While the re-signing of defenseman Matt Hunwick was supposed to be the focus of Tuesday’s teleconference with Hunwick and Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli, it was inevitable that Boston’s lone restricted free agent yet to sign would come up.
On Monday that player, Phil Kessel, told AM 640 in Toronto that negotiations had not progressed and that he had “no idea” what will happen with regard to his future with the Bruins.
“I have no clue what’s going to happen at this point,” Kessel told the station. “Obviously, it’s been a slow process, but you never know what’s going to happen. I don’t think [a contract with the Bruins is] any closer than it has been in months past, or anything like that.
“Obviously, you’d like to always stay with the team you were first drafted by, and you never know what’s going to happen in hockey. Hockey’s a weird game. Guys get traded all the time and guys move on because it’s a [salary] cap world. Who knows what’s going to happen? We’ll see.”
When asked to react to those comments by Kessel, Chiarelli reiterated his stance on not commenting on contract negotiations. But just as he told NESN’s Kathryn Tappen last week, he made it clear that he wants the 36-goal sniper back in the fold.
“He’s a talented young player,” said Chiarelli. “We all like Phil and we’d like to have him back.
“I like where we are because for the most part we have our team in place,” said Chiarelli. “Cap-wise we’re getting up there, but certainly Phil is a player that if it comes to a point where I have to make a move to get him in the mix, I will certainly do that.”
Hunwick’s deal leaves the Bruins with roughly $2.8 million to work with under the $56.8 million salary cap. Kessel is reportedly looking for a multiyear contract worth $4.5 million per season, but may be willing to settle for less money and fewer years.
But it is almost a certainty that even if Kessel concedes on money and the term of the contract, the Bruins will still have to make a salary-cap dump and move someone from their roster. Chiarelli acknowledged that on Tuesday, saying that he is prepared to do so while citing that he will still be able to keep the majority of the team that finished atop the Eastern Conference in the regular season together.
“For the most part, our year was successful and I anticipate this team continuing to grow as a team and the younger players continuing to improve,” said Chiarelli. “[Keeping that nucleus together] has been my focus and will continue to be my focus.
“If there is an opportunity to improve certain areas,” he continued, “we’ve looked at them, we’ve talked about them. We may not be done. There’s a lot of the summer left. There’s a lot of players still out there.
“We’re at a point where, cap-wise, we’re coming close to the end so there’d have to be some shuffling, but I’m not averse to that. And we still have another player to sign in Phil Kessel, so the summer’s not done yet.”