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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,

Bruins sign Steve Begin to a one-year deal worth $850K

07.01.09 at 6:48 pm ET
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The Bruins continued their flurry of July 1 activity by signing former Montreal Canadiens agitator Steve Begin to a one-year deal worth $850,000 on late Wednesday afternoon. The 31-year-old Begin registered 12 points (7 goals, 5 assists) and 42 penalty minutes in 63 games combined for the Canadiens and Dallas Stars last season, and is being brought into the B’s fold to provide a little extra grit and a lot of extra nasty into the bottom two lines next season.

For his part, Begin said that his experience playing for Julien with the Habs — where he enjoyed his best season under Julien with the Habs while scoring 11 goals and 12 assists along with 113 PIMs in 76 games — was one of the big things that attracted him to Boston.

“I know Claude Julien. He coached me in Montreal for two years and I know Claude, he’s a great coach. I know that Boston has some great players, so this was really an easy choice for me,” said Begin. “It’s going to be fun to have those guys on my side now. With Montreal those were games were always big (against the Bruins) so it’s going to be fun to come to the other side now.

“One day you’re on the one team and then another day you’re on the other team. Now I’m going to be on the right side (of the rivalry) now. (With Claude) he listens to the players and he knows how to play you and how to use you. I think if you look at (Michael) Ryder, a year ago in Montreal people thought he was done and now he’s playing for Claude and he had his best season last year. He gave me a lot of ice time and played me a lot.” 

Being cast off by the Canadiens during the rough patch last might have also played into the decision to don the Spoked B as well, but Begin wasn’t biting on that one.

Bruins fans will remember Begin as one of Montreal’s hatchet men during the 2007-08 season, and the Quebec native memorably cross-checked Marc Savard from behind and broke a bone in the center’s back just prior to the playoffs — a questionable move that opened the door for David Krejci to finally establish himself as an NHL player. The B’s didn’t really have an “agitator” last season that provoked and got under the skin of the opposition, and that’s a role that the 6-foot, 193-pound Begin can play with aplomb.

“He’s a real physical guy. He’s not huge, but he’s big enough and he makes up for it in the way that he plays,” said Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli. “He’s got history with Claude and he’s just a tremendous, tremendous competitive player and person. He kills penalties, will fill a role and had some energy so I’m excited to get him.” 

Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli confirmed the signing during a Wednesday night conference call and said that Begin effectively takes the roster spot formerly occupied by veteran center Stephane Yelle, who did a solid job with faceoffs and killing penalties on the fourth line in Boston last season.

With Steve Montador’s signing in Buffalo and the admission that Yelle’s term with the Bruins is over — along with Wednesday night’s announcement that defenseman Johnny Boychuk was signed to a one-way deal with the Bruins – that means at least two new faces will be into the Black and Gold mix this season. 

“I guess if you look at it, Steve effectively replaces Stephane (Yelle) if you want to get to the nitty gritty. If you want to look at him and how he plays, he’s a versatile player, he’s a useful player and he’s a gritty player,” said Chiarelli. “So he’s a guy you can slide a little bit up the lineup, he’s a guy that can kill penalties and he’s a guy that will wear the emblem on his sleeve. There’s a lot of good things about him. Over the few years I’ve been here we’ve back-filled with these types of players, and we expect Steve to be one of those.”

Begin will join Byron Bitz and Shawn Thornton on a potential fourth line grouping that could become a thoroughly enjoyable trio of physical, gritty forwards capable of punishing and intimidating opposing lines in an Eastern Conference that seems to be getting bigger and nastier with each passing day.

“I like to finish my checks and I like to chip in once in a while, but it’s a bonus when I do. Mostly I bring a lot of energy and I’m a team guy. I’m working hard, skating hard and finishing my checks, and it’s all of the things that you saw Boston do with guys like (Shawn) Thornton. It’s the kind of game that I like to play.”

Read More: Claude Julien, Marc Savard, Steve Begin,

Boston Bruins have resigned Byron Bitz to a multi-year deal

07.01.09 at 5:38 pm ET
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The Boston Bruins made their first official move on July 1 and signed restricted free agent Byron Bitz to a multi-year contract on Wednesday afternoon. The rangy forward and Cornell product was expected to be the easiest — and most affordable –  to sign of Boston’s three RFA candidates, and Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli indicated that the B’s had worked on the Bitz deal for most of Tuesday night and Wednesday morning headed into the noon-time free agency opening.

Inking Bitz gives the Bruins a good step in the right direction toward getting bigger and stronger along the front lines — a directive that is part of Chiarelli’s

“We got Byron signed and he’s got some size,” said Chiarelli. “We’re trying to add to that size (roster) during this free agency period, but that’s kind of an ongoing thing for us. 

“I feel the day has been productive in terms of setting the market for the rest of the summer. For some of the larger contracts, for the most part, I think there’s been a conservative approach — believe it or not. We’ll see how the rest of the summer unfolds,” added Chiarelli, who also said he hadn’t received any offer sheets from teams on Kessel or Hunwick during Day 1 of free agency. “The terms are definitely shorter if you take out Hossa’s deal. There are still a lot of players out there, so I can’t judge the compensation that’s been given on these deals. Certainly there doesn’t seem to be the largess that there’s been in the past, and that’s a good sign. Whether it’s resigning somebody or it’s going out and acquiring somebody, I think it (provides some optimism). There’s still a lot of players out there too. Day 1 is almost over and there’s the whole summer left.”

A 6-foot-5 bruising forechecker, Bitz had four goals and three assists in 35 games for the Bruins last season, and worked himself into the roster with his intelligent, physical style of play once he was called up from Providence. Bitz was a restricted free agent and could have received offer sheets from other NHL teams. It’s expected that some mixture of Bitz, newly signed Steve Begin and Shawn Thornton will serve as a crushing, bruising, punishing fourth line capable of intimidating opposing hockey teams.

“When I came out of college, I had to make adjustments to the amount of games and other adjustments but I always had faith in myself,” said Bitz, who mentioned that the rib injury that knocked him out of participating in the AHL playoffs was completely healed up. “It’s really exciting to be given that opportunity (with the Bruins). Going into next year I just want to build on the momentum and confidence of last year, and just carry that over into next season.”

Bitz seemed to get better and more comfortable at the NHL level as the season progressed, and there’s a sense among B’s officials that he’ll continuing improving as a big man hovering around the net with a solid combination of strength and skill around the net.

With Bitz signed, winger Phil Kessel and defenseman Matt Hunwick remain the Bruins’ remaining two restricted free agents on the market. The signing with Bitz was the culmination of several weeks of negotiations, and starts to give Boston’s energy/checking line a bit more certainty going forward, and also gives Boston some flexibility with the youngster’s ability to play both wing and center. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but it would be shocking if Bitz was awarded anything over $850,000 per year by the Bruins coming off restricted free agency.

“There had been an ongoing dialogue for a couple of weeks now and we had been making progress,” said Bitz. “Boston is the only organization that I’ve ever known and that’s where I wanted to be. I’m just glad we came to an agreement.”

Read More: Boston Bruins, Byron Bitz, Peter Chiarelli,

NHL Free agent signing rundown on July 1

07.01.09 at 4:57 pm ET
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Extremely eventful opening day of NHL free agency on July 1. The Bruins kicked the tires on Marian Hossa, but found him to be too pricey despite an affordable $5.3 million cap hit that the Chicago Blackhawks will now take on for the next 12 years. The Hawks can buy out Hossa toward the end of a deal that is extremely front-loaded and will certainly have some cap reckoning with Jonathan Toews, Pat Kane and Duncan Keith all looking to get signed over the next two years.

Despite all of that being said, I’m giving full marks to Dale Tallon for being bold with this move and eschewing the conservative mantra that many GMs believe is prudent with a “market correction” on tap. Judging by the money being tossed around on Day One of free agency, I’m not seeing much of a market correction.

Here’s a few signings that have already concluded today with some analysis on the moves. The Bruins aren’t expected to make a splash on Wednesday, but one never can tell with Peter Chiarelli and Co. at the controls:

Marian Hossa (signed by the Chicago Blackhawks, 12 years and $62.4 million, $5.3 million cap hit) — As stated above, the cap hit really isn’t all that bad for Hossa, but a dozen years for a 30-year-old player is a commitment with a Capital C. It’s a bold move that could really pay off for Chicago GM Dale Tallon and a Blackhawks team that proved they were close to Cup-worthy last season. It would be nice to see this kind of “damn the torpedoes” boldness by the Bruins brain trust from time-to-time, and perhaps there is still time with names like Martin Havlat and Dany Heatley still in play.

Mike Knuble (signed by the Washington Capitals, two years for $5.6 million, $2.8 million cap hit) — My favorite signing of the day. Knuble is a big, punishing, immovable inside presence that does all of the dirty work around the net — a skill that Washington was sorely lacking last season — and is one of the all-time great dressing room guys. This writer’s favorite Bruin to deal with during his time with Boston, he’ll be a difference-maker with a talented Capitals team and the cap hit is extremely friendly.

Steve Montador (signed by the Buffalo Sabres, two years at $3.1 million, $1.55 million cap hit) — Montador was the first member of last year’s Bruins team to sign with another NHL team. The Sabres must have seen something they liked with Montador, or are a big fan of the intangibles/toughness that he undoubtedly brings to the table. Wasn’t all that impressive in his time with the Bruins, and really got exposed in the playoffs as a defenseman prone to bad decision-making/turnovers when the pressure was turned up and the ice time was raised. 

Hal Gill (signed with the Montreal Canadiens, two years and $4.5 million, a $2.25 million cap hit) — Big towering Hal has become the butt of many jokes due to his less-than-breathtaking skating speed and meager offensive skill set, but he’s a big stopper in the defensive end. The Massachusetts-born Gill will certainly be a useful piece for the Habs, and will surely become another Public Enemy No. 1 in Boston next season as a hometown boy going the Chris Nilan route. The Gill signing is somewhat modest and understandable, but trading for an enormous, unwieldy contract in Scott Gomez and then throwing big money at Jaroslav Spacek isn’t all that promising of a start to GM Bob Gainey’s offseason plan.

David Booth (resigned with Florida Panthers for six years and $25.5 million, a $4.25 cap hit) — This is the best comparable signing to Phil Kessel, but the B’s wingers career numbers and pedigree are both better than Booth. This is exactly what agent Wade Arnott and Kessel wanted to see in this age of “market correction” talk because it will embolden their camp to hold out for something between this and $5 million annually. Kessel was a higher draft pick and has more career goals in the same three-year period that both the RFA Bruins forward and Booth have been playing in the NHL.

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