BOSTON -- Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli has a strict policy of not discussing trade rumors and contract negotiations through the media.
But Saturday at a press conference at TD Garden to discuss Friday night's trade of Phil Kessel to Toronto for three draft picks, Chiarelli was so determined to get his message out he even brought some notes on a yellow piece of paper up to the podium.
Chiarelli expressed his reasons for dealing his team's leading goal-scorer from year ago as straight-forward as he could.
"This trade is really about two things," he said. "One, it's about a player that did not want to play in Boston. And two, it's about the threat, or a perceived threat of an offer sheet."
Chiarelli also made clear that despite early attempts to get the restricted free agent to re-sign, signing Kessel "was not going to happen." Kessel and his agent, Wade Arnott, asked for a trade in early July, not long after a draft-day trade that would have sent the forward to Toronto fell through. That Toronto was willing both to make a firm offer to the Bruins and also to meet Kessel's asking price -- he signed a contract worth a reported five years and $27 million with the Leafs before the deal was finalized last night -- made the trade option the most attractive.
"I know the history here, but this isn't about frugality," Chiarelli said. "There were some significant offers made. There was really little or no attempt to negotiate from the other side. And I think for a reason, the reason I've explained earlier [that Phil wanted out]. So I have to make the decision that's best for the organization and in light of the circumstances. And I'm very happy with the return we got; it's a very high return."
The Bruins now own five picks in the first two rounds of next June's draft -- their own first- and second-round picks, Toronto's picks in those two rounds and Tampa Bay's second-round pick. Those picks will either turn into prospects or can be bargaining chips this season if the Bruins are looking to upgrade through a trade.
"I can't stress the importance enough of the fact that these picks are significant, especially in light of the strength of the amateur draft coming up. There are some serious players that are coming up," Chiarelli said.
The Kessel trade ends months of speculation and innuendo that could've carried over into the season and created a distraction for the team. There was also that threat of an offer sheet, which if matched could've created roster havoc for the Bruins. Chiarelli talked about one scenario by which the Bruins would have had to clear the cap space to match an offer sheet and then place Kessel, who is expected to be out until November after offseason shoulder surgery, on long-term injured reserve. The Bruins could have even stored him there the whole season. But that option was never realistic because Chiarelli and his staff projected it would do too much damage to the lineup.
For the foreseeable future, Kessel will try to do damage to the Bruins in a Maple Leafs sweater. Chiarelli's ready to take the heat every time Kessel uses his blazing speed to do something that winds up on the evening sports report. But Chiarelli doesn't regret anything he did over the past few months nor does he regret the final decision to make the trade with Toronto.
"We're just going to hear about it a lot, I'm going to hear about it a lot, so that's going to be fun," Chiarelli said. "But that's part of the consideration. We evaluated the draft picks that we would be getting and we evaluated where we think the acquiring team is going to finish in the draft. So that was part of the equation. At the end of the day, but for one late team, we really didn't have a firm offer."
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com. He has been on the Bruins beat since the lockout for numerous publications and has been covering the Boston sports scene for a decade. Send any questions for Matt to his mailbag and he might answer them in his Bruins mailbag.