It’s less than one month until Boston Bruins training camp 2009 opens on Causeway Street, and winger Phil Kessel is still unsigned.
Some might react to the Bruins’ non-action, and that of Kessel’s representatives, with the type of hysteria normally reserved for a town hall meeting about “Obama-care.” Those keeping their wits about them in regard this situation, however, can pretty much rest assured their No. 81 jersey won’t be outdated (at least until mid-winter).
There are numerous reasons why the Kessel-Bruins marriage won’t be breaking up in the immediate future. Today in the Boston Globe, Hall-of-Famer Kevin Paul Dupont explained the situation:
“Absent arbitration rights, he has little leverage to leapfrog over (David) Krejci’s pay grade, unless another team were to offer a hefty deal. However, given the compensation scale set by the collective bargaining agreement, another club is not likely to pony up more than something in the $4.2 million range, which would bring the Bruins a first-, second-, and third-round draft pick in return, if (general manager Peter) Chiarelli opted not to match. However, at that pay level and with that meager trove in picks, Chiarelli probably would match.
“For now, it remains a stalemate. Per the CBA, Kessel must ink a new deal prior to Dec. 1 or be forced to sit out the entire 2009-10 season. All the leverage now is on Chiarelli’s side, which also might mean it’s the best time to deal the center/right wing.
“The longer Kessel remains unsigned, the potential for an offer sheet hangs out there, along with the potential that Kessel demands a trade, which from here looks to be about the only way he might diminish Boston’s leverage. …”
As for the notion of trading Kessel right now, I disagree that this would be an opportune time for Chiarelli to make a deal. Right now, Kessel is still rehabilitating from his shoulder surgery and any acquiring team would probably pay more once it sees that Kessel is fully healed. More importantly, any team bringing Kessel into its fold would have to get the speedster signed. Teams with cap room that are willing to allocate that space to a player right now number less than octogenarians using Twitter. Hence, no offer sheets to restricted free agents like Kessel and New York Rangers center Brandon Dubinsky, and unemployment for unrestricted free agent standouts such as Alex Tanguay and Dominic Moore.
That’s why between now and the Dec. 1 deadline, or a day when Kessel demonstrates a clean bill of health — whichever comes first — Kessel will remain property of the Bruins.
My crystal ball is still saying the same thing to me now it did a month ago, only it’s screaming it instead of whispering it. Inevitably, Kessel will agree to a one-year that comfortably fits the Bruins’ cap. He’ll join the club sometime in November and work his way up to one of the top two lines. Should he make it through the entire season in black and gold, the contract dance of this summer will be all the rage again in ’10. But this time Kessel will have arbitration rights and the league-wide cap-space situation might be more to his benefit. If no one is willing to ante up with an offer sheet, teams might be more open to a trade. Or the Bruins might be so impressed by Kessel’s continued maturation that they’ll meet his price with Marc Savard coming off their books (although potential RFAs Milan Lucic and Blake Wheeler will also be competing for that cash).
In the grand scheme of things, a one-year deal is a win-win situation for both parties. Unless Kessel is willing to sit out the year, and/or head overseas, he’s soon going to find himself without any choice but to take what the Bruins are willing to give. And with his eyes always on the future, you can’t expect Chiarelli to want to lock up Kessel for more than one year at this point. Chiarelli needs to have flexibility a year from now.
Sooner or later everyone involved will see the light. So if you’re among those losing sleep over the situation, kick back and enjoy the last days of summer and start planning where you think Kessel fits into the Bruins’ line combinations.