|07.01.09 at 5:38 pm ET|
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.”
|07.01.09 at 4:57 pm ET|
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.
|07.01.09 at 10:12 am ET|
Phil Kessel has been the non-stop subject of discussion with July 1 now here and the lamp-lighting winger sitting on the verge of accepting potential offer sheets from other teams.
But the 36-goal scoring Kessel isn’t the only potential young asset that the Bruins must be concerned about once restricted free agency hits.
Big bruising rookie forward Byron Bitz and puck-moving defenseman Matt Hunwick will also enter restricted free agency as of noon on July 1, and ‘ according to Hunwick’s agent Peter Fish ‘ there has been very little in the way of contract discussions over the last few weeks concerning Boston’s third-leading scorer among defenseman.
Hunwick racked up 27 points from the blueline for the Bruins last season, and was one of the few members of that defensemen corps that could move the puck with speed and creativity. Hunwick finished with 6 goals and 21 assists before a ruptured spleen ended his playoffs after only one game, and tied with highly-touted Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty for tops scoring-wise among rookie blueliners in the NHL last season.
An attractive young asset like Hunwick would appear to be the exact kind of player that might attract an offer sheet from another NHL team ‘ even in a bad economy with an unknown salary cap in 2010-11 ‘ and Fish told WEEI.com that several teams contacted him on Tuesday already inquiring about Hunwick. In fact, there’s a long line of teams that could use a puck-moving blueliner with the kind of skating speed and creativity that Hunwick flashed last season — and the hockey package will come at an affordable price with economic uncertainty staring all NHL teams right in the face.
Fish said there may be a last-minute phone call from the Bruins leading up to the deadline, but that he was now planning on taking the 24-year-old defenseman to restricted free agency at noontime on Wednesday.
‘There has been zero change (since last week). Since the draft we haven’t talked at all,’ said Fish. ‘Right now it’s pretty much status quo. You never know and things can happen at the last hour and the last minute, but we’re prepared (for free agency) and we know that Matt is highly thought of out there. That’s for sure.
‘We’re allowed to talk to other teams about him (on Tuesday) and there have been a lot of teams inquiring about him and talking about him,’ said Fish of the league-wide interest in Hunwick. ‘Peter knows his team and his business. They have to do it a certain way. I’m not surprised by that. They’re prepared for a worst-case scenario and they’ll do what’s best for them I’m sure.’
Fish also told WEEI.com that he hadn’t spoken with the Bruins about Hunwick’s contract since before last weekend’s NHL draft, and it would appear that B’s GM Peter Chiarelli is sticking to his philosophy of allowing his RFAs to hit the free agent market and potentially field offer sheets from other teams.
Chiarelli said in a conference on Tuesday afternoon that he had enough room under the cap (more than $7 million) to sign all three RFAs for what they’re currently asking, but the B’s head honcho said the danger of offer sheets was a ‘risk we’re willing to take and we’re also willing to continue to negotiate.’
‘We’re going to sit back,’’ Chiarelli said during a conference call yesterday. ‘There are certainly players we like and feel that there are good fits for those players. History has shown that whenever people are talking about being reluctant and conservative going into this period, there are always people that will pay.
“We’ve done our homework and our scouting on these players, the players that are still available, then you go after them. But unless something drastic changes, you won’t see aggressive moves by us to start.’
A few comparables: Tobias Enstrom led all rookie defenseman with 38 points during his rookie season in 2007-08 and is now earning $3.75 million for the next four seasons. Tom Gilbert was second in points among rookie blueliners in that 2007-08 season with 33 points and he’s making $4 million a season for the Edmonton Oilers. Erik Johnson was third in 2007-08 with 33 points and he’s made $3.75 million last season, and is now a restricted free agent.
Hunwick is thought to be demanding something in the $1.5-2 million per season range given his place as the top rookie statistical defenseman last season, and ‘ given the relatively inexpensive price tag for a puck-moving defenseman that are in total demand in this day and age of speed killing in the NHL ‘ the rookie blueliner should get that and more if he’s exposed to the offer sheet process on Wednesday.
Given his skill set, there’s actually a better chance that Hunwick ‘ rather than Kessel ‘ gets an offer sheet out in the free agency market. It just remains to be seen how big a number Hunwick and his representation can get to bring back to the Bruins, and force them to match or lose a needed asset to another hockey club.
|06.30.09 at 3:37 pm ET|
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli held a Tuesday afternoon conference call with reporters, and confirmed that the team has enough room under the salary cap to sign all of their restricted free agents prior to the July 1 deadline for RFAs.
After July 1 the Bruins RFAs (Phil Kessel, Matt Hunwick, Byron Bitz) can begin accepting offer sheets from opposing NHL teams, and Chiarelli said that it’s a roll of the dice that the Bruins are willing to take. Chiarelli is surely taking into account the fact that teams can go 10 percent over the salary cap in the summer, but must fit snugly under the $56.8 cap number before the start of the 2009-10 hockey season.
The “read-and-react” philosophy that Chiarelli is employing is one that your humble hockey writer opined about on Monday, and it looks as if there won’t be any Kessel trade in the works over the next couple of days. Instead the B’s GM is fine with watching how things play out when the July 1 free agent shopping period begins, and players like Kessel can be wooed by other teams.
It was assumed that Chiarelli couldn’t fit Kessel’s $5 million per season salary demands under the cap, but perhaps the 21-year-old sniper is asking for something closer to $4.25-4.5 million. Either way, Chiarelli said he doesn’t anticipate coming to terms with any of his free agents prior to Wednesday.
‘We have room (under the cap) to sign our guys at what they’re asking tonight, but we’re not going to do it,” said Chiarelli. “There’s a risk allowing these guys to go out unsigned into the market place, I understand that. That’s a risk we’re willing to take and we’re also willing to continue to negotiate.’
Other tidbits from the conference call:
–Chiarelli restated that his No. 1 priority in a world with no salary cap would be another No. 1 or No. 2 defenseman to ease some of the pressure off Zdeno Chara in terms of on-ice minutes.
‘My (wish) list would probably include an impact defenseman, either a 1 or a 2 (pairing). It’s more minutes to sort of ease the pressure on Zdeno (Chara),” said Chiarelli. “Z can play both (the right or left) side, and it’s not just (getting a right-handed shot).
“If we don’t do anything with our ‘D’ then I’m happy with it. You have to remember that two of our defenseman didn’t play in the last series (against Carolina) and I feel that’s a big part that’s missing. Let’s say I don’t have that (imaginary) $12 million or whatever, I’m happy with where I’m at defensively. If I don’t do anything defensively, then I’d like to get some size on the wing.”
–Both Matt Hunwick and Byron Bitz have arbitration rights as RFAs and have until 5 p.m. on July 5 to opt for arbitration with the Bruins concerning their contracts.
–Peter Schaefer has cleared waivers and the Bruins have until 5 p.m. on Tuesday to decide whether they’ll but out the remainder of his contract. Schaefer was scheduled to make $2.1 million this coming season, but Chiarelli said Schaefer’s contract settlement would amount to an approximate $566,667 salary cap hit for the next two seasons.
UPDATE: The Bruins sent out a release on Tuesday evening that announced the Bruins were buying out Schaefer’s contract, and the B’s will have an additional $566,667 cap hit on the books for the next two seasons. Schaefer is now a free agent capable of signing with any other NHL team.
|06.30.09 at 12:50 pm ET|
A pair of Boston Bruins players have received the worthy honor of potentially playing for a Gold Medal for the Red, White and Blue of the United States. It just remains to be seen if both players remain members of the Bruins by the time the Olympics actually get here in February.
USA Hockey announced on Tuesday that Bruins goalie Tim Thomas and forward Phil Kessel have been invited to the Men’s Olympic Orientation Camp from August 17-19, 2009 at the Seven Bridges Ice Arena in Woodridge, Illinois (6690 S Route 53 Woodridge, IL 60517). They were among 34 American players that made the first cut en route to filling out a roster for the United States Men’s Olympic Hockey Team.
“I think it’s obviously a great honor for both of them,” said Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli. “With respect to Tim, he’s going to challenge for No. 1 and I would expect that given the season that he had. With Phil it shows that he’s really in their plans because he’ll be injured while going into this camp and they feel very strongly about including in all these orientation things because he’s in their plans.
“It’s exciting for both, and I think we’re going to have more of our players being part of these kind of camps in order to prepare (for the Olympics). I’m sure you’re going to see some more of our players that are going to come up for their respective national teams.”
The camp is designed to assist in the preparation of the 2010 U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Team that will compete at the XXI Olympic Winter Games to be held from Feb. 12-28, 2010, in Vancouver, B.C. Of the 34 invites to the Orientation Camp, 23 players (20 skaters and three goaltenders) will be chosen to represent Team USA at the 2010 Olympics. With Kessel expected to miss at least the first month of the NHL season following labrum and rotator cuff/shoulder surgery, the winger won’t be taking part in any on-ice drills during the August camp.
Tim Thomas set a career high with 36 wins this year and was the winner of the 2009 Vezina Troph while finishing the 2008-2009 regular season as the league leader in Goals Against Average (2.10) and Save Percentage
(.933), and played in his second straight NHL All-Star Game.
Thomas appeared in all 11 postseason games for the Bruins, finishing with the playoff’s best Goals Against Average (1.85) and second best Save Percentage (.935).
Phil Kessel established career highs in goals, assists and points this year after tallying a team-best 36 goals, 24 assists and 60 points in 70 games. Kessel become the club’s first 30-goal scorer since 2005-2006 and compiled the longest point streak in the NHL this season after recording a point in 18 consecutive games from November 13-December 21,
2008 (14-14=28 totals during this span). Kessel appeared in all 11 postseason games for the Bruins and contributed six goals and five assists.
Defensemen: Tom Gilbert, Tim Gleason, Ron Hainsey, Erik Johnson, Jack Johnson, Mike Komisarek, Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik, Brian Rafalski, Rob Scuderi, Ryan Suter, Ryan Whitney
Forwards: David Backes, David Booth, Dustin Brown, Dustin Byfuglien, Ryan Callahan, Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, Patrick Kane, Ryan Kesler, Phil Kessel, Jamie Langenbrunner, Ryan Malone, Mike Modano, Kyle Okposo, T.J. Oshie, Zach Parise, Joe Pavelski, Bobby Ryan, Paul Stastny.
|06.30.09 at 11:45 am ET|
Bruins RFAs Phil Kessel, Matt Hunwick and Byron Bitz are scheduled to become eligible to receive offer sheets from other teams beginning on Wednesday at noon, and there are plenty of rules within the RFA and offer sheet process per the rules of the CBA. The Bruins have seven days to match an offer sheet, can’t trade a player once they received an offer sheet, and would receive draft pick compensation for any RFAs signed by other teams.
If Kessel is signed to an offer sheet by another NHL team, it would have be in the $5 million per year range for the Bruins to really toy with the notion of not matching the offer sheet. The sniping winger would easily receive that in the open market, and it’s a pretty fair assumption that Kessel should end up with a slightly bigger paycheck than the $3.75 million per year David Krejci received earlier this month.
Here’s a few Q&A’s from the great website nhlscap.com about the entire RFA process:
— WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A PLAYER SIGNS AN OFFER SHEET? Once a player signs an offer sheet, the team (“New Team”) giving the offer will submit it to Central Registry and must also notify the player’s original team (“Prior Team”) of the offer sheet. The Prior Team has seven (7) days from the date it receives the offer sheet to choose whether to accept the terms of the offer sheet or decline.
If they choose to accept, then the salary, signing bonuses (if any), and reporting bonuses (if any) in the Offer Sheet become a binding SPC on both the Prior Team and the player. If they decline, then all of the terms specified in the Offer Sheet become binding on the New Team and the player and the Prior Team receives compensation from the New Team as set forth below.
— CAN THE PRIOR TEAM TRADE THE PLAYER’S RIGHTS IF HE SIGNS AN OFFER SHEET? NO! From Article 10.3(a), Once an Offer Sheet for a Restricted Free Agent has been received by the Prior Club, the Prior Club may not Trade or otherwise Assign its Right of First Refusal for such Restricted Free Agent.
– IF THE TEAM MATCHES, CAN THEY TURN AROUND AND TRADE THE PLAYER? Again, no. From Article 10.3(b), The Prior Club may not Trade that Restricted Free Agent for a period of one year from the date it exercises its Right of First Refusal.
– WHAT IS THE COMPENSATION REQUIRED FOR SIGNING A RFA TO AN OFFER SHEET? For 2008-09, the compensation due for signing a RFA to an Offer Sheet is listed below. This last year’s compensation schedule, and things might have raised slightly given the rising level of NHL contracts, but the compensation should be roughly the same for this summer. Here are the numbers:
Amount (Compensation Due)
$863,156 or less (None)
$863,156 – $1,307,811 (3rd round pick)
$1,307,812 – $2,615,625 (2nd round pick)
$2,615,623 – $3,923,437 (1st and 3rd round pick)
$3,923,437 – $5,231,249 (1st, 2nd, and 3rd round pick)
$5,231,249 – $6,539,062 (Two 1st’s, one 2nd, one 3rd round pick)
$6,539,062 or more (Four 1st round picks)
The amount is determined by taking the total compensation due in the Offer Sheet, and dividing by the number of years specified in the Offer Sheet, or five (5) – whichever is less.
Example: A team signs a RFA to an offer sheet which calls for salaries of $4 million in Years 1 and 2, and $5 million in Years 3 to 5. The average amount for compensation purposes is $4.6 million ($23 million divided by 5 years) – so the compensation required in 2008-09 would be a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round pick.
Example: A team signs a RFA to an offer sheet which calls for a salary of $3.5 million per year for 6 years. Even though the Averaged Salary on the offer sheet would be $3.5 million, for compensation purposes the average amount is $4.2 million ($21 million divided by the lesser of the number of years on the offer sheet, or 5) – so the compensation due in 2009-10 would be one 1st’s, one 2nd, and one 3rd round pick.
— The numbers in the table above change at the same rate as the change in the Average League Salary.
— Teams must use their own draft picks for the purpose of compensation, including picks that were traded and later reacquired. They cannot use draft picks acquired from other teams (which were not originally theirs) to offer as compensation.
— A team can have multiple offer sheets active, provided it has the necessary draft picks available to offer as compensation.
— From Article 10.4,
— Clubs owing one (1) draft selection must have it available in the next draft.
— Clubs owing two (2) draft selections in different rounds must have them available in the next draft.
— Clubs owing three (3) draft selections in different rounds must have them available in the next draft.
— Clubs owing two (2) draft selections in the same round, must have them available in the next three (3) drafts.
— Clubs owing three (3) draft selections in the same round must have them available in the next four (4) drafts, and so on.
When a Club owes two (2) or more draft selections in the same round, the signing Club does not elect the years in which such selections shall be awarded to the Prior Club; rather, the selections next available will be transferred to the Prior Club (i.e., a Club that owes two (2) selections has them available in the next two (2) drafts ‘ that is when they are transferred).
|06.29.09 at 5:40 pm ET|
According to a TSN report, Bruins winger Peter Schaefer was placed on waivers on Monday along with St. Louis Blues defenseman Jay McKee and Florida Panthers forward Brett McLean. Schaefer spent the entire 2008-09 season with the Providence Bruins and scored 26 points in 47 AHL games — a casualty of the salary cap system where his $2.1 million cap hit would have proven unwieldy for the B’s at the NHL level last season. Schaefer scored 26 points in 63 games for the Bruins in 2006-07 after GM Peter Chiarelli traded for the former Ottawa Senator forward prior to the season.
Placing Schaefer on waivers could be a precursor for buying out the soon-to-be 32-year-old’s contract for the 2009-10 season, but that hasn’t taken place as of yet. Contract buyouts come at two-thirds the cost to the club, with the team gaining the ability to spread out the cost of the buyout over twice the amount of time remaining on the contract (eg. with one year left on the contract for each of these players, the cost against the team’s cap is spread out over the next two seasons). For Shaefer, that means a contract buyout would add a total of $700,000 to Boston’s cap hit for the next seasons.
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