Former Boston Bruins winger Phil Kessel said today in his introductory press conference in Toronto that he never asked to be traded.
"Never one time did I ask to be traded. I just think it was a mutual thing. It's best for both parties to move on," said Kessel, who was dealt to the Maple Leafs Friday night in exchange for three draft picks. "Obviously, that's basically what happened with that."
During a press conference earlier today to discuss the deal, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said that Kessel, who was a restricted free agent holdout, and his agent Wade Arnott asked to be traded in early July. Chiarelli also noted that there was little effort from Kessel's camp to negotiate a deal.
After the trade, Kessel signed a five-year, $27 million deal with the Leafs.
Leafs general manager Brian Burke relayed what Kessel said to him on the phone Friday: "I intend to earn every penny. I'm not going to let you down."
The Leafs are investing a lot in Kessel making good on his word.
As for whether Kessel really wanted out of Boston, all we know for a fact is that when it was all said and done he decided to sign with the Leafs.
For the most part Kessel's former teammates were taking the trade in stride and chalking it up to "the business." Center Marc Savard took Kessel under his wing from the time the speedster showed up in Boston as a teenager, so he was obviously a little torn about his emotions.
"Well, mixed emotions, obviously. He was a good player and congrats to him with the deal he got," said Savard after the Bruins dropped a 5-2 preseason decision to the New York Rangers at TD Garden. "But in the same sense, Peter did a great job. I mean we acquired some first-round draft choices and who knows how that will help us, whether with the high draft pick or even a trade at the deadline. I mean those are huge, huge picks."
Kessel's former University of Minnesota teammate Blake Wheeler felt similarly to Savard.
"It's part of the business. That's really as far as you can take it. I'm obviously going to miss having him around. He's a good friend of mine and you learn quickly though that's part of the deal. It's too bad it didn't work out but I wish him luck in Toronto," said Wheeler, who also claimed to not know that Kessel was unhappy in Boston.
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.