Arrival of Morris Likely Spells Departure For Kessel

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Arrival of Morris Likely Spells Departure For Kessel When the Bruins dealt away Aaron Ward?s hefty $2.5 million contract to the Hurricanes, it was a surefire guess that general manager Peter Chiarelli and the B?s were making room to lure winger Phil Kessel back aboard with a hefty and lengthy contract offer.

Guess again.

Less than 24 hours later, the Bruins announced the signing of free agent defenseman Derek Morris to a $3.3 million contract — almost $1 million more than Ward?s deal — pushing the Black and Gold to the brink of cap space. Boston now has roughly $1.3 million of cap space to work with, but Kessel has been demanding around $5 million, a number that Chiarelli figured to be too high even prior to the addition of Morris.

Soon after Morris boarded ship, the B?s GM confirmed that the front office is done dealing for a while. This is great news for Bruins front-office employees who have vacation plans, but it could spell very bad news for Kessel, who appears to have spent his last days in the B's locker room.

On paper, Causeway?s Crew looks solid up and down the sheet, even without the services of last season?s leading scorer:

Milan Lucic – Marc Savard – Michael Ryder
Blake Wheeler – David Krejci – Mark Recchi
Marco Sturm – Patrice Bergeron – Chuck Kobasew
Shawn Thornton – Steve Begin – Byron Bitz

Zdeno Chara – Derek Morris
Andrew Ference – Dennis Wideman
Matt Hunwick – Mark Stuart

Tim Thomas
Tuukka Rask

If Boston does want to take back Kessel, it would likely call for the termination of another forward, perhaps Marco Sturm and his $3.5 million cap hit. But should the B?s indeed part ways with Kessel, things are still looking strong for their attack. Michael Ryder (27 goals, 26 assists last season), Milan Lucic (17 goals, 25 assists), Blake Wheeler (21 goals, 24 assists) and Mark Recchi (23 goals, 38 assists) make up a group of four lethal, top-two line wingers, while Chuck Kobasew and Sturm are proven veterans with multiple 20-plus goal seasons on the third line.

Who?s hot?
Defenseman Derek Morris signed a one-year, $3.3 million contract with the Bruins.

"He's been very durable over the years," Chiarelli told The Boston Globe. "He's got a nice, thick body. He uses it very well when he plays. It's one of the reasons why he's been very durable. I think we've seen the tip of the iceberg with Derek the last couple years. He does have a very good skill set. He really makes a nice pass. He's got a tremendous shot and a really good offensive skill set. The thing we really liked was his compete level. You'll see that in September. I think it's a tremendous addition for us."

Morris? numbers have been steadily declining since an incredible 2002-03 season with Colorado when he netted 11 goals and 37 assists for 48 points — all career highs. Last season, between New York and Phoenix, he popped five goals and 15 assists in 75 contests.

Who?s not?
Winger P.J. Axelsson is saying goodbye to the Bruins, the city of Boston and the NHL altogether after 11 seasons in the Hub. Ax signed with Frolunda of the Swedish Elite League, the team's official Web site reports.

"He's sad to be leaving Boston. No question," Neil Abbott, Axelsson's agent, told the Globe. "He's been here for a long time, his whole career. He's very appreciative of the Boston fans and sends his thanks."

Quote of the week
"I'll get him back in practice. Those are things that happen during the game. It's water under the bridge. I'm on his team now."
–Aaron Ward, in the Globe, when asked about joining Scott Walker, the Canes forward who sucker-punched him in last year?s postseason

What to watch for
For the fourth year, the Boston Bruins Foundation Bike Team is going to help fight cancer in the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge on Aug. 1 and 2. This year's Bruins squad features former Bruins Lyndon Byers, Gary Doak, Shawn McEachern, Frank Simonetti, Bob Sweeney, Don Sweeney and Tim Sweeney. The PMC, which begins in Sturbridge and stretches through 46 towns to Provincetown, has contributed more than $239 million to lifesaving cancer research and treatment at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute since its 1980 inception. More than 5,500 cyclists are expected to ride this year.

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