Landing Kessel won't be easy

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:05 AM ET

Two major obstacles remain for the Maple Leafs or any team trying to sign or trade for Boston Bruins winger Phil Kessel.

He has a shoulder injury that won't heal until November. And Boston general manager Peter Chiarelli is expected to match any offer sheet for the restricted free agent -- or try to make other trades and get under the NHL cap to accommodate Kessel's anticipated $4-million US-plus salary request.

The New York Rangers head a list of teams also interested in Kessel, likely via a trade. While the Leafs have the needed first, second and third-round picks to make the bold RFA signing, they could package one of those picks and one or more of their surplus defencemen as part of a deal.

Whatever the case, Chiarelli is not under the gun to make a snap decision before training camp starts this weekend.

UNION BLUES

As player reps, Matt Stajan and Garnet Exelby had a lot of explaining to do this week as the Leafs gathered for training camp. Both had a front-row seat for the ousting of executive director Paul Kelly last month, which led to other key members of the union jumping ship. The NHLPA was open to criticism, including shots from former member Jeremy Roenick that many players are uneducated about business matters.

"(Roenick) can say whatever he wants," Stajan said. "It had to be done and we just want to move forward.

"Some guys take more responsibility with (union duties). Everyone who goes (to meetings) is educated and we get a lot of advice from people who know their stuff. It's not like we have a couple of beers and make decisions."

Exelby, who still represents the Atlanta Thrashers, agrees the public must be mystified by all the union upheaval, but said as with similar groups, mistakes are often made to get the desired result.

"We made a tough decision," Exelby said, believing firing Kelly now was better than fretting about leadership on the eve of the next collective bargaining talks.


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