|08.10.10 at 5:06 pm ET|
It’s been a long day for the Bruins, as news hit today that the NHL is indeed investigating center Marc Savard‘s seven-year, $28.05 million extension. The deal is perceived to be a “retirement contract,” as it pays the 33-year-old veteran half its money in the first two years of the deal and the other half over the following five years, which makes for a much more affordable $4.007 million cap hit.
Hours after the news broke, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli came out with a statement in which he said that the investigation has been ongoing and that he had met with NHL lawyers as recently as last week. With the Bruins’ cap situation up in the air and the team risking the loss of Savard, it might be a little too much to keep track of. Here’s what we’ve learned today, and what it might mean for the Bruins.
– This investigation has been going on for a while, and by a while, we mean since Savard’s contract was registered with the league in the first place way back in December. This means two things. First of all, this isn’t some new development for the Bruins. Maybe it was the magical cap relief they were expecting all along when they made signings that in total would put them more than $3 million over the salary cap (Savard’s cap hit is $4.007 million).
Secondly, it really dents the validity of rumors that the team was working on trades to move Savard out of town this offseason. In addition to there being zero concrete or validated reports of the Bruins and another team discussing a deal for the center, would it really make sense for the Bruins to shop a player knowing full well that the NHL was intent on voiding his deal? That would make the Bruins look awfully bad as a prospective trade partner for any team in the future.
– Savard is not the only one. The only reason the news came about was because Savard’s investigation was listed in the footnotes of arbiter Richard Bloch‘s rejection of Ilya Kovalchuk‘s appeal. In noting why the NHL was correct in rejecting the winger’s 17-year, $102 million contract with the Devils, Bloch also listed Marian Hossa, Chris Pronger and Roberto Luongo as players also being investigated.
– Yes, the Bruins have been looking to save money off the cap (they’re right up against it even when factoring in the $3.5 million they will get in relief to begin the season thanks to Marco Sturm‘s long-term injury status), but there’s no way Savard’s contract could be viewed as the one that’s weighing them down. In fact, the only reason this deal is being investigated is because it is so team-friendly that the NHL is trying to prevent deals like this from being made going forward.
Both Savard and Tim Thomas ($5 million cap hit in each of the next three seasons) have starred in offseason trade rumors, but their values to the team should not be overlooked. If the team does end up losing Savard for nothing, it would seemingly be a huge loss for the Bruins.
|08.10.10 at 3:53 pm ET|
The Bruins have released a statement from general manager Peter Chiarelli regarding the league’s investigation of the seven-year, $28.05 million contract extension center Marc Savard signed with the team in December. Here’s what Chiarelli had to say.
‘We are cooperating fully with the League in its investigation of the Marc Savard contract extension. The League informed us upon their registration of the contract on December 1, 2009 that they would be investigating the circumstances surrounding this contract. From that point on, they commenced their investigation and it has been ongoing since then. On August 4th, I met with two League appointed lawyers as part of the investigation. We will continue to cooperate with the League in any future investigative proceedings if necessary and we will have no further comment on the matter at this time.’
Savard will make nearly half of his contract’s money in the next two seasons, with the other half being spread out over the following five seasons. As a result, despite making $7 million per year in 2010-11 and 2011-12, he will have a cap hit of just $4.007 as a result of cap numbers in the NHL being determined by total money divided by years. If the deal is ruled as not being in compliance with the CBA, it will be voided and Savard will become an unrestricted free agent.
|08.10.10 at 1:45 pm ET|
Bruins fans have wondered all offseason whether center Marc Savard would be back in Boston next season, but this probably isn’t what they had in mind. Savard, who signed a seven-year contract extension last season, could have his deal voided by the league as it is currently under investigation.
In rejecting Ilya Kovalchuk’s greivance with the league for deeming his 17-year, $102 million deal with the Devils bogus, arbiter Richard Bloch listed in the ruling’s footnotes that similar contracts that have already been registered with the league will be under investigation.
These so-called “retirement contracts” that have thrown the league for a loop are made when teams, in an effort to lower a player’s cap hit, tack on extra years at minimal dollars. A player’s cap number in the NHL is determined by dividing total dollars by the number of years, so even in guaranteeing more money in the early years (such as Savard’s $7 million in the first two seasons of the deal, which starts in the upcoming campaign) by adding years at low money, the hit is brought down dramatically (Savard’s cap hit will be $4.007).
Here is an excerpt from the ruling, which was leaked by Team 1200 radio in Ottowa:
It is true, as the Association observes, that the NHL has registered contracts with structures similar to the Kovalchuk SPC PA Exh. 8 reflects a list of 11 multi-year agreements, all of which involve players in their mid to late 30’s and early 40’s. Most of them reflect reasonably substantial ‘diveback’ (salary reductions that extend over the ‘tails’ of the Agreement). Of these, four such agreements, with players Chris Pronger, Marc Savard, Roberto Luongo, and Marian Hossa reflect provisions that are relatively more dramatic than the others. Each of these players will be 40 or over at the end of the contract term and each contract includes dramatic divebacks.
[…] The apparent purpose of this evidence is to suggest that the League’s concern is late blooming and/or inconsistent. Several responses are in order: First, while the contracts have, in fact, been registered, their structure has not escaped League notice: those SPCs are being investigated currently with at least the possibility of a subsequent withdrawal of the registration.
The Bruins are in a tight spot cap-wise, but in voiding the contract the NHL would let Savard become an unrestricted free agent, which would mean the Bruins would receive nothing for him. His cap hit is very team friendly given his production, and with the 2010-11 season Nathan Horton’s first in Boston, one would think the Bruins would like to at least catch a glimpse of what the two could do playing together.
Additionally, it could be interesting to see what would come of Savard being a free agent. He’s heard his name in trade rumors all summer and could be willing to test the market if he doesn’t feel he’ll be a top forward with the Bruins in future years.
|08.09.10 at 10:51 pm ET|
WEEI.com was on hand for Shawn Thornton’s first annual Putts and Punches for Parkinson’s golf tournament, which means photographer John Vu was snapping plenty of pictures at Ferncroft Country Club in Middleton. Here is the slideshow of the event, which also featured Bruins forward Milan Lucic and goaltender Tuukka Rask (click the picture to begin). For the full low-down on the event and what it meant to Thornton, whose grandmother passed away from Parkinson’s, click here.
|08.09.10 at 7:22 pm ET|
MIDDLETON — Eighty-something days after the Flyers eliminated the Bruins in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, Bruins Shawn Thornton, Milan Lucic, and Tuukka Rask took to the golf course for Parkinson’s disease, re-energized on the tail end of the offseason. Frustration and shock that stained the end of the season seems to have washed away, and for good reason.
The Bruins infamously let the Flyers erase a 3-0 series lead and allowed Philadelphia to advance to the conference finals, where they would defeat the Canadiens.
“[It was] really hard. Obviously when something like that happens, it stays in for a long time, but you’ve just got to realize what happened and learn from that,” Rask said Monday. “I think if we’re ever in the same kind of situation again, we’re much stronger as a team and as individuals for [learning] from that situation.”
Since things ended for the Bruins, though, the team started on a course to fill whatever perceived holes they had while also retaining its core group of guys.
Though the team finished sixth in the conference with 91 points last season and were viewed as somewhat of a regular season disappointment, in coming within a game of playing for a shot to represent the East, the Bruins confirmed to Boston their legitimacy as a team with significant playoff potential. As a result, fans have overlooked the loss to the Flyers and instead have zeroed in on how close the Bruins appear to be. Whether it be adding Tyler Seguin and Nathan Horton or bringing back Mark Recchi, Blake Wheeler, Thornton, and key guys on defense, something has sent a jolt of life into Boston’s fanbase and the Bruins are noticing. Read the rest of this entry »
|08.09.10 at 5:04 pm ET|
MIDDLETON — A refreshed and eager Tuukka Rask made his first appearance around these parts in quite some time as he prepared to tee off with teammates and fans for Shawn Thornton‘s Putts and Punches for Parkinson’s golf tournament. With last season’s borderline traumatic Eastern Conference semifinals loss to the Flyers in the rear view mirror and a new season just around the corner, Rask is ready to build on a 2009-10 performance that saw him become the No. 1 goaltender down the stretch.
“Things are going great. I had an awesome summer in Finland, spent a couple times there, seeing my friends and family and working out,” said Rask. “Now I’m back here so it’s time to get your thoughts back on the hockey season.”
After playing five games in the previous two years, Rask, a former first-round pick acquired from the Maple Leafs in exchange for Andrew Raycroft, made his first real impression in the NHL last season. In splitting time with then-reigning Vezina winner Tim Thomas, Rask started 39 regular- season games and posted a 1.97 goals against average, which, like his .931 save percentage, led the NHL.
Yet as Rask, who started all 13 playoff games for the Bruins, looks to improve and further his accomplishments, he must do so knowing of the sophomore slump that has plagued Raycroft and so many goaltenders before him.
“I’ve heard about people talking about it,” Rask said of the struggles that face second-year goalies, “but not yet in my part, but we’ll see what happens. You just try to be yourself and do your best every day and when you know that you have worked hard and you’ve done everything you can to be at your best, there’s nothing you can change and thats something I’m going to try to do. If it goes not so well, then it goes, but we’ll see.”
Any feared decline in Rask’s performance has hardly been the only discussion that has involved the Bruins goaltending this offseason. Given Rask’s emergence and Thomas’ $5 million cap hit in each of the next three seasons, there has been significant chatter among the fanbase that Thomas should be considered expendable for a team that is struggling against the salary cap.
That’s not how Rask sees it, however. He thrived on the competition with Thomas and maintained that having to challenge an established veteran made him better, which in turn made Thomas better.
“We had an awesome time last year,” Rask said of his relationship with Thomas. “It’s a fair competition for both of us and I think it’s healthy for a team and for us when nobody takes anything for granted. We liked it and hopefully that continues.”
Thornton, who this offseason re-upped with the Bruins on a two-year pact, can agree.
“They’re both professionals,” said Thornton, who noted training camp competitions are a natural part of the game. “It’s the same for us. My job’s not guaranteed either, so every training camp you go in fighting for a spot. I think competition’s a good thing. I think it’s healthy. I’m sure Tuukka knows that job isn’t his and it’s not going to be given to him, so that’s healthy for them to push each other. We’re pretty fortunate to have two No. 1 goalies as far I’m concerned.”
Based on the statistics of the two, it’s hard to argue with Thornton’s logic. Both Thomas and Rask certainly have the pedigrees and reputations to suggest they could earn a starting job on most teams, but the younger of the two doesn’t seem to care about anything but what happens on the ice each night.
“Whoever is playing good is going to play,” Rask said matter-of-factly. “It doesn’t matter if you’ve got 16,000 Vezinas or zero Vezinas, you know? That’s just the way it goes on our team and that’s good for everybody I think.”
Rask appears to have put on a little weight, though it’s nothing noticeable enough to confuse him with any of the league’s bigger goaltenders. After playing last season at 171 pounds for a man who stands at 6-foot-2, any bulking up on the 23-year-old’s part seems welcomed to him.
“I’m, heavier. I don’t know if that’s because of the workouts or the food I ate. We’re getting there. I’m working out with [Bruins strength and conditioning coach] John Whitesides now so we’ll see in a couple weeks what things look like.”
Rask is back in the states for good until training camp opens in the middle of September. He pointed to working with Whitesides as a big reason for his early return, admitting that working out by himself isn’t as productive as working with a “real trainer.” Rask admitted his first full season in the NHL did feel him leaving a little rough when it came to the offseason, but as he trains for 2010-11, everything has been smooth sailing.
“I think it was about five or six weeks [after the season ended], and my body was still kind of feeling the season, but after that, everything was normal and you start doing your workouts and stuff like that and everything felt good,” Rask said. “No problems, but it always takes quite a time to recover fully.”
Rask signed a two-year extension with the Bruins in November and will earn $1.25 million in each of the next two seasons, at which point he will remain under the Bruins’ control as a restricted free agent.
|08.06.10 at 10:58 pm ET|
LOWELL — Tim Thomas has been a lot of things in his hockey career. He’s been the backup, the starter, an All-Star (twice), and a Vezina Trophy winner. Yet more recently, he’s been none of those. Instead he’s been seen as a contract and a perceived difficult piece for the Bruins to move.
Despite the lot of the rumors (many of which have been quite inaccurate) as the season draws nearer, it seems a foregone conclusion that Thomas and his annual cap hit of $5 million will stay in Boston, which for all intents and purposes is a good thing. Thomas has proven to be able to handle splitting time, and with Tuukka Rask entering his second full season (the NHL equivalent of the Bermuda triangle for goaltenders), having a capable veteran netminder is a big plus.
But back to the trade murmurs, accurate or not, that have ruled the town for the summer. The 36-year-old has spent the offseason hearing his name in trade rumors and reading about how he had allegedly waived his no-trade clause in order to facilitate a move out of town. On the contrary, Thomas noted Friday night that he never spoke to the Bruins about waiving his no-trade clause. In fact, he never spoke to them, period.
“I haven’t talked to the team at all, except for the physical therapist that I’m dealing with in recovering from my surgery,” Thomas said.
The surgery, of course, is the operation he received to repair a torn labrum in his left hip. He is 11 weeks into a recovery that required 12, so, Thomas stayed on the bench in Milan Lucic’s Rock and Jock softball game for charity.
“If it was a week later, I think I’d get the clearance to play,” Thomas said, “but right now I have to be a spectator.”
With the offseason winding down and the storm passed regarding trade rumors, Thomas looks back on a period in which he heard so much negativity that he’s glad the chatter, including more speculation that he’ll see decreased playing time, has died and a new season is beginning.
“With everything that’s happened I think you’ve just about seen it all,” Thomas said of the rumors. “It’s gotten just about as difficult as it can get, so it was just another summer.”
Thomas told Matt Kalman of The Bruins Blog that he’s not upset with the Bruins, whom he noted are his “employers,” for anything in the offseason, though in reading reports and hearing what was said about him in the media, he was surprised by the validity of information that surfaced.
‘There’s so many little pieces of misinformation that I’m not even going to waste my time setting the record straight,’ Thomas said. ‘I’m just not going to discuss it anymore. As far as how hard this summer was, every summer I’m replaced as the No. 1 goalie. So it’s pretty much standard course.’
The Michigan native and former University of Vermont star also told Kalman that he expects to battle Rask for the starting goaltending spot when training camp opens on September 17, saying that he doesn’t “intend on backing anybody up.” His words should lead some to the stat sheet, which should remind Bruins fans that despite Rask claiming the job down the stretch, it was Thomas who started the majority of the team’s regular season games. Coming off his Vezina-winning 2008-09 season, Thomas went 17-18-8 last season with a 2.56 goals against average and .915 save percentage in 43 games.
The Bruins certainly have issues financially, as they will be less than $400,000 under the salary cap once they enter the season with Marco Sturm’s cap relief. The trio of Thomas, Marc Savard, and Michael Ryder have been viewed as guys who may be the victim of the team’s attempt to get a little breathing room from that $59.4 million wall. If they, count Thomas among those pleased.