Phil Kessel is currently the only unsigned Bruins player going into the 2009-10 season. He is also their top goal scorer from the 2008-09 season. Kessel, the Bruins 5th overall pick in the 2006 NHL Draft, finally took the next step in his development, scoring 36 goals and 60 points, almost doubling his previous career high of goals and assists.
Kessel is rumored to have asked for 5+ million per season, but he has denied those claims, and it seems he is looking for 4+ million. Kessel’s teammate, David Krejci, who came off an ever better season, signed a three year deal worth 11.25 million dollars, 3.75 million per season. The Bruins are looking to sign him to a similar deal, possibly even less per season.
Kessel is not arbitration eligible, so he can either sign an offer sheet, hold out or sign his qualifier.
The Bruins are in no rush to sign Kessel, as he is injured and won’t return for a few months, but he must sign before December 1st to be eligible to play this season.
Kessel is unlikely to hold out an entire season because next offseason, when he is arbitration eligible, he would make less money.
The Bruins could trade Kessel, but unless they receive a top prospect, they have no reason to move him. They cannot except a player who would instantly impact the team due to cap issues.
Kessel could sign an offer sheet, but teams are unlikely to do so because the Bruins would likely match and teams generally do not give out offer sheets.
In the New NHL, teams sign their young players to long term deals so they can have them a lower cap hit than they are worth. Most of these long term deals buy into UFA years, but he Bruins nor Kessel want a deal that long. The Bruins are not going to give Kessel big money without buying those seasons. The players Kessel compares himself to, have signed deals in which they buy into UFA years, thus inflating their cap hits.
The Bruins could force Kessel to sign his qualifier, as he has no leverage other than to hold out or sign an offer sheet. This would allow them to retain Kessel without having to trade any of their players.