel?||08.28.09 at 3:36 pm ET|
Interesting roster movements made on Friday afternoon by the San Jose Sharks, who have been rumored to be in the Dany Heatley derby this summer while looking to peddle Patrick Marleau after another underachieving postseason. Sharks GM Ron Wilson dealt away a pair of middle-class hockey players to the Vancouver Canucks for two young skaters, and freed up roughly $4.65 million in salary cap space for the upcoming season in the process.
Defenseman/power play specialist Christian Ehrhoff has two years left on his contract at $3.1 million per year and forward Brad Lukowich has a $1.567 million cap hit in his final season before unrestricted free agency, and the two players San Jose got in return (University of Minnesota forward Patrick White and AHL player Daniel Rahimi) aren’t expected to be big role players for the upcoming season.
So the Sharks freed up $4.667 in salary cap space while heading into the last few weeks of the off-season, and require at least two more forward spots to round up their NHL roster among the top 12-forwards for next season. It doesn’t take a noted puckologist to assume that Dany Heatley and Phil Kessel are two of the best skill forwards still hanging out there in hockey limbo, and the Sharks have been rumored to be in the Kessel run at several different points over the last few months.
“This trade speaks to the confidence we have in the young players coming up through our system who have earned the right to compete for a spot on this team,’ said Sharks GM Doug Wilson in discussing the deal. ‘It also creates some flexibility in our team payroll for potential future transactions as the season progresses and adds two more talented players to our reserve list that can help this organization in the future.’
The $4.667 million in payroll flexibility also fits in roughly with what Kessel was expected to be looking for in a multi-year deal this summer while rehabbing right shoulder surgery. That figure is far from the $5 million per year Jeff Carter-type money that some assumed Kessel and agent Wade Arnott were chasing after, and is pretty close to what Kessel comparables like David Booth and Alexander Semin are currently making in terms of player salary.
The 21-year-old sniper is expected to miss all of October while recovering fully from the rotator cuff/labrum surgery, and will be hard-pressed to match his 36-goal output from last season given the injury situation. During his recent participation in the Team USA Orientation Camp, Kessel indicated that he’d like something in the neighborhood of a three-year deal and expected that his deal would be done by the beginning of the NHL season on Oct. 1. Adding to the intrigue is that Kessel’s name doesn’t appear on a quick afternoon perusal of the team’s roster on www.bostonbruins.com, though that doesn’t mean anything definitively (Kessel was added back to the online roster by the early morning hours of Saturday).
Arnott told WEEI.com in an interview earlier this summer that Kessel was willing to be “creative” in terms of contract discussions, and that his client had directed him to get a deal done with the Bruins before entertaining offers from other teams.
The $4.65 million is probably right around where Kessel expected his payday to be at the beginning of this summer, as his numbers and service time are pretty much right in lock-step with Florida Panthers forwar David Booth. Booth signed a six-year, $25.5 million contract this summer amid the current hockey economy that’s going to pay him $4.25 million annually for the next six seasons.
The chances of Kessel getting awarded that kind of salary from the Bruins are “slim and none” as long as fellow teams avoid the option of signing the talented young restricted free agent to an offer sheet — but perhaps that’s about to change with the Sharks payroll shed on Friday afternoon. Wilson told reporters that the money was freed up to make moves “as the season progresses”, but it remains to be seen whether that means a new home for Kessel riding shotgun with Jumbo Joe Thornton.