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Bruins determined to move on minus Kessel

Thursday, 10.01.2009 / 10:26 AM / 2009 NHL Face-off

By James Murphy - NHL.com Correspondent

"I have mixed emotions on it. Obviously we lose a great player. Congrats to him for the deal he got. But at the same time, Peter did a great job. We acquire some first-round draft choices, and who knows how they'll help us, whether with high picks or a trade at the deadline."
-- Marc Savard

Boston Bruins players wouldn't really discuss Phil Kessel throughout the summer, leaving his contract stalemate to be addressed by General Manager Peter Chiarelli and coach Claude Julien.

The Bruins finally resolved the issue by dealing Kessel to the Toronto Maple Leafs for first-round picks in 2010 and 2011 and a second-round pick in 2010. In the aftermath, Bruins players have reacted to seeing their leading goal scorer depart for a division rival.

"I don't think it was a huge distraction in the dressing room for us," Julien said. "But it is a good thing that we can move on and turn the page anyway. Having said that, it is what it is, and our team is ready to go forward without Phil."

One of the biggest questions now is how can the Bruins replace the 36 goals Kessel provided last season and can the offense survive without him.

"We're happy with what we have in this room," captain Zdeno Chara said. "It's good to solve that kind of an issue. We move on."

The Bruins, who were second in the NHL with 274 goals in 2008-09 and return five 20-plus goal scorers this season, say they have the depth to make up for Kessel's departure.

"We're still a good offensive team," said Patrice Bergeron, who will be counted on to do some of that scoring. "I think the depth we have is very good. We're going to be able to replace it by all playing well."

Veteran forward Mark Recchi re-signed with the Bruins for one more year over the summer. One of the main reasons Recchi returned was the team's depth and young, experienced core, not just because Boston had a natural goal scorer in Kessel.

"Look, there's no doubting Phil's talent and he's going to be a very good player in this League, but when I decided to come back for another year it's because of the whole picture here and the team that's still in place," Recchi said. "We all knew Phil may not be back, but you look at the young core they have in place here, guys like (David) Krejci, (Blake) Wheeler, 'Looch' (Milan Lucic), they're all capable of stepping up and they have two years of playoff experience under their belts. There's also veterans like (Michael) Ryder, 'Sturmy' (Marco Sturm), 'Bergy' (Bergeron), myself; so there's plenty of guys here to pick up the slack."

Wheeler, who is a good friend of Kessel's from their days playing together at the University of Minnesota, admitted he will miss him and hopes his former Gophers teammate doesn't come back to haunt the Bruins too much.

"I'm going to miss having him around," Wheeler said. "He's obviously a great friend of mine. It's too bad it didn't work out. I wish him luck in Toronto. But you learn quickly that it's part of the deal. It's too bad it didn't work out, but you wish him luck in Toronto, see him six times a year and hopefully come out on top."

Savard also was sorry to see Kessel go, but still likes the team and the return for his former linemate.

"I have mixed emotions on it," Savard said. "Obviously we lose a great player. Congrats to him for the deal he got. But at the same time, Peter did a great job. We acquire some first-round draft choices, and who knows how they'll help us, whether with high picks or a trade at the deadline."

The Kessel saga in Boston is over, and the Bruins still feel they can finish atop the Eastern Conference.

"We just have to focus on moving forward without him," said Julien, "and not thinking for a second that now we've turned from a good team to a bad team, because I think we'll be just fine."


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