The Phil Kessel rumor mill will be in full swing tonight when the Bruins travel up to Toronto to face the Maple Leafs in pre-season action.
Kessel, of course, is the Bruins coveted RFA who is priced out of cap-stressed Boston, and who is awaiting either an offer sheet from, or more likely a trade to, another team.
That other team---whether it be through offer sheet or trade---has long rumored to be the Toronto Maple Leafs. That, of course, is based largely on the comments from Leafs GM Brian Burke, who has openly expressed his desire to acquire Kessel, the 21 year-old who potted 36 goals a year ago.
"We know we would like this player," Burke said yesterday. "We'll see what happens."
Over at Kukla's Korner, Elliotte Friedman of CBC Sports is quoted as reporting that the Leafs are offering at least a pair of first rounders to Boston as part of a packge for Kessel, even though the talented wing is out until at least November following off-season surgery on both of his shoulders.
With the B's, and GM Peter Chiarelli, in town today, the hockey-mad media in Toronto will be frothing at the mouth in anticipation of Chiarelli and Burke getting together face to face to discuss a possible deal. Don't expect any quick resolution, however, no matter how badly Burke longs to see Kessel in the blue and white this season.
Speaking of the Bruins, Chiarelli had to be happy to see Marco Sturm skating freely, bouncing back from some tough hits, and picking up an assist in last night's 2-1 pre-season victory over the Rangers. With Kessel's departure considered a given, the Bruins need Sturm to have a strong season, coming back from January knee surgery.
Sturm told Stephen Harris of the Boston Herald, "I'm really happy with the game. I had no pain at all. Overall I didn't think very much at all about my knee."
Chiarelli also had to be pleased with Tuukka Rask's first outing of the pre-season between the pipes. The 22 year-old Rask stopped 31 of 32 shots, and seemed to be in perfect position all night long.
With Manny Fernandez no longer serving as Tim Thomas' partner in Boston, Rask needs to beat out Dany Sabourin to claim the #2 spot with the Bruins. I think that Rask not only claims that role, but will start 20-25 games this season, and will play a big part in Boston's success. The kid is that good. And the more work he gets, the fresher Thomas---who turns 36 in April---will be come playoff time.
By the way, the game tonight in Toronto---featuring free tickets to those attending---will be televised by the NHL Network.