BOSTON — After announcing a multi-year contract extension for head coach Claude Julien, Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli was of course asked about another contract agreement that hasn’t been reached yet — that of star winger Phil Kessel.
Chiarelli stuck to his guns about not commenting on ongoing negotiations — at least the specific negotiations. But the GM acknowledged that he thought Kessel’s agent Wade Arnott was “waging a bit of a media war.”Arnott was recently quoted as saying that there have been no talks.
And then Chiarelli decided it was time to explain his position on the situation with the restricted free agent. Chiarelli joked that he could “just give him a pailful of money and it will be done.” He went on to explain:
“It’s a different system now. It really is a different system now and to be a hard-liner so to speak, you have to keep in mind what these players make after their entry-level contracts. The percentage of increase is huge. And what it does is it throws everything else out of whack. So there’s a balance that you have to keep. And Phil’s a terrific young player.
“And I’m responsible to our team and the fact that there’s a fixed-cost system that may go down, all parties considered have to look at the team, have to look at their own interest and you see more sacrifices made on both sides now. These are things that a lot of people don’t understand or they fail to look at. It’s a lot more of a balancing act now than ever.
“Hey, if you’re pushed toward the cap, you’re in a position where you have to balance it even more. That’s the position that we’re in. I’ve said publicly and I’ll say it again that I want Phil to be on our team. And I’ll do everything I can do to put him on our team, within reason, with the balance that I’m talking about. If it means moving players, I’ll do it. If it means matching offer sheets I’ll do it.”
Chiarelli has not had a player holdout of training camp since he came to the Bruins. With training camp a week away from opening, he’s not concerned that the absence of one of his stars will hinder his team’s focus or ability to get down to the business at hand.
“It becomes a distraction because the other party starts making it a distraction,” he said. “I understand all the tools of their trade too. I used to be an agent. So you deal with it. We have a strong room, we’ve got strong leadership. It’s just part of the game.
“I just get a little disturbed when they talk about us being cheap. Because it’s not about that. Look at some of the second contracts we’ve given — (Patrice) Bergeron, (David) Krejci. It’s not about that. It’s about a balance.”