Tale of two GMs

MIKE ZEISBERGER, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:40 AM ET

BOSTON — Some 165 days after The Trade, the omnipresent shadow of the Phil Kessel swap continues to hover over Brian Burke and Peter Chiarelli.

Even on trade deadline day.

Kessel, of course, was shipped to Burke’s Maple Leafs back on Sept. 19, a controversial deal that netted Chiarelli’s Boston Bruins two first-rounds and a second-round draft pick.

For weeks after the transaction was made, the debate raged in Toronto as to whether Burke sold the farm to acquire the young enigmatic forward. And rightly so.

But as the weeks and months have passed, you would think other subjects would have taken over.

Like the Olympics, where Burke’s Americans almost upset Team Canada.

Like the blockbuster deals orchestrated by Burke that brought the likes of Dion Phaneuf and J-S Giguere to Toronto.

And, more recently, like Burke’s ability the past 72 hours to ship out pending unrestricted free agents Alexei Ponikarovsky and Lee Stempniak, bringing a return that includes prospect Luca Caputi and a couple of draft picks.

But the implications of the Kessel trade just won’t go away, as Burke and Chiarelli discovered during their respective trade deadline day news conferences Wednesday.

Talk about a tale of two cities.

In Toronto, Burke revealed that Tomas Kaberle and his handlers had, in fact, revealed three teams that the veteran would have allowed himself to be traded to. Unfortunately, he just couldn’t get a deal done.

The popular assumption, of course, is that Burke was trying to recoup in any potential Kaberle swap at least one of the first-rounders he surrendered for Kessel. It is a notion that makes him snarly.

“I would do it again and again and again if I had to,” Burke told reporters, echoing the stance he has maintained since the day he brought Kessel to the Leafs.

Even if it means the Bruins will use the Toronto pick to pluck either Plymouth’s Tyler Seguin or Windsor’s Taylor Hall, the two top ranked prospects in this year’s NHL draft?

“I would be happy if Peter Chiarelli got either Seguin or Hall,” Burke argued. “The best trades are those that benefit both teams. And, in our case, we got a 21-year-old kid in Kessel who scored 37 goals in the National Hockey League.

“Like I said, I’d do it again.”

The Bruins have a legitimate shot at either player. Were the season to end today, Boston would hold the second pick, barring an unforeseen scrambling of the order during the lottery results. And, should the Leafs drop from 29th to 30th in the standings by the time the season ends, all the better for the Bruins.

Of course, Chiarelli has issues of his own here in Boston.

And they also have to do with Kessel.

The favourites of many to be contenders in the Eastern Conference, the disappointing Bruins rank last in the league in offence, averaging just 2.3 goals per game. And when Chiarelli failed to add a forward by the deadline Wednesday, the vultures were circling over him.

Asked if teams were trying to fleece him out of draft picks, including those he acquired from the Leafs, the Bruins GM broke into a wry smile.

“Fleece ... interesting word. Let’s just say some (GMs) were pretty friendly on the phone,” Chiarelli said wryly.

All the while, one thing is certain: The Bruins might not miss Kessel in the dressing room, but they certainly miss his goals on the scoreboard.

Even after 165 days.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca


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