Friday, July 24, 2009

Chiarelli positioning to trade Kessel, or just playing mind games?

Still trying to get our minds around Peter Chiarelli's intentions in trading Aaron Ward, we come across some unsettling statements in the media:

- The Boston Globe and Rink Rap both report that the trade was designed specifically to deliver Ward back to his adopted home of North Carolina.

"Frankly, I wouldn't have traded him anywhere else except to Carolina because that's where his home is."

"I knew right off the bat," Ward said. "It's never good when your general manager calls you in the summer. He told me I was traded. I was pretty happy with the news that I'd get to go back to Carolina. He conveyed to me that he wasn't going to trade me anywhere else but Carolina. It worked out well."

Let's hope that Chiarelli is just playing at public relations, and not honestly stating that this was a personal favor to Ward. Taking care of Bruins alumni is a noble cause, but not at the (literal) expense of the franchise.

- The conventional wisdom around the deal is that it's a cap-friendly move which will allow the team to re-sign Phil Kessel. Not so, says Chiarelli:

"I'm looking at another defenseman," said Chiarelli. "I would expect we
would add a defenseman. Whether we're searching for a partner (for Zdeno Chara -- Ward was his partner last season) or someone we already have is going to play with him, that's all (undecided at this point)."

Um. Looking at adding another... defenseman? You mean, someone to replace the defenseman you just traded?

Again, let's hope this is nothing more than posturing for Kessel to read in tomorrow's press. A sly GM wants to make a free-agent feel that the team can walk away from the table if necessary. This statement was sufficiently ambiguous that there's really no telling what plans are being laid behind closed doors.

But if we take this quote as face value, it more or less confirms that Kessel will be moved. Re-signing him would eliminate any possibility of acquiring a top-4 defenseman this year. Unless, of course, Carolina wants to unload one in exchange for a buyout forward and a low draft pick. Just sayin'.

- But then we get hit with this curveball:

"With respect to Phil, he's a good young player and we want him in our mix. I've got the endorsement of ownership that any offer that comes in we will match."

Ok, so now we have an olive branch being extended to the Kessel camp. Or is it an invitation to disaster?

Remember, it wasn't so long ago that a young, talented forward in the Northeast Division faced restricted free agency and the possibility of being traded. His team made a commitment to match any offer sheet that came along, because they couldn't afford to lose his long-term promise. He's blossomed into a regular 40-goal scorer, though much like Kessel he could still use some work on his overall game.

His name is Thomas Vanek, and he carries a $7,000,000 cap hit. It's hard to imagine that Chiarelli would find a way to fulfill his promise to match "any offer" if a team like the Leafs swoops in and offers, say, a $5.5 million deal to Kessel. Is the above just more hot air, or is he throwing down the gaunlet to any would-be suitors?

- Finally, Chiarelli explains that Eaves' buyout was actually advantageous for Boston:

“Because the contract is structured with escalating salaries, we actually get a positive credit to our cap next year in the amount of $41,000,” said
Chiarelli, who noted that because Eaves is younger than 26, the buyout is for one-third the value of the deal.

So if Eaves isn’t claimed on waivers, he will be a slight cap hit (around $258,000) for Boston this year and then give the Bruins more room next season.

Setting aside the arcane rules that allow for such a situation, it's a bit difficult to swallow this reasoning. Granted, it gives the Bruins the slightest bit of relief in summer of '10, when four more key players come up for new contracts. But in three other seasons, this is an utterly unnecessary $250k penalty raises the Bruins' overall buyout penalties to over $2 million this season.

And, bafflingly, Chiarelli has yet to explain why he took Eaves in the first place. Trading Ward for a fourth-round pick would be one-sided. Trading him for a fourth and a cap penalty is salary-cap sabotage.

Since the Bruins have improved so dramatically under his watch, Chiarelli has enjoyed an abnormally generous benefit of the doubt. Any gold-blooded Bruins fan wants this trade to work out, Kessel to be re-signed and have a monster season, and the organization to look back on today as another signpost in a Cup-winning journey.

But until we see the final destination with our own eyes, this has the feeling of a true leap of faith not seen from the Bruins since... well, since the last time we defended a Northeast Division title.

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1 comment:

The Bastahd said...

I can't remember how the waivers work... I thought it was a situation where Boston has to eat half the contract value. Is that wrong? I haven't seen it addressed anywhere but the implication has been that it would be beneficial to have Eaves picked up by another team.