Advertise - Print Edition

Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Phil Kessel must make a contract decision

Published: September 18, 2009
Section: Sports

Now that the U.S Open is over, I am turning to a new sport, hockey. I know the season does not start for a few more weeks but I am already excited for two reasons. First I am from Minnesota, and second, I spent last year in a country where the only ice you will find is in a drink, and I wentthrough major hockey withdrawal. So this week I am going to talk about one player who has made much news so far in his short career here in Boston – Phil Kessel.

I first heard about Kessel my senior year in high school while he was playing for the Minnesota Gophers. At that point, he had already made a lot of news in the hockey world. He first skipped his senior year of high school to start college early and then decided to play for the Gophers instead of his hometown Wisconsin Badgers. And then there is my personal favorite Kessel moment when he scored his first goal against the Badgers, in Madison, and he skates around the entire rink with his hand cupped to an ear listening to (OK, it was mocking) the crowd who booed him every time he touched the puck.

It took me that one moment to understand many scouts’ concern. Phil Kessel might have maturity issues. Kessel was supposed to be America’s answer to Sidney Crosby; there was a good chance that he could go number one in the 2006 NHL draft. Instead the St. Louis Blues number one choice was future Gopher Erik Johnson, and Kessel was taken at number five by the Bruins. And then came the negotiations. Kessel did not want to return to the Gophers, and even though many thought that it would be good for his game to return to college and mature, Kessel decided to sign a three-year entry-level contract with the Bruins.

His rookie season was sadly most notable for his battle with testicular cancer. Kessel had surgery on Dec. 11, 2006 removing the tumor and was able to return to play on Jan. 9, 2007. I was actually at Kessel’s last game pre-surgery, a 5-1 loss against the New Jersey Devils, and my respect for Kessel grew because it takes courage to play a game with the knowledge that you have cancer. Because of Kessel’s attitude and ability to come back and play after surgery he won the Bill Masterson Memorial Trophy for the player who best exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to the sport of hockey. He is the only rookie to have won the award.

The next two seasons Kessel’s play improved along with the play of the entire Bruins team. They capped off the 2008-2009 season by winning the NHL Eastern Conference and got to the conference semifinals before losing to the Carolina Hurricanes. Kessel had a career high of 60 points in 70 games during the regular season and scored 11 points in 11 games during the playoffs.

Bringing these stats into restricted free agency, Kessel and the Bruins are not able to come to new contract terms. Kessel’s teammate David Krejci, with comparable stats, signed a contract for three years $11.25 million. It was expected that Kessel would sign a contract with similar terms. Kessel thinks he is worth more. He has held out on any offers and has claimed that he is done with negotiations with the Bruins. This does not mean there is no chance of Kessel putting on a Bruins jersey this season. As a restricted free agent, the Bruins have a chance to match any offer from another team. Although there have not been any offers, the Toronto Maple Leafs stoked the rumors when getting back their 2010 second-round draft pick from the Chicago Blackhawks. In order to sign Kessel, the Leafs needed their first, second, and third round picks to give to the Bruins as compensation. Currently the Leafs GM is said to have offered the Bruins two first-round and one second-round picks for the rights to Kessel. Nothing solid has come of any of the rumors.

Toronto is not the only team who would like to have Kessel on the roster. The Nashville Predators and the Minnesota Wild have also expressed interest in him, but the Maple Leafs is the definite frontrunner. Hopefully for all teams, the deal should be finalized by the end of the weekend or the middle of next week at the latest. So although anything can happen, it looks like that days of Kessel in a Bruins jersey are numbered.