The common topic of simple Bruins bar banter this summer is "What's the latest news on Phil Kessel? Well, just in case you want to know, as of Friday, talks were still in a holding pattern between the Bruins restricted free-agent sniper and Boston GM Peter Chiarelli.
Rumors have circulated that the team's leading goal scorer last season is asking for upwards of $4.5 million per season and a multiyear deal. But the Bruins reportedly are only willing to offer him a contract similar to the one they gave David Krejci (their other prized restricted free agent this summer) that will pay Krejci an average of $3.75 per season over the next three years.
Also of note, Kessel claimed last week that a deal would be done by the season opener on Oct. 1, leading some to question: Was he setting a deadline or is one already in place? No one really knows for sure what the exact numbers are and chances are those exact numbers won't come out until he does sign.
But if the numbers do emerge, don't expect Kessel or the Bruins to throw their respective counterparts under the bus in the way disgruntled Senators forward Dany Heatley and his agents did. See, Heatley finally broke his summer silence on Friday and addressed the trade request he made back in May.
Kessel, agent Wade Arnott and Chiarelli haven't had much to report, but they have been very cordial and forthcoming with whatever they can divulge without hurting the negotiations. In fact, at times they have been even blunt. This is the proper way to handle such situations. While the Heatley matter is obviously different on several levels, the two-time 50-goal scorer needs to pay attention to how his peers act and handle the media.
Instead of finally coming clean — or at least divulging the reasoning behind his trade request that has handcuffed not only his own team but the entire salary cap-strapped NHL free agent and trade markets — Heatley repeatedly whined about the trade request being leaked to the media and what he claims to be the main reason for his trade request, a "diminished role" on the Senators.
"This is a straight hockey decision," Heatley said on a conference call Friday with members of the media. "I have nothing against the fans in Ottawa or the city of Ottawa. This is my feeling of a diminished role playing hockey and I'd like an opportunity to go somewhere else where I can play to the best of my capabilities and be the player that I can be.
"When I signed in Ottawa a few years ago, I felt I was going to be an integral part on the team," Heatley continued. "This is something I've been thinking about for a long time. Again, the diminished role was the biggest thing. I think I'm a player who can play in a lot of different situations. I am an offensive guy, but I take pride in all aspects of the game and I don't feel I was given that role on the team."
Heatley also reiterated numerous times that he and his camp were not the ones that leaked the trade request, implying that those who spread the news were to blame for what he termed a "circus".
"I did not make this trade request public, nor did my representatives," he said. "It's very unfortunate that it did become public … that's not what I wanted."
Many believe the problems between Heatley and the Senators started when then-interim coach Cory Clouston took over three quarters of the way through a dismal season in Ottawa. Clouston helped the Senators to a finish respectable enough that he was permanently installed as the team's head coach. But somewhere along the way, he and Heatley reportedly developed a rift. Throughout the summer, this has been theorized as the main reason for Heatley's trade request. There are also numerous reports of a divided locker room.
Regardless of the origin of his decision, Heatley needs to open his eyes and realize that when a high-profile athlete makes such a request in today's age, it will become public in a hurry. But more importantly, Heatley needs to look himself in the mirror and thank God that he is in a position to have a team willing to pay him $7.5 million annually for his services.
Senators GM Bryan Murray actually found a suitor for Heatley in the Edmonton Oilers and had a trade in place to send him to the Oilers in exchange for center Andrew Cogliano, winger Dustin Penner and defenseman Ladislav Smid. But Heatley nixed the deal with his no-trade clause and, in effect, collected another $4 million bonus owed to him by the Senators. On Friday, Heatley failed in trying to defend his stance on vetoing the trade.
"At the time, the one option was Edmonton and we weren't ready to make a decision," said Heatley, adding he has nothing, either, against the city of Edmonton. "We still aren't ready to make a decision until there are other options."
Unfortunately, Dany, your stock isn't as high as you might think. According to Murray and other sources with whom I've spoken since this fiasco began, no one seems to be willing to send back what you're worth in talent. Furthermore, the few interested teams can't afford your hefty salary.
"I was told [by the Heatley camp] on several occasions that a team was quite interested," Murray told the Ottawa Sun on Friday. "And when I called that particular GM … it was just the opposite. They had either no money or would not give up a player that was suggested to me. If there was an adequate trade that would make Dany happy and the Ottawa Senators happy, I would have pursued it very hard.
"I think Dany or someone believed that I would give them a package of four teams that would give Ottawa whatever they wanted for him and he could pick and choose where to go," added Murray, who, as recently as Thursday, had potentially promising trade talks with one rival GM. "That's not been the case by any means. There are still a couple of teams I'm talking to, but it's nowhere close to what I need to get back to protect this franchise."
Both Heatley and Murray acknowledged that at this rate, Heatley might have to report to camp next month as a Senator. And as much as Heatley is upset with the current "circus," there will be no running and hiding from the media then.
On numerous occasions, colleagues have suggested that the Bruins should use Chiarelli's Ottawa connections and bring Heatley to Boston in a trade. Some have suggested they could resolve the Kessel stalemate by sending him to Ottawa in a package deal for Heatley.
Kessel may not be the best interview in the world, but at least he has been talking this summer about his contract situation. And despite being seven years younger than Heatley, Kessel has shown much more maturity. I would pass on that trade proposal and here's hoping Chiarelli does as well.
He won't be the first GM to pass on Heatley. And by the sounds of it, he won't be the last.
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