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The Boston Globe is reporting that sources close to the free agency negotiations between the Boston Bruins and right wing Phil Kessel are saying that Kessel is no longer intends to pursue talks with the team any longer. Kevin Paul Dupont of the Boston Globe has written that Kessel and Wade Arnott, his agent, have informed the Bruins that “the right winger’s priority instead is to sign a free-agent offer sheet with one of the league’s 29 other teams.”
The report has faced immediate criticism as it includes no direct quotes from these unnamed sources and Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli simply replied “No comment” when asked via email about the report.
However, recent developments have been grim for those hoping that Kessel would stay in Boston: during the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, the Bruins thought they had a deal in place to send the Bruins leading goal scorer last season to the Toronto Maple Leafs, but the deal fell apart; rumors have been swirling that any negotiations between the two camps ceased awhile ago; and, most recently, a media war, which came to light as the Toronto Maple Leafs moved to reacquire their draft picks (necessary to give Kessel an offer sheet) has now broken out.
The Nashville Predators, New York Rangers, and Maple Leafs have all expressed interest in adding Kessel to their rosters, but none have any offers to the 21-year-old. The teams are reportedly seeking a sign-and-trade move from the Bruins to ensure that the former fifth overall pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft can be signed at an affordable price. For this to happen, Kessel will need to be signed by October 1, the date when all NHL teams are required to be under the salary cap. He is reportedly seeking close to $5 million (reportedly $1 million more than the Bruins want to offer), but the team only has $1.7 million left in the cap. As a result, Kessel – and eager Bruins fans – may soon know where No. 81 will play this coming season.
Update: Phil Kessel told sportsnet.ca that he hasn’t ended talks with the Boston Bruins, stating that he doesn’t “know who is saying that, but it’s not true”.
However, Kessel did admit that negotiations have been “unpleasant” and that the odds of continuing to play in black and gold are “slim at this point”. While offering no further insight, he summed up the whole process quite simply: “It’s just business.”