The Bruins began their post-Ray Shero era yesterday by coming to an agreement in principle with Peter Chiarelli, the 41-year-old former captain of the Harvard Crimson, to become the seventh general manager in franchise history.
One day after being rebuked by Shero, and only hours after Shero agreed to a five-year, $4 million pact to become GM of the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Bruins late yesterday afternoon finally worked out the terms to bring Chiarelli back to the Boston side of the Charles River.
However, it took a rare, even puzzling bit of intervention by the league's front office in New York, specifically the arbitration skills of commissioner Gary Bettman, to close the deal. In the end, according to a number of sources, the Bruins surrendered a conditional draft pick, possibly as high as a second-rounder in next year's draft, to Ottawa as compensation for signing the Senators' assistant GM.
Charlie Jacobs, the Bruins' executive vice president, last night would not confirm the deal has been completed. Jacobs, speaking on his cellphone around 9 o'clock, would divulge only that the Bruins sought ``league guidance" pertaining ``to one of the candidates" the club had in mind for the job left vacant since March 25, the day Mike O'Connell was fired.
Jacobs, who otherwise only confirmed that the league's guidance came during a meeting in New York, refused to name Chiarelli as the candidate at the center of the ``league guidance" issue. He also would neither confirm nor deny that a deal was in hand for Chiarelli or any other prospective candidate.
However, multiple sources around the league reported that the deal was complete and that the Bruins soon would make it public in a news conference. Given that today is the unofficial start of the Memorial Day weekend, and that media coverage of an official signing would be, at best, limited, it's more likely that Chiarelli will be named GM formally next week, perhaps as early as Tuesday.
All in all, the meeting, which might not have met the standard to be defined as a formal arbitration hearing, brought together key members of both the Bruins' and Senators' front offices, aimed at what was a growing dispute between the clubs. The Senators, approached last weekend by the Bruins about hiring Chiarelli, let it be known then that they would demand compensation, possibly as much as a first-round pick, to sign Chiarelli, who has been Ottawa's assistant GM for less than two years.
Not initially interested in surrendering a high pick, according to a number of sources, the Bruins then made their offer Monday to Shero. Over the next 48-72 hours, however, the 43-year-old Shero grew uncomfortable with the offer, and more enticed to manage the Penguins. First, Boston's money offer was at the low end, believed to be upward of $600,000 a year over four years. Perhaps more troublesome to Shero, the Bruins demanded that he accept Jeff Gorton, the interim general manager, as his assistant GM. New GMs historically get to fill out their front office staffs with their own hires.
By Wednesday night, Shero was signed and sealed in Pittsburgh, and an early-afternoon news conference was held there yesterday to formalize the choice. He succeeds Craig Patrick, the longtime Penguins GM who was fired April 20. Patrick was among the candidates to interview for the vacancy here in the Hub of Hockey.
Meanwhile, with Shero gone to the flightless birds, the Bruins were back at square one. And their next choice, Chiarelli, wasn't coming to Boston unless the Bruins bit the bullet on compensation, which is what led the Bruins, said one source, to request the guidance of Bettman et al in New York.
Jacobs and team president Harry Sinden were joined in Manhattan by John Muckler, GM of the Senators, and Roy Mlakar, the Senators' president and CEO, as well as Chiarelli, who joined the club as head of legal affairs some seven years ago. The sides presented their cases to Bettman, and a number of hours later, and no doubt a good amount of arm-twisting by Bettman, the sides left with the agreement in place.
Sources were unclear as to the exact compensation the Bruins will pay, but the pick will not come in this year's draft, slated for June 24 in Vancouver. According to one source, the Bruins are on the hook for a third-rounder, and it could become a second-rounder if the Bruins qualify for the playoffs during the 2006-07 season.
The Bruins, meanwhile, didn't issue so much as a press release, referring either to Bettman's brokering of the compensation, or where the club stood in terms of making the new GM hire. A quickly cobbled together news release Wednesday, attributed to no one in the organization, said only that the club was still considering candidates and there would be no further statement until someone was named to the position.
Around the league, among fans, radio talk shows, and a variety of media reports, the front office's bungling of the hire has turned the once-proud franchise into a laughingstock of ``Saturday Night Live" proportions.
The Bruins had Dean Lombardi on their radar initially, but while they dithered, Lombardi signed on as the Kings' new GM. They identified Shero as their guy, but saw the Penguins swoop in and take him away. Chiarelli, who has the least experience among the three candidates, no doubt will work for less money than Lombardi and Shero, and sources say that he'll accept Gorton as his designated right-hand man. However, it took the embarrassment of Shero walking away, and the unsavory prospect of handing over possibly a second-round pick, to bring aboard a candidate who was not, by any stretch, Boston's first choice.
Over the long weekend, the Bruins will have their bevy of pricey consultants manufacture a boatload of spin, words that will attempt to mitigate the stink of some bungled negotiations. The franchise's bold new era, one that the junior Jacobs pledged would be open, transparent, and far more communicative, for this week has read like a script treatment for the remake of ``I'm Dickens, He's Fenster."
Welcome to the Hub of Hockey, Peter Chiarelli, new general manager of the Boston Bruins. You soon will find that nothing in your Harvard syllabus covered the things you are about to see.