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Thomas and Kessel commence Team USA tryouts 08.18.09 at 11:59 am ET
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Vezina Trophy winning goaltender Tim Thomas and unsigned sniper Phil Kessel are the only two Bruins representatives attending Team USA Orientation Camp this week at the Seven Bridges Arena in Woodridge, Il. — and both players were among the 34 skaters invited to appear Monday for workouts and team-bonding exercises leading up to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Kessel, a restricted free agent without arbitration rights, is mired in a contract stalemate with the B’s that clearly isn’t headed for a quick ending. The increasingly rare chance that another team swoops in with a $4-5 million per year offer sheet for Kessel could change the tenor of negotiations, or the 21-year-old winger could drop all contractual demands and agree to something in the neighborhood of David Krejci money (three years for $3.75 per year).

Unless either of those things happen — and both seem to have long shot chances of happening — then it could be an address-changing trade that ends up shifting some movement from one or both sides, as Kessel clearly wants his contract situation resolved before the NHL regular season begins in October.

In some interesting comments made to the USA Today’s Kevin Allen on Monday, Kessel said that he fully expects to be signed — one way or the other — by the time the regular season begins on Oct. 1. There had been some speculation that last season’s 36-goal scorer would be A) out until December with rotator cuff/labrum surgery on his right shoulder and B) could hold out until Dec. 1 before finalizing his contract.

Kessel put that notion to bed on Monday, and said that he intends to be ready for game-action by early-to-mid November. According to the player, he already has 95 percent strength in his shoulder. and should be ready to skate some time in September. 

The young B’s winger also admitted that the two sides are in something of a “stalemate”, but that some kind of resolution will be made when the NHL season commences on Oct. 1. It’s been a very civilized negotiation between agent Wade Arnott and B’s GM Peter Chiarelli thus far, and Chiarelli has already made statements that Kessel will be returning to Boston next season barring an outlandish offer sheet from another NHL team. To this date, there hasn’t been one offer sheet given to an RFA player this summer.

“It’s at a stalemate and I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Kessel said to the USA Today. “‘€¦I think it could go either way at this point.”

Is there a date that Kessel expects to sign by?

“There is no date,” Kessel said to the USA Today. “Either way it will get done before the season for sure.”

Fellow 21-year-old young gun Anze Kopitar struck it rich with the LA Kings for a multi-year deal that’s going to pay him $6.8 million per season for the next seven years, but a better comp for Kessel continues to be Florida Panthers forward David Booth. Booth has similar service time and stats to Kessel, and inked a market-setting six-year, $25.5 million deal this summer as a restricted free agent.

The cap hit amounts to $4.25 million per season for the Panthers, and that is exactly what just about every hockey observer outside the negotiations felt that the young B’s superstar would eventually settle in for. It remains to be seen when that actually happens, but it’s safe to say it’ll be in September if Kessel has his druthers.

Read More: Peter Chiarelli, Phil Kessel, Tim Thomas,
Recchi reveals he’ll probably retire after the 2009-10 NHL season 07.03.09 at 1:12 pm ET
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Mark Recchi talked about his one-year, $1 million deal to return to the Boston Bruins for the 2009-10 season on a Friday afternoon conference call, and said that next season in Black and Gold will “probably” be his 21st and final NHL campaign. The veteran doesn’t see his role as being any different next season, and Recchi said he was looking forward to skating with Patrice Bergeron and Chuck Kobasew again and playing a role on the B’s power play. 

The 41-year-old has a pair of Stanley Cup rings — one with the Pittsburgh Penguins and another with the Carolina Hurricanes — but returned to Boston with the feeling that he may be able to go out of his playing career on top of the hockey world next season. Recchi has authored 545 goals in a Hall of Fame-level career with a handful of NHL teams, and said it was his “first priority” to return to Boston and wrap up some unfinished business with a dressing room full of hungry hockey players.

“I think this is probably going to be it,” said Recchi, who finished with 16 points in 18 games after being traded to the B’s on March 4 last season. “I want to go out and finish it off right by winning another championship and help this team be successful. I’d say this will probably be it. I’ve got my family situation I’ve got to consider and kids I’ve got to consider. It’s been a great run. I think I want to give it one more chance.

“My personal things have all been done in my career, and I’m playing for one more ring. That’s the most important thing for me. The reason I liked Boston is that 99 percent of the guys on that team, I felt, wanted to win that Cup. That’s the most important thing to everybody in that dressing room.”

As I wrote yesterday, the Recchi signing leaves the Bruins with roughly $4.3 million under next season’s $56.8 million salary cap, and B’s GM Peter Chiarelli still has RFAs Phil Kessel and Matt Hunwick to negotiate deals with. It would appear that both can’t be signed — and perhaps not even Kessel alone — with the amount of room left under the cap, and that a deal to trade away an NHL-level player off the Bruins is imminent.

Recchi acknowledged that there is some unknown as to what will eventually happen with Kessel’s future (“a dynamic player” said Recchi), but also sympathized with the tough decisions that Chiarelli is surrounded by amid fiscal limitations.

“It’s tough right now with the salary cap. You build a good team and then you have to let people go or you have to make moves to restock again. It has to be really frustrating for GMs now, but it is what it is. He’s done a tremendous job. I think the biggest thing is that he’s got his goaltender and he’s got the core of his defense settled in and the core of his centermen settled in — which is how you build a franchise. 

“If you’ve got those guys then you fit the other pieces all-around and I think he’s going to do a great job of that.”

Read More: Mark Recchi, Peter Chiarelli, Phil Kessel,
Chiarelli: ‘We have room to sign our guys tonight’ 06.30.09 at 3:37 pm ET
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Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli held a Tuesday afternoon conference call with reporters, and confirmed that the team has enough room under the salary cap to sign all of their restricted free agents prior to the July 1 deadline for RFAs.

After July 1 the Bruins RFAs (Phil Kessel, Matt Hunwick, Byron Bitz) can begin accepting offer sheets from opposing NHL teams, and Chiarelli said that it’s a roll of the dice that the Bruins are willing to take. Chiarelli is surely taking into account the fact that teams can go 10 percent over the salary cap in the summer, but must fit snugly under the $56.8 cap number before the start of the 2009-10 hockey season.

The “read-and-react” philosophy that Chiarelli is employing is one that your humble hockey writer opined about on Monday, and it looks as if there won’t be any Kessel trade in the works over the next couple of days. Instead the B’s GM is fine with watching how things play out when the July 1 free agent shopping period begins, and players like Kessel can be wooed by other teams. 

It was assumed that Chiarelli couldn’t fit Kessel’s $5 million per season salary demands under the cap, but perhaps the 21-year-old sniper is asking for something closer to $4.25-4.5 million. Either way, Chiarelli said he doesn’t anticipate coming to terms with any of his free agents prior to Wednesday.

‘€œWe have room (under the cap) to sign our guys at what they’€™re asking tonight, but we’€™re not going to do it,” said Chiarelli. “There’€™s a risk allowing these guys to go out unsigned into the market place, I understand that. That’€™s a risk we’€™re willing to take and we’€™re also willing to continue to negotiate.’€

Other tidbits from the conference call:

–Chiarelli restated that his No. 1 priority in a world with no salary cap would be another No. 1 or No. 2 defenseman to ease some of the pressure off Zdeno Chara in terms of on-ice minutes.

‘€œMy (wish) list would probably include an impact defenseman, either a 1 or a 2 (pairing). It’€™s more minutes to sort of ease the pressure on Zdeno (Chara),” said Chiarelli. “Z can play both (the right or left) side, and it’€™s not just (getting a right-handed shot).

“If we don’€™t do anything with our ‘€˜D’€™ then I’€™m happy with it. You have to remember that two of our defenseman didn’€™t play in the last series (against Carolina) and I feel that’€™s a big part that’€™s missing. Let’€™s say I don’€™t have that (imaginary) $12 million or whatever, I’€™m happy with where I’€™m at defensively. If I don’€™t do anything defensively, then I’€™d like to get some size on the wing.”

–Both Matt Hunwick and Byron Bitz have arbitration rights as RFAs and have until 5 p.m. on July 5 to opt for arbitration with the Bruins concerning their contracts.

–Peter Schaefer has cleared waivers and the Bruins have until 5 p.m. on Tuesday to decide whether they’ll but out the remainder of his contract. Schaefer was scheduled to make $2.1 million this coming season, but Chiarelli said Schaefer’s contract settlement would amount to an approximate $566,667 salary cap hit for the next two seasons.

UPDATE: The Bruins sent out a release on Tuesday evening that announced the Bruins were buying out Schaefer’s contract, and the B’s will have an additional $566,667 cap hit on the books for the next two seasons. Schaefer is now a free agent capable of signing with any other NHL team.

Read More: Byron Bitz, Matt Hunwick, Phil Kessel,
Thomas and Kessel invited to Team USA camp at 12:50 pm ET
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A pair of Boston Bruins players have received the worthy honor of potentially playing for a Gold Medal for the Red, White and Blue of the United States. It just remains to be seen if both players remain members of the Bruins by the time the Olympics actually get here in February.

USA Hockey announced on Tuesday that Bruins goalie Tim Thomas and forward Phil Kessel have been invited to the Men’€™s Olympic Orientation Camp from August 17-19, 2009 at the Seven Bridges Ice Arena in Woodridge, Illinois (6690 S Route 53 Woodridge, IL 60517). They were among 34 American players that made the first cut en route to filling out a roster for the United States Men’s Olympic Hockey Team.

“I think it’s obviously a great honor for both of them,” said Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli. “With respect to Tim, he’s going to challenge for No. 1 and I would expect that given the season that he had. With Phil it shows that he’s really in their plans because he’ll be injured while going into this camp and they feel very strongly about including in all these orientation things because he’s in their plans.

“It’s exciting for both, and I think we’re going to have more of our players being part of these kind of camps in order to prepare (for the Olympics). I’m sure you’re going to see some more of our players that are going to come up for their respective national teams.”

The camp is designed to assist in the preparation of the 2010 U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Team that will compete at the XXI Olympic Winter Games to be held from Feb. 12-28, 2010, in Vancouver, B.C. Of the 34 invites to the Orientation Camp, 23 players (20 skaters and three goaltenders) will be chosen to represent Team USA at the 2010 Olympics. With Kessel expected to miss at least the first month of the NHL season following labrum and rotator cuff/shoulder surgery, the winger won’t be taking part in any on-ice drills during the August camp.

Tim Thomas set a career high with 36 wins this year and was the winner of the 2009 Vezina Troph while  finishing the 2008-2009 regular season as the league leader in Goals Against Average (2.10) and Save Percentage
(.933), and played in his second straight NHL All-Star Game. 

Thomas appeared in all 11 postseason games for the Bruins, finishing with the playoff’€™s best Goals Against Average (1.85) and second best Save Percentage (.935).

Phil Kessel established career highs in goals, assists and points this year after tallying a team-best 36 goals, 24 assists and 60 points in 70 games.  Kessel become the club’€™s first 30-goal scorer since 2005-2006 and compiled the longest point streak in the NHL this season after recording a point in 18 consecutive games from November 13-December 21,
2008 (14-14=28 totals during this span). Kessel appeared in all 11 postseason games for the Bruins and contributed six goals and five assists.

2009 U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Orientation Camp Roster
Goaltenders: Ryan Miller, Jonathan Quick, Tim Thomas

Defensemen: Tom Gilbert, Tim Gleason, Ron Hainsey, Erik Johnson, Jack Johnson, Mike Komisarek, Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik, Brian Rafalski, Rob Scuderi, Ryan Suter, Ryan Whitney

Forwards: David Backes, David Booth, Dustin Brown, Dustin Byfuglien, Ryan Callahan, Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, Patrick Kane, Ryan Kesler, Phil Kessel, Jamie Langenbrunner, Ryan Malone, Mike Modano, Kyle Okposo, T.J. Oshie, Zach Parise, Joe Pavelski, Bobby Ryan, Paul Stastny.

Read More: Peter Chiarelli, Phil Kessel, Tim Thomas,
Chiarelli: ‘I’d love to be able to keep (Kessel).’ 06.26.09 at 1:19 pm ET
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MONTREAL — Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli continued his solid string of “no comments” on anything of interest to Bruins Nation Friday, but the B’s top executive did offer at least a glimmer of hope that 21-year-old winger Phil Kessel will again be wearing a Spoked B sweater next season.

Rumors of a Kessel-for-Tomas Kaberle swap have been swirling around the streets of Montreal as the 7 p.m. start of the 2009 NHL Draft approaches, and TSN reported on Friday morning that the B’s brass offered Kessel to the Maple Leafs for Kaberle and their No. 7 pick in the first round.

Chiarelli, while meeting with reporters at the Hotel Sofitel, coyly stated that he first heard about the trade proposal when he logged on to his computer this morning, and offered up a “no comment” — along with a few words of praise and a hope that the skilled winger will be with the team next season and beyond.

“I don’t comment on (trade) stuff,” said Chiarelli. “I don’t comment on negotiations. What I can say is that he’s a young player that’s shown tremendous progress. I’d love to be able to keep him.

“I don’t think something big will get done, generally speaking. You have discussions and I know there was a report this morning. I think it’s unfair to everyone involved, whether it’s true or not, to have that stuff reported.”

Chiarelli mentioned earlier this week that the Boston hockey club was hoping to move up higher in the first round from their 25th pick, and indications are that the front office is actively looking to increase their organizational depth at defenseman with a top selection. Names being bandied about that the B’s could move up and pinpoint depending on which team’s pick they might ultimately acquire: Dmitry Kulikov, John Moore, Olivier Ekman-Larsson, Jared Cowan, Simon Despres and Ryan Ellis.

Chiarelli allowed that his scouting staff was excited about “a couple of players” that the B’s would presumably have to improve their standing in the first round to land. The B’s exec also joked when asked if landing a “Top 4″ was an important item on the team’s agenda this summer.

“If I could afford it I’d like a Top 4 defenseman. I’d like another big, physical forward. It’s all stuff that you work into an equation and you have that cap that you’re working with. That player period starts July 1, so we’re not there yet. There are teams discussing a lot of different things at the draft, and we’re one of them.”

–Chiarelli confirmed that he’s sent out qualifying offers to RFAs Phil Kessel, Matt Hunwick and Byron Bitz, and said that both Hunwick and Kessel are recovering “rapidly and as-scheduled” from their respective surgeries. Ned Lukacevic, acquired in the Andrew Alberts deal, and Wacey Rabbit were the only two players with RFA status that won’t be receiving qualifying offers from the Bruins.

With regard to the UFAs like P.J. Axelsson, Stephane Yelle and Mark Recchi (who is in Montreal this weekend and met briefly with Chiarelli), Chiarelli said he asked them put potential contract talks on hold until the Monday following the draft. All the UFAs are free to negotiate with other teams beginning on July 1.

“There’s a group of those guys that I’ve told to ‘Hang on’ because I’ve got a few things to figure out over the course of this weekend, and I’ll get back to them on Monday,” said Chiarelli.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Peter Chiarelli, Phil Kessel,
Report: Kessel and top pick offered for Toronto defenseman, seventh pick at 9:51 am ET
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MONTREAL — According to a report by Bob McKenzie of TSN.ca, B’s GM Peter Chiarelli and their front office cohorts have made their first move of the weekend and offered restricted free agent winger Phil Kessel and their first round pick to Toronto for four-time All-Star defenseman Tomas Kaberle and the seventh pick in the 2009 draft.

According to the report, Leafs GM Brian Burke is “canvassing the league to see if there are any better offers out there”. Kessel scored a team-high 36 goals and 60 overall points in a breakout year for the Bruins, but hasn’t been able to come to an agreement with Boston on a contract for next season and beyond.

Kessel is rumored to have been on the trade market for weeks, and Kessel’s agent, Wade Arnott, didn’t deny any of the Kessel trade rumors in a phone conversation with WEEI.com earlier this week.

Kaberle is a 31-year-old skill defenseman with a palatable cap hit of $4.25 million per season for the next two years, and is widely-considered a puck mover and power play contributor. Kaberle was limited to 57 games with injuries last year, and is certainly not at an all-time high value-wise. Kaberle missed significant time last season with a broken right hand. The 10-year veteran has a no-trade clause in his contract, but there is a window in the clause that permits a trade of Kaberle between the NHL entry draft and Aug.15, a clause activated when the Leafs failed once again to make the playoffs.

For more updates on the Bruins and their weekend activity at the NHL draft, check in with the Big Bad Blog for updates.

UPDATE:  TSN is now amending their report and stating that the Bruins offered Phil Kessel and a future draft pick for Kaberle. Doubtful the Bruins would do this without also getting Toronto’s 2009 first round pick at the No. 7 spot back in return. B’s GM Peter Chiarelli gave a warm, welcoming “no comment” about the rumors when met with the assorted hockey media this morning, and intimated that he first learned of them when he got on his computer this morning. We’ll have more later.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Phil Kessel, Tomas Kaberle,
Bruins make qualifying offer to Kessel, negotiations continue 06.24.09 at 12:07 pm ET
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Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli and the rest of the Boston front office are surely be training their concentration and focus on the annual NHL Entry Draft this weekend in Montreal — and some of the misdirection and conflicting smoke signals consistent with the process have already begun.

But amid the usual subterfuge, however, the B’€™s brain trust will also be dealing with real big club issues like the ongoing negotiations with restricted free agent goal-scoring winger Phil Kessel. Both Chiarelli and Kessel’€™s agent, Wade Arnott, are expected to be in Montreal on Wednesday, and plan to continue discussions on the 21-year-old superstar’€™s future in Boston.

The B’€™s made a qualifying offer to Kessel this week — a perfunctory move by Chiarelli to keep Kessel a restricted free agent (RFA) if the July 1 free agency period comes and goes without any movement on a contract. An RFA must receive a “qualifying offer” from his team, or he becomes unrestricted, and the qualifying offer will be 100 percent of last season’s salary for players making under $800,000, and 75 percent of last season’s salary for those making over $800,000.

According to the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, a restricted free agent can accept an offer sheet from other teams. But the RFA’s old team can match the offer or receive compensation, as in the previous free agent system. If both sides can’t come to an agreement prior to training camp and no offer sheets are received, a restricted free agent must sign a contract within 14 days of the opening of training camp, or be ineligible to play that season. This is designed to prevent lengthy holdouts in contract disputes.

Arnott didn’€™t voice much in the way of surprise that a deal has yet to be reached with his speedy young superstar. Kessel’€™s agent felt like there might be some progress made in his client’€™s situation over the next few days with all the key players in the same place.

‘€œWe’€™ve had discussions at this point with Peter, but nothing to report actually,’€ said Arnott of negotiations that have been ongoing for the last few weeks. ‘€œI’€™m not surprised. We know July 1 is coming, but we’€™re all going to see each other starting (Wednesday) for draft weekend. July 1 will be right around the corner as well, but I’€™m not surprised (that there’€™s no contract).’€

There’€™s been wild speculation that Kessel will be traded before July 1, and that his name has been tossed around in several potential deals that could both, 1) allow the Bruins to move way up in the draft and net one of the top four close-to-NHL-ready talents among the eligible group of amateur players, and, 2) fortify a need amid a less-than-ideal situation at the defenseman position.

Chiarelli said in general that — given salary cap considerations and particular player situations — there have been plenty of eye-opening names available on the NHL trade market this summer. But that doesn’€™t necessarily mean that deals will be pulled off throughout the weekend.

‘€œBased on what I’€™m hearing in general conversations I’€™ve been having, there seems to be more significant players out there,’€ said Chiarelli. ‘€œSo activity prior to the actual trade has actually increased.

‘€œI don’€™t know that there’€™ll be any more trades than we’€™ve seen in the past, but I get the sense that there’€™s more activity, conversations and discussions. I would assume that — I know that — the other managers are thinking conservative like myself. Before you take on something (in trade) you really have to think twice about it. There is increased activity, but I don’€™t know if that translates into trades.’€

There’€™s also a school of thought among some the extended negotiations and trade rumors are a tool being used by the Bruins to speed up the maturation of a sometimes immature young player in Kessel. Think something similar to the technique being employed by the Celtics with Rajon Rondo and trade rumors this summer — a development that might help a younger, immature individual snap into that next phase of maturation as a player.

There have been times in his first three years in Boston where the 21-year-old hasn’€™t always been on the same page with Boston’€™s coaching staff, and there’€™s a continued feeling Kessel is only just scratching the surface in terms of what he can do with his speed and shot.

Arnott wouldn’€™t confirm or deny any of the trade speculation, but instead deferred all potential thoughts about a Kessel trade to the one man that would potentially pull the trigger on a trade that could send the young superstar out of Boston.

‘€œYou know what? It’€™s a good question. I can’€™t comment on that,’€ said Arnott. ‘€œThat is something for Peter to answer for you. I suggest you ask him that question.’€

During a recent conference call to discuss the NHL draft, Chiarelli, of course, wouldn’€™t comment on anything involving the ongoing negotiations with Kessel.

In general, Arnott gets the sense that there’€™s going to be plenty of wheeling and dealing on the floor of the Bell Centre this weekend and there’€™s optimism that the two sides can bridge some gaps to hammering out a deal.

‘€œThe sense, the sense we get is that there’€™s more discussions and obviously publicly you see that there are more player issues around the league at the NHL level. You combine that with the draft, and there might be an opportunity (for trades and signings),’€ said Arnott. ‘€œObviously with the economics and the times that we’€™re in, you add all of that up and there’€™s definitely a great opportunity for movement.’€

While visiting a local school for a Bruins-related community event last week, Kessel himself denied that his side has made any demands of $5 million a year for a contract. But it’€™s clear his elite credentials combined with his on-ice skills and production set put him in the $4 million a year NHL neighborhood of fellow young superstars like Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin.

There’€™s been further speculation that Bruins management is set against giving Kessel more money than the $3.75 million per year that’€™s already been awarded to fellow restricted free agent David Krejci. It appears that — given Boston’€™s salary cap outlook over the next few seasons — there’€™s a required level of creativity and outside-the-box thinking in the contract negotiations, and perhaps talks have even involved a one-year deal for Kessel in the 2009-10 season.

A repeat of anything close to last year’€™s 36-goal season would then further cement his resume for a long-term contract and give him the arbitration rights that he doesn’€™t currently hold headed into this summer’€™s negotiations. One thing remains the same, however: Kessel has told his representation that he doesn’€™t want to go anywhere else but Boston for next season and beyond.

‘€œPhil is the player and he wants to stay in Boston,’€ said Arnott. ‘€œPhil is open-minded (with regard to contract talks) and his first priority is still to remain with the Bruins.’€

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