The Boston Bruins enter the season with their entire roster set, with the exception of their leading goal scorer, Phil Kessel. The Bruins had two major restricted free agents to sign this offseason, David Krejci and Phil Kessel. The Bruins took care of business, signing David Krejci to a 3 year, 11.25 million dollar deal. Krejci will still be an RFA when his deal expires.
Many thought that the Bruins would follow suit with Kessel, and sign him to a similar deal, an average of 3.5-4 million per season. That never came to fruition. There were rumors that the Kessel camp was asking for 5+ million per season, which Kessel later denied.
Kessel just finished the third year of his rookie contract, and is not arbitration eligible until the end of next season. Kessel’s only leverage is to either holdout, which is unlikely, or sign an offersheet, which he has yet to do. When looking at similar deals signed, if Kessel wants 5+ million per season, he would have to sign a long term deal that would buyout unrestricted years, such as the one Nathan Horton signed with the Florida Panthers. In that type of deal, the first few years are in the 3-4 million range, representing the RFA years, while the next few the salary jumps to 4-6 million, representing UFA years. The Bruins are not going to sign Kessel for 4+ million and not buyout UFA years. The point of a deal that would pay 3.5 million+ per would be to buyout arbitration years, so they don’t have to go year to year. Otherwise if both sides want to play year to year contracts, Kessel should sign his qualifier which is just under a million dollars.
The Bruins are in no rush as Kessel is not expected back until December, and the Bruins only need to sign him before December 1st so he can be eligible to play this season. The Bruins could go into the season with this roster, and then trade players once Kessel is healthy, which is what they seem to be content on doing.
The draft came, and there were rumors that the Bruins were close to a trade that would send D Tomas Kaberele and the 7th overall pick to Boston and Kessel to Toronto. The deal was aborted, as a miscommunication occurred as the Bruins thought the 1st rounder was coming to them, while the Leafs thought the Bruins 1st was going to them along with Kessel.
The Bruins then made a somewhat of a surprise move, and traded Aaron Ward to the Carolina Hurricanes for Patrick Eaves and a 4th round draft pick. Eaves was then bought-out. Many saw this a precursor to a Kessel signing, but it was a move to acquire another defenseman. The Bruins then signed D Derek Morris to a 1 year, 3.3 million dollar deal. Morris was the alternative to Kaberle and the failed trade talks. The Bruins actually almost a million dollars in salary in these subsequent moves.
The Kessel front remained quiet until the Maple Leafs recently acquired their own 2010 2nd round pick from the Chicago Blackhawks for a 2nd and 3rd round pick. The reasoning for this is that a team needs all of its own picks to give to a team if they sign a player to an offersheet. Here are the compensation charts for this season:
$994,433 or below None
Over $994,433 to $1,506,716 Third-round choice
Over $1,506,716 to $3,013,434 Second-round choice
Over $3,013,434 to $4,520,150 First-round and third-round choice
Over $4,520,150 to $6,026,867 First-round, second-round and third-round choice
Over $6,026,867 to $7,533,584 Two first-round choices, one second- and one third-round choice
Over $7,533,584 Four first-round choices
The Bruins have told the Leafs that they will match any offer, and GM Peter Chiarelli has said that the team will deal a player if necessary to keep Kessel, with Andrew Ference, and Chuck Kobasew being the most likely to be dealt. If the Leafs offer a deal at below 4.52 million, the Bruins only get a 1st and 3rd, which is not worth a player of Kessel’s ability and age. If they offer above 4.52 million, they get a 1st, 2nd and 3rd, which still isn’t worth a lot for a player of Kessel’s talent. But a contract that big could hinder the team financially.
Another option? If the Leafs did offer Kessel a deal that paid him in the 4.52+ million range, the team could match the offer, and then flip him to the Leafs or another team for more than what the compensation is. The Leafs first round pick could be in the top 10, but that is unlikely is more likely to be a low teen pick, so it isn’t like a top 3 or anything and a 2nd and 3rd is just chump change.
The Bruins could also match the offersheet and trade away guys like Ference and Kobasew or even Ryder or Sturm. Or maybe the Leafs aren’t going to give an offersheet.
All we know is that this Phil Kessel saga needs to end soon, and if both sides can’t come to some sort of agreement, this situation could turn even uglier.
Edit: Did not know you couldn’t trade a player if you match an offersheet.