How it all went down from the Bruins point of view…
Boston GM, Peter Chairelli, opened his press conference yesterday by announcing the bones of the trade. His first statement afterward that was, “A trade of this nature is obviously difficult. When you trade a good young player who can score goals with speed, who we drafted and helped develop, so obviously it’s a difficult thing and I’ll fill you in on some of the details. But let me be perfectly clear, this trade is really about two things: one, it’s about a player who did not want to play in Boston, and two, it’s about the threat or the perceived threat of an offer sheet. And I’ll get into detail a little bit those two things, but really that’s what this trade is all about.”
So Phil Kessel wanted out of Boston. I guess it's not a big surprise. For the last two years, particularly at the trade deadelines, Kessel's name was bounced around in rumours like a rubber ball. Then, at this past draft in Montreal, the Bruins & Maple Leafs were both rumoured to have a deal with each team thinking they were getting an extra draft pick in return. So when July 1st came around, Kessel informed the Bruins he wanted to be traded knowing the Bruins wouldn't (or couldn't) meet his contract demands (money) without hurting the team now and possibly the future with the next crop of UFA's & RFA's.
The Bruins wanted to make the draft day deal with the Leafs as they coverted their #7 overall pick. As Chiarelli said, “Obviously you’re going to get a good player with that pick, but secondly in this system the player now of that skill, at that early age, is going to come in and play earlier and make an impact earlier. You saw it with Phil [Kessel], you’ll see it more and more throughout the course of the rest of the term of this collective bargain agreement, so these players are cheaper so to speak, in the sense that you don’t have to pay them large money, and they can contribute as much as other players that maybe have been in the league longer.”
When the deal fell through, the Bruins kept Phil's trade demand quiet, “because we still wanted the player.” They also realize that if that bit of info became public, then the Bruins would never be able to get an upper hand in dealing with other NHL GM's.
Once the Maple Leafs had the draft picks to sign Kessel to an offer sheet, the Bruins had to set their strategy. Many teams inquired about trading for Kessel but as Chiarelli said yesterday, ”at the end of the day, there wasn’t a team but for one that was willing to make a firm offer and willing to pay the player the amount of money he was requesting.” The Nashville Predators were one of the teams that had been very interested in Kessel's services but they, like the rest of the league, were turned off by Kessel's contract demends. How would they have reacted had they traded for his rights and then the Leafs came in with an offer sheet?
So in a nutshell, it was make a trade with the Leafs or let the Leafs sign him and take their 1st, 2nd and 3rd round picks in the 2010 draft. Yes, the Bruins could have put Kessel on their Long Tern Injury (LTI) status but it would weaken the team. They would have had to keep Kessel's contract plus one dollar on the books so that would have meant trading someone (or two?) or burying those player(s) with their full salary not counting against the cap in Providence. No way they do that – they'd never sign another UFA as long as that management team was in place if they pull something like that.
They did want Kessel out of the division but in the end, it was Toronto and no one else.
I think the Bruins did well to get two #1 picks and a #2 pick for Kessel. I see the Leafs will be tougher to play against this year but I don't think they make the playoffs. Ron Wilson has done some good things with bad teams but I don't think they make the playoffs. I see the 2010 #1 pick being somewhere between the #5-#15 overall pick. Kessel was the #5 overall in 2006 so it can be a very good player they get. The Bruins now have 5 of the first 60 pick in next years draft. This could make next year's trade deadline important if the Bruins target someone that can get them over the hill for a Cup run. Or they can load up on inexpensive talent to help them in the future.
I love the trade. What do you all think?
About the Author
Written by Jim Mulligan