The Boston Bruins have many tough decisions to make prior to the 2009-2010 NHL season. If the moves they've made thus far are any indication of how they will proceed, do not expect Phil Kessel to be a Bruin much longer.
The B's have resigned Mark Recchi, goaltender Tim Thomas, and youth stud Byron Bitz to deals, and they still have to potentially negotiate with Matt Hunwick. Money doesn't grow on trees, and the B's might need to find some of those trees if it does, because otherwise some players may need to be cut in order to keep Kessel.
Kessel is the big one.
He's a 21-year-old with tremendous upside, and though he missed a half-dozen games this past season with mono, he remained the Bruins' highest offensive threat with 36 goals. The days of Bruins players all having 20 goals or more are likely gone, and that means that a commodity like Kessel is worth much.
The question is how much?
That's a question that only Jeremy Jacobs, Cam Neely, and GM Peter Chiarelli can answer.
In the end, don't expect all of these players to don the black and gold like they did last year.
Bringing in a guy like Steve Begin, formerly a Hab, recently a Dallas Star, should bolster the B's frontline with Chuck Kobasew, Patrice Bergeron, and others. Add in a stout defense with Norris Trophy winner Zdeno Chara and others like Dennis Wideman, Aaron Ward and Andrew Ference and you have a team that can contend.
But defense isn't what we're talking about here.
Bruins fans all hope to see Bergeron once again control games with his youthful ability, pace, and intensity.
The B's can't wait to get Marco Sturm back from his injury that caused him to miss nearly all of last season, and if Marc Savard can get back to his form from the 2006-2007 season that saw him rack up nearly 100 points, we could be looking at a team bound for glory in 2010.
It all starts with the Kessel deal. Will he go, or will he stay?