BOSTON -- When giving their opening statements at tonight's "State of the Bruins" town hall meeting for season-ticket holders at TD Garden, pretty much every front-office executive, coach and player in attendance mentioned the phrase "unfinished business" when talking about the upcoming 2009-10 season.
But before 100 percent of the Bruins' efforts can be thrown toward avenging last year's second-round playoff exit, there's still the unfinished business of Phil Kessel's contract to contend with. The unsigned restricted free agent has been the star of more trade rumors in recent weeks than Jason Voorhees has been the villain in "Friday the 13th" sequels. Although it took a little longer into the 75-minute event for one of the more than 2,500 fans to ask, finally someone wanted to know how the Bruins plan to make up for Kessel's 36 goals from last season if the speedster is dealt.
AP Photo/Steven Senne
David Krejci shows off the sweater the Bruins will wear for the Winter Classic on Jan. 1.
General manager Peter Chiarelli then explained:
"Whenever there's a player of this caliber that we drafted, obviously you want to keep this player. He's got speed and puts the opposing team on their heels and changes the dynamic of a game. If we were trade to him, I would have no problem in picking out players or areas of the team where we can replace the goals. We've got a very aggressive team. While we stress defense first, I think you see Claude and how he presents his attack and how the players play the number of goals we scored last year, it's a mentality. So there are players that can pick up the slack. There's no issue there.
"While it's unfortunate that we haven't been able to sign this player -- he is a valuable member of our team -- we can't, as a management team, lose sight of the fact that the balance that you have to strike on your team -- where these players fit -- you can't lose sight of this fact."
Shockingly, although there were other questions about since-departed players like P.J. Axelsson and Stephane Yelle, Kessel did not come up the rest of the evening. In the crowd, a handful of fans wore their No. 81 Kessel sweaters, but were outnumbered by those wearing Milan Lucic No. 17 and Cam Neely No. 8 jerseys.
After the proceedings, Chiarelli held onto his approach of not commenting on negotiations through the media. Although there have been some reports that the Kessel situation has to be cleared up one way or another by Oct. 1, Chiarelli didn't seem too rushed when asked about opening night as a deadline.
"It really hasn't been that much of a distraction," he said. "It was in Toronto, when we were up there it was very much a distraction, but we were only up there for one day so it's not that bad."
The town hall concluded with center David Krejci modeling the new uniform the club will wear Jan. 1 against the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2010 Winter Classic at Fenway Park. Neely, who provided Reebok with direction and inspiration for the design, explained what each part of it represents.
The uniform is brown and gold, as opposed to black and gold, because those were the Bruins' original colors, including during their first Stanley Cup-winning year of 1929.
The crest is the club's original spoked B that debuted during the Bruins' 25th anniversary season of 1948. The laces of the sweater are reminiscent of the teams in the '70s, including the 1970 and 1972 Cup winners.
The gold socks were first worn in the '30s, including by the team that won the Cup in 1938. And the gold sweater is similar to the one introduced in 1940 and worn by the 1941 championship club.
In addition to Chiarelli and Neely, the team's vice president, owner Jeremy Jacobs, principal Charlie Jacobs, head coach Claude Julien and players Derek Morris, Patrice Bergeron and Lucic participated in the event.