Phil Kessel is still a restricted free agent, despite scoring 36 goals last season. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)
- Recent moves by the Boston Bruins could have an impact on the future of winger Phil Kessel.
The Bruins have been mired in a contract standoff for weeks with Kessel. GM Peter Chiarelli wants to re-sign the 21-year-old, but limited cap space and Kessel’s rumored salary demands of more than $4 million per season have been significant stumbling blocks.
During the NHL draft last month, Chiarelli attempted to move Kessel to the Toronto Maple Leafs for veteran defenseman Tomas Kaberle, but the deal ultimately fell through. Since then, the Bruins GM has stated on at least two occasions he intends to keep Kessel.
Last Friday Chiarelli dealt veteran defenseman Aaron Ward and his $2.5 million salary to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for forward Patrick Eaves and a fourth round pick in 2010. Eaves was placed on waivers with the intent of buying out the remainder of his $3.1 million contract, a move most assumed was designed to clear cap space for a re-signing of Kessel.
The Boston Globe reported that because Eaves isn’t yet 26 years old, his buyout would be at one-third the remaining value of his contract spread over twice the remaining term. According to the Globe the breakdown would be just less than $259,000 per season.
Considering the Bruins had $2.862 million in available cap space prior to these moves, it appeared to have freed up enough cap space to re-sign Kessel and stay under the cap.
Instead, Chiarelli used the savings to sign unrestricted free agent defenseman Derek Morris to a one-year, $3.3 million contract.
Chiarelli already tipped his hand last month in terms of desiring another puck-moving defenseman by trying to acquire Kaberle. Morris is younger and an upgrade over the stay-at-home Ward.
Still, this move leaves Chiarelli no further ahead in freeing up cap space to re-sign Kessel; in adding Morris and buying out Eaves he now has less cap space than before.
So the problem remains the same: Either Chiarelli frees up cap space to re-sign Kessel by trading someone else, shops the scorer around the league, or simply tries to wait him out.
- Speaking of Kaberle, it now appears he could be returning to the Maple Leafs for another season.
Although GM Brian Burke was reportedly close to shipping Kaberle to Boston a month ago, he claims there’s been no significant offer for the veteran blueliner.
Burke has until Aug. 15 to move Kaberle without the player’s consent, after which time the defenseman’s no-trade clause goes back into effect. Burke’s sense is there won’t be a deal in place by then, adding he wouldn’t be surprised if Kaberle was in the Leafs starting lineup on opening night.
With or without Kaberle, Burke has a bevy of NHL-caliber defensemen. He presently has 10 under contract for this season, which suggests he’ll move one or two in the coming weeks.
Whoever is moved, it won’t be recent acquisitions Mike Komisarek, Francois Beauchemin or Garnet Exelby and Burke certainly won’t part with promising youngster Luke Schenn. He probably won’t find many takers for oft-injured Mike Van Ryn or the overpaid Jeff Finger, either.
Beyond those defensemen Ian White appears the more enticing target for teams seeking blueline depth.
Burke’s attempt to swap Kaberle for Kessel suggests he’s in the market for a scoring forward, although he downplayed that possibility saying at this point he’d prefer to get a draft pick in return.
Burke might not pursue a scoring forward this summer, but if the Leafs struggle offensively next season it could push him into shopping a defenseman for scoring help. The Columbus Blue Jackets and Chicago Blackhawks could be potential trade partners for Burke as both are looking to bolster their defense and have interesting young pieces Burke would be interested in acquiring.
Burke also might be able to sweeten the pot by tossing in goaltender Justin Pogge. The Toronto Star reported last week the Leafs intended to shop Pogge – who failed to play up to lofty expectations – to give him a fresh start with another team.
On his own, Pogge probably wouldn’t draw much of a return, but bundled with a defenseman he could possibly bring in a forward with decent scoring skills.
- The Edmonton Oilers are still trying to woo Ottawa Senators winger Dany Heatley into accepting a trade by sending him team videos, but their efforts are now being met with scorn from some pundits.
The Edmonton Journal’s Dan Barnes and the New York Post’s Larry Brooks considered the Oilers’ recent efforts akin to begging and suggested it’s time the club’s front office accept the fact Heatley doesn’t want to play for them.
It’s possible Heatley is leaving open the possibility of accepting a trade to Edmonton if no other clubs express interest, but his silence regarding his trade request and his prior refusals to be dealt to the Oilers are ensuring he won’t be welcomed with open arms by Edmonton fans if he finally does agree to go there.
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Rumor Roundup appears Mondays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey Magazine.