As the players hit the ice, it appears NHL general managers are already starting to hit the phones and try to fill out and organize their rosters.
For most of the summer, the NHL trade and free-agent market has been hamstrung by the Dany Heatley and Phil Kessel stalemates. Heatley is still waiting to be dealt out of Ottawa while Kessel remains unsigned by the Bruins, awaiting his fate for the 2009-10 season.
But last Friday, we may have seen the gates open once again. San Jose is rumored to be a suitor for both players and cleared some cap space by trading defensemen Christian Ehrhoff and Brad Lukowich to the Canucks. Many around the league feel this may be a precursor to a bigger deal, possibly for Heatley or Kessel.
Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun reported Sunday that the Sharks could actually be preparing to make an offer sheet to Kessel. The Bruins are on record as saying they would match any offer sheets made to the restricted free agent — though, on occasion, general manager Peter Chiarelli has slipped in the “within reason” when saying he would match. So unless Sharks GM Doug Wilson decides to throw a ridiculous contract at Kessel, expect the Bruins to match any offer sheet thrown down by him.
There were also rumors this past week that the Rangers and Devils have interest in Kessel, but sources with both teams denied that. Chiarelli was on vacation last week and unavailable for comment while a call to Kessel’s agent, Wade Arnott, went unreturned through the weekend.
Also of note this past weekend was CKAC Radio in Montreal reporting that unrestricted free agent defenseman Francois Bouillon, who spent last season with the Canadiens, was ready to sign a contract with the Bruins. With seven NHL defensemen already on their NHL roster, this might mean another blueliner is on his way out via a trade, or it could simply be a depth move to increase competition at camp. Some believe defenseman Andrew Ference is being shopped as part of a package deal involving forward Chuck Kobasew that would open up cap space for the Bruins to sign Kessel.
While this is all speculation, things are definitely starting to heat up and should do so even more as camp approaches and begins. So stay tuned. The Kessel saga could reach a conclusion soon.
Remember Kessel told the media at the Team USA Olympic orientation camp that the situation would be resolved by Oct. 1, when the season starts. Maybe the young sniper really did know this. We shall see.