Seriously, this Phil Kessel negotiation — if both sides are realistic and fair — shouldn’t drag on much longer now that New Jersey has re-signed center Travis Zajac to a new four-year deal worth a reported $3.875 million per season.
Zajac seems like a perfect benchmark, even if Kessel only wants to ink a one-year deal with Boston in order to gain arbitration rights next summer. In three full seasons, Zajac has put up 51-87-138 totals and missed just two games. He’s 24.
We all know by now that Kessel’s numbers add up to 66-60-126 in 222 games over the same three seasons. Injuries have hindered Kessel’s progress and progression and he’ll be 22 this fall. So if you’re paying based more on past production than some intangible amount of potential, it’s not unrealistic to think Kessel could taka a deal in the $3.75 million ballpark like his teammate David Krejci in order to keep himself in a black and gold sweater. That deal would pretty much squeeze in under the Boston cap. Neither side is talking to the media about these negotiations now, and there’s no telling if that’s a plus or a minus. All we know is that neither side has much choice except to strike a deal with cap room and roster spots drying up around the league and the Bruins needing Kessel’s speed and scoring touch and Kessel needing an NHL home.
There’s no doubt in my mind Kessel’s injury has granted both sides the luxury of more time to work things out. But it wouldn’t hurt to get this done and provide the team a feel of stability it has pretty much enjoyed since general manager Peter Chiarelli took over and acted to avoid holdouts at all costs.
Rarely are folks told to look toward the state of New Jersey for something positive, but in this case the Garden State provides all the guidance the Bruins and Kessel’s representative need.