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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.’€

Read More: Phil Kessel,
Banged up Bruins talking about “unfinished business” 05.18.09 at 2:05 pm ET
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The end of an NHL season is usually rife with announcements of assorted surgeries and full disclosure of injuries previously hidden to the media through the season and the ensuing playoffs.

It’s no different for the Bruins this morning as they conducted their break-up meetings for the season and announced that David Krejci (impingement in his right hip), Phil Kessel (torn left rotator cuff and labrum in his shoulder) and Andrew Ference (torn groin, hernia) are all scheduled to go under the knife for a bevy of hockey injuries.

In addition to the surgeries, Chuck Kobasew was playing with broken ribs, Zdeno Chara had shoulder, knee and groin woes, Mark Recchi had surgery to remove kidney stones between the Games 6 and 7 and Marc Savard had a sprained knee that will require a month of rest. Despite all of that, each of those players soldiered through and for that the Spoked B skaters certainly deserve credit.

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Read More: David Krejci, Peter Chiarelli, Phil Kessel,
Phil Kessel is raising his game in the playoffs 05.03.09 at 2:41 am ET
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Phil Kessel fell on his left elbow and yelped in pain during the second period of Friday night’s opener against the Carolina Hurricanes, and the collective members of Bruins Nation held their breath with more than a hint of concern.

It was simply a swollen left elbow that kept the former first-round pick out of Saturday morning practice, but coach Claude Julien assured all concerned that his young scorer would be “100 percent” for Sunday night’s Game 2. That’s good news for a hockey team that already had to make due without Kessel for 12 games missed this season due to injury and illness, but didn’t want to learn to live without their top goal-scorer in the playoffs.

While many of the eyes in the B’s/Canes series centered on Zdeno Chara and the Bruins’ handling of Carolina scorer Eric Staal, it’s just as vital that the Canes contain the growing offensive force known simply as “Phil the Thrill.” Kessel has just as many goals scored this postseason as household hockey names like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Patrick Kane, but has turned the trick in less actual playoff games.

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Five things we learned from a victory in Game One 04.16.09 at 10:57 pm ET
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There was a great deal of talk about discipline, crossing the line and the one-dimensional merits of tossing Big Georges Laraque into the Montreal Canadiens lineup for the Stanley Cup playoffs prior to Thursday night’s Game One.

Zdeno Chara’s shutdown defensive abilities and nuclear missile slap shot combo and Phil Kessel’s game-breaking scoring abilities were virtually ignored amid the hue and cry over bad blood between the B’s and the Habs, but there was no ignoring the Spoked B duo in Boston’s 4-2 victory over the Canadiens in Game One.

Chara took plenty of ice time on both Bruins PP units in the second period, led the Black and Gold with 24:55 on the ice and had Marc Savard thinking he was playing Iron Man Hockey in that middle 20 minutes of the game. Z also played the role of sheriff in and around the Boston cage each time Laraque came looking to start trouble, and he managed to do all of this while steering clear of the penalty box and staying on the ice where he was needed most.

“He’s our heart and soul,” said B’s coach Claude Julien. “I think it’s pretty obvious he’s such a valuable player for us. He’s done a great job in all areas, so I can’t say enough about him. The fact that he was disciplined and didn’t get sucked into penalties, which could have been easy for him to do. I like the way he led our team tonight, and it was quite appropriate he scored the winner.”

Chara should be a favorite for the Norris Trophy following a stunning all-around season reminiscent of Chris Pronger’s Hart Trophy-worthy season with the St. Louis Blues. He patrolled the backlines for the B’s, and clearly deserved the No. 1 star when the “Three Stars” were announced following the game. Most nights, his defensive, physical game of intimidation can be mistakenly overlooked by goal-scorers and whirling dervish passes that draw “oohs” and “aahs,” so it was appropriate the “heart and soul” of the Bruins brought home the glory in drawing first blood against the sore loser Habs.

Chara has always been the captain of the Bruins in name and stature since his arrival on Causeway Street prior to the 2006-07 season, but he looked every bit the spiritual leader of Boston’s hockey club in making every right move in Game One — including the game-winner that carried a wee bit of importance.

1) The Kids are All Right.

There were lulls during the regular season for many of Boston’s young star players, but Boston’s young guns were correctly looked at as game-changers entering this series against the Habs. Kessel dazzled all night with game-breaking speed and lethal wrist shots from spots in tight toward the net, and enjoyed particularly strong periods in both the first and third when the Bruins dictated the action. Last night’s game firmly illustrates  just how far the 21-year-old Kessel has come from an erratic, immature skater Julien scratched for three games during last season’s playoff series.

Savard also dropped a rather large hint following the game that he’s hoping to ride shotgun with the young sniper as a dynamic scoring duo wearing Spoked B sweaters for a long, long time. The playmaking center must hope that B’s GM Peter Chiarelli is reading this.

“Kess has come on in leaps and bounds. It’s been a pleasure playing with him all season, and he really brings that dynamic that not too many players have with that speed and that shot,” said Savard. “I love playing with him. Hopefully I can stay around for another six years and maybe hang out with him. He’s ready to take that torch. He’s a great hockey player.”

The B’s are still an undefeated 20-0-2 when David Krejci scores a goal for them this season. The boy wonder center roofed a backhanded bid to put the Bruins up by a 2-0 lead in the first period, and set up Kessel’s first goal with a heady shuffle pass away from the net-front mass of bodies and directly toward the wide open sniper rushing toward the right post.

Don’t believe in the power of the youngsters?

Then just look at the stat sheet. Kessel, Krejci and Milan Lucic were the only three skaters with multiple point efforts for the game, and all three led the B’s with +2 marks for the evening. Lucic also finished with a game-high six hits — including a couple of devastating body blows in the corner — and continues to impress with the way he raises his game on the big stage.

2) The Bruins intend to “Stay Hungry.”

Following the game several Bruins players were wearing gear that featured a big Flintstones-style steak as the logo with the words “Stay Hungry” prominently featured across the front of the cap and the leg of the shorts. Savard was wearing  the hat and shorts during his post-game press briefing, and said that injured forward Marco Sturm came up with the design/logo idea while rehabbing from knee surgery.

“The energetic German came up with this,” said Savard, and then he pointed toward the shorts that he was wearing. “He made these too.”

It’s a good team mantra for the Black and Gold skaters to keep in mind after finishing off a solid Game One victory in front of the frenzied fans. The Habs tried to stir things up when the game was firmly in hand, and it was tight all the way through in a contest that could have gone either way in the third. It would behoove the B’s to buy into Sturm’s hat slogan and “Stay Hungry” despite accomplishing everything they set out to in the opening scene of this B’s/Habs playoff opera.

It has got to be difficult for an injured player like Sturm to sit idly by and watch his teammates enter the fray of the playoffs against the Canadiens, particularly after playing such a big role in last year’s epic Game 6 victory that’s been replayed about 1,000 times on NESN — and rightfully so — over the last week or so.

3) Cooler heads prevail when it comes to playoff hockey.

Laraque and Mike Komisarek did their level-best to incite the Bruins, and they really turned on the agitator after-burners in the closing seconds of the game. Montreal Public Enemy No. 1 scrubbed Matt Hunwick’s eye with such a vicious facewash that the B’s rookie was cut open around his eye following the victory. Several times Laraque and Komisarek had words with the Bruins big boys — Chara, Lucic and Shawn Thornton — but in each instance the Bruins played the discipline card and refused to retaliate.

It was something the Bruins had talked about ad nauseum before the game. The “Take It Like A Man” playoff philosophy then played out in perfection during the win. It’s no accident that — despite their reputation — the Bruins were well into the bottom third of NHL teams this season season in terms of penalty minutes. The B’s players have had each other’s backs during times of duress, but they’ve seemingly sworn off the fits of frustration that would land them in the penalty box and ultimately hurt the squad. That is heady playoff hockey.

One thing to watch: the NHL has already warned all of the playoff coaches about “message sending” at the end of games that have already been decided, and suspended Flyers enforcer Daniel Carcillo for his actions in Game One of the Flyers/Penguins series. So there may be possible suspensions for Lapierre, Komisarek or Tom Kostoupolos for some flagrant activity after watching this video. According to the TSN report, Matt Hunwick’s eye is said to be “a mess” following the pro wrestling style eye rake on the Bruins rookie defenseman.

It may be just a little tougher to “turn the other cheek” for the Bruins in Game Two. 

4) Apparently, big Georges Laraque is the secret weapon.

Laraque revealed a little of Habs coach Bob Gainey’s strategy in placing the giant, fight-happy forward on his top line with Alex Kovalev and Saku Koivu in the latter two periods of Thursday’s game. Apparently BGL is there to make himself a nuisance in and around Tim Thomas at all times, and force Chara’s attention away from containing Montreal’s snipers.

“That was the plan. I knew for a while we were trying to get more room for our skill guys,” said Laraque following the game. “We knew they were going to use Chara against our top skill guys. That is way to kind of neutralize him. It is a big body against him. He has to tie me up and that will free up two other guys. I knew we were going to do that and it worked fine. We had a lot of chances tonight. It can only get better with time.”

Not to quibble with BGL, but it really only worked “fine” if the Habs escaped the Garden Thursday night with a bigger number on their side of the scoreboard than the victorious Bruins. Just saying.

5) Aaron Ward has earned himself a Bud Light after notching a win in Game One.

Ward, like any good Irishman worth his salt, has a good story to tell or a joke to break up the monotony of a pre or postgame locker room, and he passed along a pretty solid anecdote on how his playoffs began this week. The veteran B’s defenseman received an anonymous package at his door. Let’s let him tell the story.

“Yesterday, I had 16 beers delivered to my apartment, and I turned around and said to my wife, ‘See it’s better here than in Detroit where they give you an octopus.’ There was a note attached with it that said, ‘Drink one after every win on your way to the Cup.’ Now that’s why I love this town. I don’t know who sent it. It was anonymous and now they’re at home on ice. Last night I got a series out of the way already and drank four of them, though.”

Read More: Boston Bruins, Phil Kessel, Zdeno Chara,
Wheeler sharing time with Bitz on B’s fourth line at practice 04.15.09 at 10:53 am ET
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WILMINGTON — Interesting line configurations from Claude Julien at the Wednesday morning practice prior to the Bruins/Canadiens storm set to begin at the Gahden Thursday night.

The lines are: Phil Kessel/Marc Savard/P.J. Axelsson, Milan Lucic/David Krejci/Michael Ryder, Chuck Kobasew/Patrice Bergeron/Mark Recchi and Shawn Thornton/Stephane Yelle/Byron Bitz and Blake Wheeler. The B’s rookie is wearing the maroon fourth-line practice jersey, and perhaps he could be looking at Julien giving him the “Kessel treatment” once the playoffs begin. Or perhaps Julien is simply playing around with his combinations to fool around with the Habs’ gameplan a little bit.

Julien was unmistakably firm in detailing on Tuesday afternoon just how much scratching Kessel last season against the Canadiens helped move along the young sniper’s maturation process. The 21-year-old went from a 19-goal scorer in 2007-08 that flashed moments of brilliance to a bonafide NHL lamp-lighter with 36 goals scored and a great deal more consistency for the Black and Gold last winter.

“I think we all saw Phil improve and evolve as a great player,” said the B’s bench boss. “When you score 36 goals in a season, you’ve got to realize it was a lot better than 19 the year before. He almost doubled his output. I think he’s grown a lot as far as his maturity, being a real professional, and being a lot more consistent than he was the year before. This is what it’s all about.

“You’ve got to allow these guys to grow. There’s going to be some growing pains. There were last year. Even some this year. Through it all, he’s kept a real good attitude, plowed through it, and been rewarded with a pretty good season.”

Will hockey history repeat itself for another Bruins rookie during this playoff run against the Habs, and — in the end — be beneficial for Wheeler’s growth as a player? Time will tell.

Read More: Blake Wheeler, Claude Julien, Phil Kessel,
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