Bruins ready to turn the page on Kessel saga

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:31 AM ET

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- When the Boston Bruins kicked off training camp with team medicals here in this picturesque New England town yesterday, there was no Phil Kessel on hand to be prodded and poked by doctors like the rest of his teammates.

Given that he remains without a contract, no one was surprised that the gifted young forward was nowhere to be seen at the Ristuccia Arena.

Nor is he expected to be around in the future, either.

TWO FIRST-ROUNDERS

In Kessel's own words yesterday, the chances of ever playing for the Bruins again "are slim right now."

"Slim" must be a synonym for "almost zero."

Will he end up in Toronto with the Maple Leafs, who are believed to be the frontrunners?

ESPN reported yesterday that the Leafs have offered two first-round picks and a second-rounder for Kessel.

Can the New York Rangers blow Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli away?

Will the Nashville Predators put together a package?

Or, are there other interested parties, as has been widely reported.

"We've talked concepts," Preds general manager David Poile told The Tennessean.

"I'd be very interested to see if there might be something he would like from the Predators."

Chiarelli, who has done an admirable job rebuilding this once-struggling Original Six franchise, said he would not comment on any issues regarding contract negotiations or trade speculation.

Just the way coach Claude Julien likes it.

"Peter has done a great job handling the (Kessel) situation," Julien said.

"From the outside, people can make comments but he's been very professional keeping that situation in control and not having a war of words. I respect that.

"It would be easy to be a loose lip and try to have to defend (yourself) but (Chiarelli) doesn't.

"I have confidence he'll handle this situation well, just as the players have confidence."

Perhaps the most telling comments to date that Kessel's days in Boston are done were offered by Marc Savard, one of the winger's best friends on the team.

During the Bruins' team golf tournament several days ago, Savard was reluctant to discuss the situation, but eventually opened up.

"It's between Phil and the management," Savard finally said.

"Obviously, he's a great player and obviously helps us win hockey games.

"When you miss a guy like that, there's going to be holes to fill. But then again, we've got guys like (Marco Sturm) coming back that will be able to fill holes like that.

"Obviously, we're going to miss him, but in the same sense life will go on with the team that we have."

Life goes on.

That seems to be the credo the Bruins seem to be adopting.

There have, in the past, been whispers that Kessel is a "me-first" type of guy.

On the other hand, he has beaten testicular cancer, does a lot of charity work that never gets reported, and is one of the most talented young players in the game.

That last trait is the one that obviously attracts Leafs GM Brian Burke the most.

A kid in his early 20s who scored 36 goals last season, well, those are rare commodities.

Kessel is said to be looking for a deal between $4.5-$6 million US.

If Chiarelli can't move him, Burke has positioned himself to submit an offer sheet, one that would cost the Leafs a first-, second- and a third-round pick for any offer of $6 million or less.

Wherever Kessel ends up, this much is certain: It likely will not be back in Boston.

MIKE.ZEISBERGER@SUNMEDIA.CA


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