Thursday morning scuttlebutt; Kessel, Harding chatter

Posted on June 25th, 2009 – 6:43 AM
By Michael Russo

I was once told never make promises because you can only disappoint, so sorry. I fibbed.

Didn’t mean to though, but here’s your morning excuse. The wireless in the hotel is lousy. This hotel is packed with so much media and nine team’s worth of personnel, I just think the network is jammed with laptops. So yesterday, and again this morning, getting into web sites feels like the ancient days of dial up.

So last night when I tried to blog, the admin to the blog just stood there trying, trying and trying to open, just laughing at me as I pounded the desk. I finally needed to go meet folks and never got a chance to blog. This should make Friday morning’s chat next to impossible, but I’ll figure it out.

Anyways, here’s the main story from today on the three Minnesotans that can go in the first round. As the story states, the Wild likes all three players, but there is a chance it takes none of them if the players aren’t next up on its list when it picks. I’ll write more about these kids and other potential Wild targets in tomorrow’s paper, or if space restrains that, tonight’s blog.

And here’s the notebook on a bit of a trade update and the fact that Boston is at least fielding offers for Phil Kessel, the former Gophers forward and last year’s 36-goal scorer at 21 years of age. 

The deal here is Kessel’s restricted, wants between $4.5 million and $5 million and the Bruins are already at $50 million next year with other things to get done. They’re at around $35 million for the following year with several other players to re-sign or sign, and if you look at the fact Marc Savard’s entering the last year of his contract and next summer they’ll probably have to extend Zdeno Chara, Kessel could be a cap casualty.

Now, they are still trying to sign Kessel, but if they do, they’d likely have to move some other players to squeeze him in. So this is very much up in the air. So I’m told by numerous league sources that GM Peter Chiarelli is at least fielding offers from teams and is considering moving Kessel by the Draft or this summer. I saw Kessel’s agent, Wade Arnott (Jason’s brother), about 32 times yesterday, so he’s roaming around and is expected to continue talking with Chiarelli.

But Kessel is four years from unrestricted free agency and again is entering that lofty second contract status, so I can’t imagine Arnott’s going to just do Boston a solid. So, there’s a very real chance he’s dealt, and if so, the Wild has at least shown vast interest, I’m told.

Because Kessel would be traded simply because Boston can’t afford him, the Bruins conversely would not want much money back in a trade. So picks and quality young players is what they’re looking for, so I’m told it would cost Minnesota the 12th pick and at least a top, top young kid. For the Wild, that’d mean Tyler Cuma or James Sheppard, but that does not mean Boston’s necessarily interested and even if the B’s are, it’s unknown what they’re being offered from other teams.

So this gets back to what I’ve been writing for the last couple weeks, and months for that matter – Chuck Fletcher doesn’t have a lot of tradeable assets because of the way things were done here in the past. I cannot make any clearer how much the Wild lacks assets compared to so many other teams in the NHL. I don’t want to keep pounding on the old regime here, but it really is unforgiveable how it didn’t value draft picks and how it just let free agent after free agent walk for squat.

OK, I promise not to mention it again (today at least).

For instance, it certainly appears as if the Wild is about to lose Marian Gaborik for nothing. I ran into a million NHL types yesterday who asked me about Gaborik, and each one said the same thing — losing an asset like that for nothing back is the type of thing that takes years to recover from. And now that the Vancouver Province reported he’s bought a house there — something I still have been unable to confirm, by the way, but the Province stands by the story and its sources — it probably makes trading Gaborik’s rights to anybody next to impossible.

Whether that story is true or not, what team’s going to give up even a skate sharpener for Gaborik’s rights when it’s been reported that it’s a foregone conclusion he signs in Vancouver?

Also, remember, the Wild might be into Kessel now, but if Chiarelli’s waiting until Friday, who knows what Fletcher dips his toes into by then? And right now Fletcher’s in on a lot of different things, from Heatley to countless other things (lots of rumors, but I only report what I know from sources, not what’s just floating around) to talking with Toronto, Edmonton, Colorado, Detroit, St. Louis and Philly about Josh Harding.

(I was told last night that the Blues are very interested in Harding, and few teams are as overstuffed with young assets as the Blues). So it’ll be interesting to see if Fletcher gets something substantial done with so few tradeable pieces to dangle.

I have an interesting story in tomorrow’s paper — again, unless there’s hard news today — about Fletcher giving colorful behind the scenes anecdotes of the orchestration of previous trades he’s taken part in.

Anyways, Internet permitting, I’ll be back this afternoon with more stuff. I really want to attend the Team Canada presser and offer some Jacques Lemaire stuff later, but it’s a half-hour away and the prospects media luncheon is an hour later back here. So I don’t know how that’ll work out.

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