Monday, September 14, 2009

B's NewsBlast! - Kess (finally) on the move?

*The latest according to Kevin Paul Dupont from the Globe &;

*Photo credit to the Golbe & Getty Images

Kiss Kessel goodbye?

Just hours before the Bruins skated yesterday at the Garden for their first bona fide training camp workout, the ever-active rumor mill in Toronto had the Maple Leafs tabling the best offer yet for Boston free agent Phil Kessel. To wit: for a pair of first-round picks and one second-round pick, Boston general manager Peter Chiarelli could be free at last from his summer ’09 migraine, and the 21-year-old Kessel could call southern Ontario home.

“Partially true,’’ said one source familiar with the talks between the teams, which have been going on for more than two weeks. “Toronto also wants a third-rounder along with Kessel.’’
Meanwhile, Kessel’s agent, Wade Arnott, attended the Leafs’ workout in Toronto. No, he did not have Kessel at his elbow, wearing a raincoat, skimmer, and sunglasses. But Arnott was spotted talking to GM Brian Burke’s top lieutenant, Dave Nonis, who now has the charge of handling the trade talks with Chiarelli.

For the moment, and possibly well on into November, Kessel holds the cards as a restricted free agent. If Chiarelli were to make a deal with, say, the Predators, Nashville GM David Poile would only give up assets if he is assured Kessel will sign in Tune Town. Likewise, the Leafs won’t flip picks and/or players Boston’s way unless Chiarelli already has inked Kessel to a sign-and-trade.
All signs point to Kessel preferring the Leafs over the Predators, which, if nothing else, proves he did learn something during his year at the University of Minnesota. Decent team, the Preds, but there is only one Toronto (unless Jim Balsillie succeeds in divvying up the hockey mecca).
The dynamic of the Kessel proceedings will shift as late November approaches because Kessel, per the collective bargaining agreement, cannot play in the NHL this season unless he has signed a deal by Dec. 1. But with Toronto so aggressively in the hunt, it’s doubtful it will play out that long. Clearly, Burke is trying to consummate a deal rather than extend Kessel an offer sheet, which had to be the context of the discussions between Chiarelli and Burke when they were spotted across from the Garden at The Four’s two weeks ago, according to a source inside the Canal St. eatery.

Asked yesterday if he cared to comment on the Kessel situation, Chiarelli said via email, “No, but thanks for asking.’’ Burke, reached via phone in Toronto last night, said, “The Maple Leafs cordially decline your request.’’ Everyone is just too polite for words, which makes your faithful scribe think the whole thing could get Bob Probert nasty in short order.
Chiarelli has what Burke wants, and Kessel’s agent already has informed the Bruins that he is done negotiating with the Spoked-B franchise. Both Kessel and Arnott have shot down that impasse, which was reported here first last week, but that’s only because they don’t want Kessel’s reputation in Boston to morph into what Dany Heatley’s became in Ottawa when he requested out over the summer (a wish that was granted Saturday when Heatley was dished to the Sharks).

When the summer began, Chiarelli said he would match any offer Kessel received. As the weeks went by, he amended that, saying he would match an offer “within reason.’’ Now, if he doesn’t cut a deal with Burke, who happens to be the GM in the city where Kessel wants to play, he is left vulnerable to the Leafs piling the cash high for the former first-round pick (No. 5, 2006), and the Bruins getting only a first-, second-, and third-rounder in return.

Long ago, the New York Rangers used an ugly offer sheet to try to hijack Joe Sakic away from Colorado. The overall deal was three years/$21 million, with $15 million up front as a signing bonus, followed by three years of salary at $2 million per. Toronto is the richest franchise in the Original 30, and easily could emulate the Sakic deal. For instance, if the Leafs were to pay Kessel $25 million over five years, they easily could afford to pay him $15 million up front and spread the salary out over five years. In less than 12 months, Kessel would pocket $17 million. That likely would not fit Chiarelli’s “within reason’’ standard. For now, unless there is some huge shift on both sides, Kessel is as good as gone. All that remains to be seen is what the Bruins get in return.

In the Boston front office, they’ve spent months warming to the idea that they can win without Kessel, and they are probably right, given that they have the Norris Trophy winner in Zdeno Chara and the Vezina Trophy winner in Tim Thomas. In the Boston cookbook, most of its tasty concoctions based on defensive ingredients, Kessel is viewed as that little sprig of parsley that makes the plate look better but really doesn’t factor into whether the meal is a true success.
Meanwhile, the Leafs are in rebuilding mode, with Burke eager, perhaps desperate, to infuse some legit scoring pop.

The Leafs’ offense is so thin they brought ex-Bruin Jason Allison to camp on an invite. Now 34, Allison hasn’t suited up for an NHL game since the spring of 2006. Get the idea why the Leafs are willing to pay a price for Kessel that Chiarelli & Co. deem absurd? A goal scorer by trade, with 66 on his career résumé, Kessel is poised for a pot of gold.

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