|09.07.10 at 6:02 pm ET|
Bruins defenseman Mark Stuart has been paying close attention to everything that has gone on this season regarding the Ilya Kovalchuk contract saga, and not just because he’ll have a deal of his own to sort out following the season.
The team’s player representative last season, Stuart is invested in seeing that both the NHLPA and the league are on the same page. With the Devils tacking on extra years to what would have eventually been a 17-year deal, the NHL blew the whistle on the contract, stating it circumvented the salary cap by paying top dollar up front and lowering the cap hit with additional, cheaper years. Through the ordeal it came to light that Stuart’s teammate in Marc Savard had one of the contracts the league felt may not have been kosher. After agreeing to a revised calculation of cap hits, the league dropped the investigation.
“I think it was nice to get a rule in place, first of all so those players know whether they have deals or not, and also it helps the GM’s to know what they can and can’t do,” Stuart said. “It was kind of a grey area there. It always helps to have the rules in place. It’s pretty clear-cut now.”
Technically, the teams weren’t breaking any rules by signing players to such contracts. They were cleverly exploiting a loophole, to be sure, and in correcting it the league essentially patched up a problem on the fly. Stuart doesn’t look at it that way, and instead sees the rule change as a beneficial clarification.
“I think it was fair,” Stuart said of the rule change. “It wasn’t really specified before. I think the NHL and NHLPA did a great thing by talking and coming to an agreement. Now there’s a rule in place that’s pretty clear-cut. There wasn’t anything in there before so it was kind of hard to really see if those deals were legal or not.”
Stuart said there is no news on former MLBPA leader Donald Fehr, who has been rumored to be in line for the same job with the NHLPA after serving as an advisor. The defenseman added that there is no planned vote in place to elect Fehr to the position.
“He’s been helping us out,” Stuart said of Fehr’s affiliation with the players association. “This summer, he’s been a huge help with the different things we’ve been looking at. We’re just talking right now and figuring out which direction we want to go in. ”
After playing 82 games each in 2007-08 and 2008-09, Stuart was able to suit up for just 56 games last season due to a broken sternum, a broken finger, and finally an infection to his hand. Missing time wasn’t something the team’s first round pick from the 2003 draft was exactly used to.
‘It wasn’t very fun. That was one of the hardest parts, was just mentally getting over it,’ Stuart said after Tuesday’s captain’s practice. ‘I think at first I didn’t handle it very well. It was just a miserable situation. But once you realize [that] it doesn’t help to get down about it and just try to get back, I think I came a long way, especially the third time, I guess.’
Now with a clean bill of health, Stuart is excited about the upcoming season. The players will vote on his re-election as player rep following training camp, something he is hopeful for.
|09.07.10 at 2:48 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — The argument against the Bruins last season was that they could not generate any offense. Given that they finished dead last in scoring in the regular season, one would have to guess that the stats were on the side of whomever would make such a claim.
But days before the team was set to draft the counterargument for the future in Tyler Seguin, they made a big splash by trading for Nathan Horton. Now the former Panthers winger is charged with being part of the group that re-establishes the Bruins as a major scoring threat. Speaking after captain’s practice on Tuesday, he looked to the team’s offensive core as something that can meet expectations in his first season as a Bruin.
“You look around and I think there’s obviously going to be high expectations on everyone,” Horton said. “It’s a great team, a great bunch of guys, and a lot of good hockey players. I think it’s great to have high expectations and I think it’s going to be a fun year.”
Horton, who has scored over 25 goals in three of his six seasons since being the third overall pick of the the 2003 draft, looks forward to whatever pressure may be placed on him and a squad that has been eliminated from two consecutive Eastern Conference semifinals.
“I grew up in Canada, so I know what that’s like, but I’m excited,” Horton said. “It’s going to be different, but it’s going to be a lot of fun. There’s pressure to perform, and I think that’s what any player wants.”
That pressure, especially in Horton’s case, could be alleviated a touch if he ends up being on a line centered by Marc Savard. The two have been discussed throughout the summer as good complements to one another, especially with Horton’s scoring touch, since the winger joined the team in June.
But it was following his arrival that rumors that Savard could be a goner via trade picked up steam. Many wondered whether the man some thought could make Horton a 40-goal scorer would be around to help potentially form a line. With Peter Chiarelli recently stating that Savard would not be traded, Horton seems that the center, who in December signed a seven-year extension, is staying.
“I don’t know who I’m playing with, but I think obviously he’s a great player,” Horton said. “He’s been a great player for a long time, he sees the ice real well and it’s tough to say, but obviously I would like to see him here. He’s been here for a while, and like I said, he’s a great player.”
Regardless of who he ends up playing with, Horton seems most excited about the team he’s playing for. Expected to contend for a Stanley Cup this season, the 2010-11 Bruins could be Horton’s first shot at the playoffs. Having to endure regular season after regular season without any postseason play has been a challenge for Horton, but with his career overdue for a run at a Cup, Horton’s glad he found his way to Boston.
“It’s been tough,” Horton said. “Seven years is a long time. It’s where you want to play the most, I think, is the playoffs. When you never get there, you don’t taste it. It’s tough, but I guess it’s a new page, a new chapter, and I couldn’t be more excited and thrilled to be here.”
|09.07.10 at 1:24 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — It’s no surprise that the Bruins have a buzz around them that seems to grow by the day. Back-to-back Eastern Conference semifinals appearances likely will do that, and adding players the caliber of Nathan Horton and Tyler Seguin can’t hurt.
That’s the type of positivity that seemed to come from Bruins captain Zdeno Chara on Tuesday as he addressed the media for the first time since the team packed up following its ugly Game 7 defeat to the Flyers last season. With the conference semifinals all but wrapped up after the Bruins took a commanding 3-0 series lead, the B’s watched Philadelphia march back and take four games in a row en route to one of the biggest comebacks in the history of professional sports. It’s hard to take a lesson from such a crushing and embarrassing defeat, but Chara maintained that it helped to emphasize a basic teaching.
“It’s never won,” Chara said. “It’s never won until you win Game 4. It’s something that doesn’t happen very often, like we found out. It was just a part of the history, but sometimes you’ve got to always have that in the back of your mind that it can happen.”
Though a chance at the Canadiens would have undoubtedly been a better prize than being taught a hard lesson, Chara seems to be done dwelling on the loss.
“It took a while [to get over], but you have to move on,” Chara said. “That’s just a part of the business. Obviously, you would like to be on the other side of that playoff round, but it happened and you have to learn from it and move on. Hopefully that makes us stronger for this year.”
And it seems this season is one that he’s particularly excited about with the aforementioned upgrades made to the team. The Bruins swung a deal with the Panthers for Horton before the draft and selected Seguin second overall just a few days later. They also retained their strong goaltending tandem of Tuukka Rask, who led the NHL last year in GAA and save percentage, and Tim Thomas, who took home the Vezina a year before. Given the offseason, Chara is not afraid to hold his team to high expectations.
“I think that we improved again,” Chara said. “Anything can happen. Anything is possible. We have a good enough team to win all the way. There is a few that can change the direction of how the team’s going. Obviously, injuries are a big part of the success, and if we stay healthy, this team is very strong.
|09.07.10 at 1:06 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Fifteen members of the Bruins took to the ice Tuesday for the team’s first captain’s practice. Players scrimmaged and partook in drills before meeting with the media. One of the more popular questions was how much longer the captain, defenseman Zdeno Chara, would be a member of the team. Chara’s contract expires after the season and negotiations haven’t reached the point of a deal being imminent. Given that Chara will likely receive a long-term contract worth big money, he said that the Ilya Kovalchuk saga may be a reason as to why the sides have waited before getting serious in talks.
“The investigations and the new rule between the NHL and NHLPA about long-term contracts kind of put everything on a pause,” Chara said. “We’ll see what happens.”
The new rule, put into place last week, prevents teams from circumventing the salary cap by tacking on extra years at minimal dollars in order to create a manageable cap hit. Getting top players under contract may be a bit trickier in regards to making both sides happy, but Chara is just glad that his camp and the Bruins know how to approach the negotiations.
“At least both sides know what the rules are, and going to into the new CBA it’s going to be very important to have these rules already set,” Chara said.
Chara added that if his negotiations on a new pact spill over into the season, he will remain focused in leading a team that he said “improved again” over the season. As a result, he wasn’t afraid to tip his hand on what he hopes will happen.
“Of course, I want to stay in Boston,” Chara said. “I want to be part of this team for, if possible, the rest of my career.”
|09.07.10 at 12:29 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — The Bruins wrapped up their first captain’s practice, featuring 13 skaters and a pair of goaltenders, Tuesday around noontime at Ristuccia Arena. The practice, which consisted of some offensive drills and some scrimmaging, featured some happy faces as players began the process off the preseason. Here are the guys that suited up for the Bruins’ first captain’s practice:
Goaltenders: Tuukka Rask, Matt Dalton
There were a few positives that came from the session. For starters, David Krejci wasn’t fooling when he said he’d be good to go for camp. With his wrist surgery and recovery in the rearview mirror, he didn’t seem to be slowed.
‘ Tim Thomas was around prior to practice but did not skate with teammates.
‘ Mark Recchi didn’t skate with his teammates but suited up after practice and skated by himself.
‘ Horton’s teammates spoke highly of their new winger after practice. The Bruins’ biggest trade acquisition this offseason, Horton said his old team had a captain’s practice-type skate when he was in Florida, but that “a lot of guys didn’t come.”
‘ Chara, Horton and Stuart spoke following the skate. Check back here later for what they had to say as they prepare for the 2010-11 season.
|09.06.10 at 5:04 pm ET|
With captain’s practice set to begin Tuesday in Wilmington (closed to the public), the offseason is getting closer and closer to being over. Though the additions of Tyler Seguin and Nathan Horton might be viewed as the biggest differences between last season’s squad and the 2010-11 edition of the Bruins, the team may be helped in the seats of the TD Garden as much as it has improved on the ice.
With the team selling out full season ticket packages in July, the Bruins join the likes of the Blackhawks, Canadiens, Flames, Canucks in that regard. Though anyone hoping to get a traditional package is out of luck, single game tickets will go on sale this week. A pre-sale for season-ticket holders will begin Tuesday, with the general public getting their crack at tickets on Friday.
With season tickets flying so quickly, it appears the Bruins are set to be a hot ticket in Boston next season and perhaps could surpass their attendance numbers of a year ago.
In the 2009-10 season, one in which they finished sixth in the Eastern Conference and made it to the conference semifinals, the Bruins were a middle-of-the-pack team as far as attendance went (15th in the league), but their average of 17,388 people a night was 99 percent of the Garden’s 17,565 capacity.
With any luck, a potentially increased crowd could help the team improve upon a lackluster home record. Last season, the Bruins posted an 18-17-6 record at the Garden, a far cry from their 21-13-7 road record. Though the Bruins entered last season coming off a first-place regular season finish in the Eastern Conference, the buzz surrounding the team this year has been unlike any other in the club’s recent history. Even given the economy, it appears they’re set to be a huge draw in Boston.
|09.04.10 at 1:59 pm ET|
On the same day that the NHL dropped its investigation of Marc Savard‘s contract, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli told ESPN’s James Murphy that he’s assured the center that he will remain in Boston.
“There is all these things that happen and there are always things that swirl around about moving guys, and I cannot respond to anything in kind because I don’t directly comment on trade rumors,” Chiarelli told Murphy. “I can tell you, though, that there was discussion and inquiries on Marc and they became public.
“There has been a number of inquires on a lot of the players, some become public and some don’t for obvious reasons, but as we told Marc, that’s part of the business and he understood that. I made sure he knows what we think of him: He is a Boston Bruin and an elite offensive player we’re happy to have on this team.”
Savard signed a contract extension with the Bruins worth $28.5 million over seven years in December. Under the rules at the time, the deal would call for a $4.007 million cap hit, but since it circumvented the cap by tacking on additional years to decrease the hit, the NHL opened an investigation that could have lead to it’s voiding. The investigation was dropped after the NHLPA agreed to calculate cap hits so that later years of contracts couldn’t drastically water down a player’s cap hit.
The coming season will be Savard’s fifth in Boston after originally joining the Bruins as a free agent in 2006.In 41 games last year (he missed time due a concussion suffered on the infamous Matt Cooke hit on March 6) Savard had 10 goals and 23 assists for 33 points. He had 88 points the year prior.
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