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Hamill looking to take the ‘Krejci way’ to the Bruins

07.08.09 at 11:01 am ET
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BEDFORD — The Bruins Prospect Development Camp is becoming old hat for B’s center Zach Hamill. The 20-year-old former first-round pick is in Boston this week for this third development camp, and knows that this is a pivotal upcoming season for him.

That’s the big picture focus for Hamill going through this summer, but the small picture consists of Hamill being a leader of this particular group of puck-shooting youngsters — a role that comes naturally to the older, wiser Hamill with fresh faces like Jordan Caron, Ben Sexton and Ryan Button among the few invited to the camp.

“It’s the third time coming around for me,” said Hamill. “I remember being a first-timer at this camp — like some of these guys are now — and guys like (David) Krejci and (Matt) Lashoff helped me when I was that age. Now I’m trying to be that guy helping (the younger guys).”

After fighting through a thumb injury and the necessary adjustments for an undersized, still-maturing skill player navigating through professional hockey, Hamill ended with a modest 26 points (13 goals, 13 assists) in 65 games. The B’s front office wants to see more development in Hamill’s game next season, and is expecting greater production and some leadership qualities out of their prized pick from the 2007 draft.

“The injury obviously set him back, and the fact he was a first year pro — and he was trying to make that impression — that’s a difficult thing to adjust to. I think he made some really good progress and we had a real good talk with him around Christmas-time as to where he thought he would be and where he envisioned himself — as opposed to where he was,” said Bruins Director of Player Development Don Sweeney. “I think he made some really good strides in the second half and he’ll continue to be able to play against men. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to play at that size against guys that just keep getting bigger and bigger and stronger.

“But we like that he’s got a good head for the game, and they’re not going to be able to ever take that away from him. He has an understanding of playing both sides of the puck and can play defense with that awareness. If you put Zach Hamill as a freshman in college (right now) you’d say he’s on the right path. So you don’t look past the fact that he’s played one year of pro and he’s on the right path. He’ll continue to get better.”

The 5-foot-11, 190-pounder started slowly with the aforementioned injury — a badly strained thumb that still stiffens up on him from time to time and could take up to an entire year to fully heal – but finished up strong before registering a goal and five assists in 16 Calder Cup playoff games.

The eighth overall pick in the 2007 draft knows he needs to be better next season, and has to begin to show the playmaking skill and high hockey IQ that made him such a bright prospect while playing for the Everett Silvertips in the Western Hockey League. Part of Hamill’s plan is to construct a blueprint based on the success he saw Krejci enjoy in a breakout NHL season that saw him lead the entire league in +/- and become the center of a pivotal second scoring line for the Bruins.

Hamill sees a player with very similar size and very similar skill set in Krejci, and he wants to emulate that toughness on the puck that’s a real hallmark of the small-ish Krejci’s game against much bigger, much stronger opponents looking to knock his block off

“For me getting bigger, stronger and faster is (the focus this summer) and I’ve done that,” said Hamill, who is clearly going to be judged this season as to whether he could step into the Bruins fold should the price tag become too steep to resign All-Star center Marc Savard. “I want to be a better skater and a better shot. Stuff like that. I want to get 5-10 pounds of that good weight, and the guy I really look at in that regard is Krejci.

“He’s kind of not an overly big guy, but he’s got that hockey strength and that core strength and he’s really got that part of it mastered. Just looking him in street clothes and in workout stuff, I want to pattern myself after him and he’s really got that strength on the ice to battle guys that are much bigger than him. He’s able to keep the puck away from them and that’s what I want to do.”

The desire and the talent are there for Hamill to take the “Krejci Way” to the Bruins and the NHL, and now he must prove it next season during a season-long audition for a future spot in the Black and Gold lineup. That started on Tuesday during the first day of testing at the development camp, and it shouldn’t stop until he’s opened all the right eyes over 82 games next winter.

Bruins sign Fata and Sabourin to one-year deals

07.07.09 at 6:53 pm ET
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The Boston Bruins announced Tuesday afternoon that they’ve signed defenseman Drew Fata and goaltender Dany Sabourin to one-year free agent deals. Both players are expected to be organization depth players, but Sabourin could give rookie goaltender Tuukka Rask some competition for the backup goaltender spot in training camp. The Sabourin signing also gives the Bruins some depth at the goaltending spot should either Tim Thomas or Rask succumb to an injury next season.

The Bruins had only untested South Boston native Kevin Regan should anything dire happen during the year, and the NHL-tested Sabourin gives them another qualified body between the pipes. 

 The 26-year-old Fata split the 2008-09 season between two teams in the AHL and compiled 7 goals, 9 assists and 141 penalty minutes in 75 games. He has played eight games in the NHL with the New York Islanders and has 1-1-2 totals along with nine penalty minutes.

The 28-year-old Sabourin played in 19 games for the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 2008-09 season and registered a 6-8-2 record, a 2.85 goals against average and an .898 save percentage for the Stanley Cup Champion Pens. Sabourin was part of a midseason trade to the Edmonton Oilers for goaltender Mathieu Garon, and was waived by Edmonton prior to appearing in a game. In 57 NHL games, Sabourin is 18-25-4 with a 2.87 goals against average and an .898 save percentage.

Read More: Dany Sabourin, Drew Fata, Tuukka Rask,

Matt Hunwick files for salary arbitration with Bruins

07.05.09 at 6:19 pm ET
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The agents for Boston Bruins defenseman Matt Hunwick told WEEI.com on Sunday afternoon that the 24-year-old defenseman has filed for salary arbitration with the Bruins. Hunwick was facing a 5 p.m. deadline on Sunday to file the necessary paperwork for arbitration with Boston, and Hunwick and the B’s will now continue to enjoy a window of time to negotiate a new deal. No arbitration date has been set yet, but Hunwick’s camp certainly won’t be shying away from the arbitration table a month or so from now.

“I anticipate still negotiating with the B’s up until the date,” wrote Hunwick’s agent, Peter Fish, in an email to WEEI.com. “We feel we have a good case if it goes (to arbitration).”

Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli confirmed in an email that Hunwick had filed for arbitration. The former University of Michigan blueliner was one of 20 NHL players that ended up filing for abitration by Sunday afternoon’s deadline.

Hunwick is no longer free to receive offer sheets from other NHL teams during the arbitration process, and there have been some productive ongoing discussions with the B’s over the last week. Hunwick’s negotiations are beginning to take on a very similar tenor to those with fellow defenseman Dennis Wideman last year. Wideman filed for arbitration last summer, but eventually came to terms with the Bruins on a four-year, $15.5 million deal that’s been looking better and better within the grim reality of the dropping NHL salary cap.

NHL arbitration cases are typically heard in late July and early August (this summer it’s July 20-Aug. 4). A player and team can continue to negotiate up until the date of the hearing, in hopes of agreeing on a contract and avoiding the actual arbitration hearing. A decision must be made within 48 hours of the hearing, and Aug. 6 is the final date when decisions must be rendered on all arbitration cases.

When the decision is announced, the team has the right to decline, or “walk away” from the award. If the team exercises this right, the player can declare himself an unrestricted free agent. The Bruins “walked away” from defenseman David Tanabe when he was awarded a $1.275 million arbitration decision in 2006, but there’s virtually no chance of that happening in Hunwick’s case.

Recchi reveals he’ll probably retire after the 2009-10 NHL season

07.03.09 at 1:12 pm ET
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Mark Recchi talked about his one-year, $1 million deal to return to the Boston Bruins for the 2009-10 season on a Friday afternoon conference call, and said that next season in Black and Gold will “probably” be his 21st and final NHL campaign. The veteran doesn’t see his role as being any different next season, and Recchi said he was looking forward to skating with Patrice Bergeron and Chuck Kobasew again and playing a role on the B’s power play. 

The 41-year-old has a pair of Stanley Cup rings — one with the Pittsburgh Penguins and another with the Carolina Hurricanes — but returned to Boston with the feeling that he may be able to go out of his playing career on top of the hockey world next season. Recchi has authored 545 goals in a Hall of Fame-level career with a handful of NHL teams, and said it was his “first priority” to return to Boston and wrap up some unfinished business with a dressing room full of hungry hockey players.

“I think this is probably going to be it,” said Recchi, who finished with 16 points in 18 games after being traded to the B’s on March 4 last season. “I want to go out and finish it off right by winning another championship and help this team be successful. I’d say this will probably be it. I’ve got my family situation I’ve got to consider and kids I’ve got to consider. It’s been a great run. I think I want to give it one more chance.

“My personal things have all been done in my career, and I’m playing for one more ring. That’s the most important thing for me. The reason I liked Boston is that 99 percent of the guys on that team, I felt, wanted to win that Cup. That’s the most important thing to everybody in that dressing room.”

As I wrote yesterday, the Recchi signing leaves the Bruins with roughly $4.3 million under next season’s $56.8 million salary cap, and B’s GM Peter Chiarelli still has RFAs Phil Kessel and Matt Hunwick to negotiate deals with. It would appear that both can’t be signed — and perhaps not even Kessel alone — with the amount of room left under the cap, and that a deal to trade away an NHL-level player off the Bruins is imminent.

Recchi acknowledged that there is some unknown as to what will eventually happen with Kessel’s future (“a dynamic player” said Recchi), but also sympathized with the tough decisions that Chiarelli is surrounded by amid fiscal limitations.

“It’s tough right now with the salary cap. You build a good team and then you have to let people go or you have to make moves to restock again. It has to be really frustrating for GMs now, but it is what it is. He’s done a tremendous job. I think the biggest thing is that he’s got his goaltender and he’s got the core of his defense settled in and the core of his centermen settled in — which is how you build a franchise. 

“If you’ve got those guys then you fit the other pieces all-around and I think he’s going to do a great job of that.”

Read More: Mark Recchi, Peter Chiarelli, Phil Kessel,

Jeremy Reich signs with the New York Islanders

07.02.09 at 2:23 pm ET
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Former Providence Bruins farmhand and Boston Bruins tough guy Jeremy Reich has left the B’s organization and signed a one-year, two-way contract Thursday afternoon with the New York Islanders. The move reunites Reich with former P-Bruins coach Scott Gordon, now head coach of the Isles, and gives the winger a better chance of playing in the NHL. Reich has two goals and four assists and a whopping 161 penalty minutes in 99 career NHL games and had spent the last three plus years with the B’s organization. Reich had his best NHL season with Boston in 2007-08 when he played in 57 games and registered 2 goals and 2 assists with the Black and Gold.

The 30-year-old Reich was an unrestricted free agent after piling up 34 points (21 goals, 13 assists) in 76 games for the P-Bruins during the 2008-09 season and playing the good soldier when the CBA got in the way of any possible call-up to Boston last season.

Lucic invited, Savard snubbed for Team Canada camp

07.02.09 at 12:44 pm ET
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It was a dream come true for Milan Lucic when the 20-year-old hulking winger found out he was among the 46 names invited to the Team Canada Olympic orientation/tryout camp this summer. The Vancouver, B.C. native had a career-best 42 points in 72 games for the Bruins during his second season in the NHL during 2008-09, and made a name around the league with his punishing body checks and physical presence at such a tender young age.

Marc Savard, on the other hand, was a notable name omitted from the preliminary Olympic list after getting plenty of support for the team during the NHL season after continuing to develop his two-way game under B’s head coach Claude Julien. Team Canada is loaded with talented centers among the 46 invitees, but most hockey observers would be hard-pressed to explain how St. Louis Blues center Andy McDonald is more Olympics-worthy than a two-time All-Star in Savard. Savard has averaged 89 points a season over the last four years and was a career-best +25 with the Bruins during a breakout year for the team.

Team Canada’s camp is scheduled from August 24-27 at the Pengrowth Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, and 46 players were identified Thursday morning as candidates for upcoming international events in the 2009-10 season: the 2010 Olympic Winter Games and 2010 IIHF World Championship.

The 46 invitees include: CANADA’S MEN’S NATIONAL TEAM ORIENTATION CAMP ROSTER
Goaltenders (5):
Martin Brodeur (Montreal, Que./New Jersey, NHL), Marc-André Fleury
(Sorel, Que./Pittsburgh, NHL), Roberto Luongo (Montreal, Que./Vancouver,
NHL), Steve Mason (Oakville, Ont./Columbus, NHL), Cam Ward (Sherwood
Park, Alta./Carolina, NHL)

Defensemen (16)
François Beauchemin
(Sorel, Que./Anaheim, NHL), Jay Bouwmeester
(Edmonton, Alta./Calgary, NHL), Dan Boyle (Ottawa, Ont./San Jose, NHL),
Brent Burns (Ajax, Ont./Minnesota, NHL), Drew Doughty (London, Ont./Los
Angeles, NHL), Mike Green (Calgary, Alta./Washington, NHL), Dan Hamhuis
(Smithers, B.C./Nashville, NHL), Duncan Keith (Penticton, B.C./Chicago,
NHL), Scott Niedermayer (Cranbrook, B.C./Anaheim, NHL), Dion Phaneuf
(Edmonton, Alta./Calgary, NHL), Chris Pronger (Dryden,
Ont./Philadelphia, NHL), Robyn Regehr (Rosthern, Sask./Calgary, NHL),
Stéphane Robidas (Sherbrooke, Que./Dallas, NHL), Brent Seabrook
(Tsawwassen, B.C./Chicago, NHL), Marc Staal (Thunder Bay, Ont./N.Y.
Rangers, NHL), Shea Weber (Sicamous, B.C./Nashville, NHL)

Forwards (25)
Jeff Carter (London, Ont./Philadelphia, NHL), Dan Cleary (Carboneau,
N.L./Detroit, NHL), Sidney Crosby (Cole Harbour, N.S./Pittsburgh, NHL),
Shane Doan (Halkirk, Alta./Phoenix, NHL), Simon Gagné (Ste-Foy,
Que./Philadelphia, NHL) , Ryan Getzlaf (Regina, Sask./Anaheim, NHL), Dany
Heatley
(Calgary, Alta./Ottawa, NHL), Jarome Iginla (St. Albert,
Alta./Calgary, NHL), Vincent Lecavalier (Île-Bizard, Que./Tampa Bay,
NHL), Milan Lucic (Vancouver, B.C./Boston, NHL), Patrick Marleau
(Aneroid, Sask./San Jose, NHL), Andy McDonald (Strathroy, Ont./St.
Louis, NHL), Brenden Morrow (Carlyle, Sask./Dallas, NHL), Rick Nash
(Brampton, Ont./Columbus, NHL), Corey Perry (Peterborough, Ont./Anaheim,
NHL), Michael Richards (Kenora, Ont./Philadelphia, NHL), Derek Roy
(Rockland, Ont./Buffalo, NHL), Joe Sakic (Burnaby, B.C./Colorado, NHL),
Patrick Sharp (Thunder Bay, Ont./Chicago, NHL), Ryan Smyth (Banff,
Alta./Colorado, NHL), Martin St-Louis (Laval, Que./Tampa Bay, NHL), Eric
Staal
(Thunder Bay, Ont./Carolina, NHL), Jordan Staal (Thunder Bay,
Ont./Pittsburgh, NHL), Joe Thornton (St. Thomas, Ont./San Jose, NHL),
Jonathan Toews (Winnipeg, Man./Chicago, NHL)

Read More: Marc Savard, Milan Lucic, Winter Olympics,

Bruins sign Mark Recchi to a one-year, $1 million deal

07.02.09 at 11:51 am ET
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The Bruins welcomed the grit, leadership and scoring touch that 41-year-old Mark Recchi brought with him at last season’s NHL trade deadline, and they’ve decided that he was worth keeping around another year. The B’s signed Mark Recchi on Thursday afternoon to a one-year, $1 million contract that will see the cagey veteran on the wing next season.

Recchi scored 61 points between 80 games with the Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning last season, and the veteran had 10 goals, 6 assists in 18 games after landing in Boston on March 4. He was an inspiration with the fearless way he played in front of the net hunting for pucks and goals, and then added to his reputation when he played in Game 7 against the Carolina Hurricanes after undergoing surgery to remove painful kidney stones.

The signing — along with the deals given to Steve Begin and Byron Bitz yesterday afternoon – gives the Bruins 12 forwards already under contract with restricted free agent Phil Kessel still unsigned and Vladmir Sobotka expected to threaten for a spot on the team next season. All of this makes it pretty difficult to imagine there being a roster spot held for longtime Bruin P.J. Axelsson, should he fail to find a landing spot elsewhere in the NHL this summer.

By my math, the signings of Bitz, Begin, Recchi plus the cap hit for buying out Peter Schaefer leaves the Bruins with roughly $4.3 million in cap space with the need to sign/or trade both RFAs Phil Kessel and Matt Hunwick. That’s certainly not enough to get both talented young players signed — and doesn’t include the potential cap hit for Johnny Boychuk should he make the team — so obviously something has to give with roster as currently constructed.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Mark Recchi, Peter Chiarelli,
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