Phil Kessel informed the Bruins that he wanted out of Boston. (Nick Laham/Getty)
General manager Peter Chiarelli, who estimated that the Phil Kessel trade was finalized at 9:15 p.m. last night, said there were two reasons the deal took place: the forward's desire to leave and Toronto's looming threat of an offer sheet.
"Let me be perfectly clear," Chiarelli said. "This trade is really about two things. One, it's about a player who did not want to play in Boston. Two, it's about the threat or the perceived threat of an offer sheet."
At the June draft in Montreal, the Bruins attempted to trade Kessel to Toronto in a package that would have returned Tomas Kaberle and the No. 7 pick. Chiarelli said the primary focus of the trade was the seventh pick. The deal fell apart because of miscommunication. Then in July, Kessel informed the Bruins that he wanted to be traded, and there was also chatter that an offer sheet might come down.
"We want players that want to be here," Chiarelli said. "I know that this player is a good player. Obviously he is. He can skate. He can shoot the puck. But we want players that want to be here. We want to grow the team with these types of players. I know the history here, but this isn't about frugality. There were some significant [contract] offers made. There was little or no attempt to negotiate from the other side, which I think is for a reason, which is the reason I explained earlier."
The Bruins had discussions with Nashville, with prospects Colin Wilson and Ryan Ellis being their two top targets. But in Chiarelli's estimation, the Predators would not have been able to match the five-year, $27 million contract Kessel received from the Leafs. Chiarelli said Kessel would not accept a sign-and-trade, which limited trade partners because most teams besides Toronto didn't have the funds Kessel was hoping for.
"There wasn't a team, but for one, that was willing to make a firm offer and willing to pay the player the amount of money he was requesting," Chiarelli said.
* One of the biggest reasons why Kessel wanted out of Boston was his prickly relationship with Claude Julien. The coach practiced tough love with Kessel, benching him against Montreal in the first round of the 2007-08 playoffs. At times, Julien was critical of Kessel's soft play and reluctance to stick to the defense-first system. However, under Julien's whip, Kessel responded with a 36-goal season last year. "He had his best season under this coach. Enough said on that," Chiarelli said. "We stress defense first. We stress competitiveness. Having said all that, what were we, first or second in the league in goals scored? And he had 36, 37 goals? Got him a nice raise."
* Had the trade not been completed and Toronto signed Kessel to a five-year, $27 million offer sheet, Chiarelli said he wasn't sure whether he would have matched. It is unlikely that the Bruins would have matched, considering Kessel's desire to leave and the multiple moves required to clear cap space. Chiarelli said the Bruins could have placed Kessel on long-term injured reserve, but they would have had to clear space when he was ready to play.
* Chiarelli emphasized the importance of the picks coming back. The Bruins can use the picks to select prospects, or they can wheel them in future deals to land existing players.