A couple of NHL mini-dramas came to a close this weekend as the Boston Bruins finally traded free agent winger Phil Kessel, and center Brandon Dubinsky ended his holdout with the New York Rangers. Now if there could only be some end-game with the Phoenix Coyotes situation, the NHL would be soap opera-free, and we could move straight ahead and begin opining about where the Atlanta Thrashers are going to deal Ilya Kovalchuk by the trade deadline.
Dany Heatley traded? Check. Phil Kessel traded and signed to new long-term deal? Check. Brandon Dubinsky holdout ended with new multi-year contract? Check. Francis Bouillon free agency courtship ended with one-year deal in Nashville? Well, yes, check. But let's not get off-track here.
After Heatley was traded by the Seantors to the Sharks, even more focus was placed on Kessel's saga in Boston. A 21 year-old with one outstanding season among three in the National Hockey League, Kessel was poised to break the bank after his 36-goal campaign a year ago. With the Bruins up against the cap, it was a foregone conclusion that Kessel would be dealt, and, in fact, he was on Friday to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Sounds like a neat and tidy story, yes?
Well hold on a minute. Watching and listening to Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli during a press conference on Saturday, it was easy to see that there was more than a little bad blood built up. This whole process was a bit more complicated that a neat and tidy inevitable transaction.
"We want players who want to be here," Chiarelli stated, insinuating, of course, that Kessel had no interest in remaining a Bruin, at any price.
"This is not about frugality," he continued. "There was little to no attempt to negotiate from the other side."
Meanwhile at his press conference in Toronto, with the glow of a new five-year, $27 million contract emanating from him, Kessel showed none of the anger Chiarelli did. Similar to Heatley, he had gotten pretty much everything he wanted, so no reason to fight back, other than to state that he never asked to be traded by the Bruins.
Damian Cox at The Toronto Star has more on the he said/he said between Kessel and Chiarelli, and the bad feelings that remain.
More important now for the Leafs is how soon can Kessel get back on the ice after off-season surgery on both shoulders, and when back playing, how dynamic can he be without a star #1 center to work with? There is no Marc Savard playing pivot in Toronto like there was in Boston.
Interestingly, one of the names that cropped up in previous Kessel trade rumors was that of Dubinsky, who agreed to terms on a two-year deal with the Rangers on Saturday afternoon after a weeklong holdout.
Now I am of the mind that no player really ENJOYS holding out because of the possible damaged relationships with management, teammates, coaches, and fans, not to mention falling behind in camp. But I truly believe that Dubinsky---while still very much thinking he was doing the right thing---really HATED to holdout.
Dubinsky is, plain and simple, a really good kid. He is hard-working, passionate about the game, and very loyal to his teammates and the Rangers organization. He understands quite well, thank you, just how lucky he is to be playing in the National Hockey League, and for an Original Six franchise in a great city like New York. It is part of the reason why he has so endeared himself to his teammates, and to head coach John Tortorella.
Though Torts called Dubinsky's holdout "stupid", that was more a case of a coach wanting one of his important players in place right from the start of training camp more than anything else. Rangers fans should not worry about anyone involved---and that includes the uber-passionate Tortorella---holding any grudges here. Dubinsky will play catch up and be an integral part of this team moving forward, while remaining a popular presence within the organization.
Torts, who said this morning that he expects Dubinsky to make his pre-season debut on Thursday at home against the Washington Capitals, often speaks of the Rangers building a foundation based on youth. Dubinsky, along with Ryan Callahan, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Matt Gilroy, Michael Del Zotto, and Evgeny Grachev, is a major part of that foundation.