While he wasn’t totally sure, Minnesota’s men’s hockey assistant coach Mike Guentzel said on Tuesday night he thought it was “imminent” that forward Phil Kessel would sign with the Boston Bruins.
The imminent became official Thursday as it was announced that Kessel had come to terms on a multi-year deal with the Bruins. Terms were not announced, but, according to ESPN, it is a three-year deal.
The announcement comes after nearly two months of speculation regarding Kessel’s future, starting when Kessel was selected fifth overall by the Bruins in June’s NHL Entry Draft.
“It was a tough decision but I think it was the best for me and my hockey career,” Kessel said during a Thursday teleconference.
“It was really hard to leave (Minnesota) behind. Some of my best friends go to Minnesota.”
Kessel said some of the factors behind his decision were his ability to adapt to playing with some professionals in the recent World Championships in Latvia and the opportunity to realize his dream of playing in the NHL.
Also present during the teleconference was Boston general manager Peter Chiarelli. He was certainly excited about landing Kessel, saying the Bruins needed to add speed, skill and offensive grit and Kessel fills those voids.
As for the process of adding Kessel, Chiarelli said contract figures weren’t really a factor because of the stipulations in the new NHL collective bargaining agreement regarding rookie salaries.
The clause says rookies can only earn a maximum annual salary of $850,000 in base salary and bonus, with a maximum of 10 percent of the salary being in the bonus.
“It was more of a decision-making process for Phil than a negotiation,” he said.
He also said the Bruins left the decision up to Kessel and that the process went into Wednesday night.
Kessel – who put up 18 goals and 33 assists (51 points) in 39 games last season – said he called Gophers head coach Don Lucia Thursday afternoon to inform him of his decision and that he thought they had a pretty good chat. Lucia said he felt the same way and that he wasn’t surprised by Kessel’s decision.
“I think it was pretty evident as this was going on that Phil was going to sign,” Lucia said.
Lucia also said he was appreciative of the fact that Kessel chose to play for Minnesota but was a little less clear as to whether or not he thought Kessel made the right decision.
“It’s not my decision,” Lucia said. “If he’s playing in the NHL (next season), it was the right decision.”
Lucia said Kessel’s combination of speed and skill should transfer over well almost immediately in the NHL and that he thinks Kessel will start the season with Boston and get a chance to crack one of the team’s top two scoring lines.
On that topic, Chiarelli said he expects Kessel to compete for a roster spot. In fact, he said he hopes Kessel gets one because the Bruins would love to have his “world class” talent on the roster.
Kessel wouldn’t specifically say where he expects to be when the season starts, however. “I’m just going to go in and work as hard as I can,” he said.