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Axelsson could be facing some hard choices this summer

05.20.09 at 10:35 am ET
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As Boston Bruins players packed up their gear and exited the Garden for the final time earlier this week, it was clear in the eyes of Swedish forward P.J. Axelsson that the scrappy Swede doesn’t want to leave Boston. Axy has been a swift-skating, penalty-killing winger during his 11 seasons wearing the Spoked B on his chest, and is the elder statesman on this B’s team.

The 34-year-old is the longest-tenured member of the Bruins dating back to the 1997-98 season, and remains as the only active link back to the Ray Bourque Era. Axelsson is clearly hoping that dropping Game 7 to the Carolina Hurricanes doesn’t endure as his final act as a member of the Black and Gold.

“If it is (my last game as a Bruin) then it’s kind of sad going like that,” said Axelsson. “It is what it is, but I can’t say too much because I don’t know. I want to come back, but all I can say is we’ll see. I don’t know anything else (but being a Bruins player).

“We can only speculate what’s going to happen. They have a lot of decisions to make (this summer) and they have a lot of guys that are up (for contracts). With the new CBA and all that it’s not easy, so we’ll see what happens. That’s how it is in this business. We’re going to see in years to come that it’s going to be about shorter contracts and more free agents (in the NHL).”

Axelsson was on the books for $1.85 million this past season in his last contracted year before hitting unrestricted free agency, and he indicated that there’s “not much” in the way of talks between B’s GM Peter Chiarelli and his agent during the course of the 2008-09 season. The Swede has never scored more than 36 points or three power play goals in a single season during the course of his 11 years in Boston, but he’s been among the most dependable third and fourth line checking players in the NHL during his career.

It’s pretty clear that in the Harsh New World of the NHL salary cap — and plummeting economy with a likely drooping salary cap to go along with it this summer — Axelsson will be one of those mid-level veterans feeling the pinch of bad fiscal times. Coming off a season that saw him finish with his customary six goals and 24 assists along with responsible defensive work in several different spots among the top 12 forwards, Axelsson is most assuredly looking at a one-year contract and a cut in dough no matter where he’s skating.

If he stays in the United States and plays in the NHL, that is. It could be that Axelsson — at 34 years old — decides to pack up and head back to Sweden where he’d find a much more handsome return than the NHL cash commanded in the penny-pinching, youth-obsessed NHL. Axelsson will give it his best shot to return with the B’s next season, and should be under consideration for a return engagement — as should Mark Recchi, Stephane Yelle and Shane Hnidy after doing excellent jobs filling out player/leadership roles for the B’s this winter.

Axesson would clearly have to drop his salary expectations to something around the $1 million level if he’s hoping to stay in the Hub for a 12th kick at the Stanley Cup can, but that’s one of many things he has to mull over this summer.

“(Playing in Europe) is a decision I’ll have to make going forward,” said Axelsson. “We’ll sit down and see what happens, and go from there. (I want) to be on a good team. That’s the number one thing. A place where my family would like to be is the No. 2 thing.”

Axelsson is prepared for whatever might befall him this summer, and knows his home since getting scooped up in the seventh round of the 1995 draft may no longer be his place of employment when training camp opens. Axelsson has sometimes been a subject of fan ire because of limited offensive skills and hard-to-quantify defensive abilities, but the affable Swede might clearly be a case of “You Don’t Know What You’ve Got ‘Till It’s Gone” if he’s sent along his merry hockey way this summer.

Stay tuned for the fates of guys like Axelsson, Yelle and Recchi this summer — it could be a bumpy ride if the NHL salary cap drops down from its $56.8 level this past hockey season.

“We’€™ve got some decisions to make, as far as signing, the amounts, the term, how that impacts future years under the cap.  These are things that we’€™ve been addressing and looking at all year, so it’€™s come time now that we have to make these decisions,” said Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli. “Part of those decisions will come out in how we negotiate; part of those decisions will come out in with whom we negotiate.  Really, to tell you exactly what we’€™re going to do, I couldn’€™t tell you exactly what we’€™re going to do, but you’€™ll see it in future days.”

Chiarelli named NHL Executive of the Year by Sporting News

05.20.09 at 9:21 am ET
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Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli, the architect of a Boston team that went barely squeaking into the playoffs in 2007-08 to an Eastern Conference-best 116 this season, has been named Sporting News’€™ Executive of the Year by his NHL peers, a panel of 39 coaches and executives.

Chiarelli, when asked for the moves he made that had the biggest impact on the team, cited the signing of underachieving Montreal forward Michael Ryder as one.

‘€œI know it was a criticized move at the time,’€ Chiarelli said. ‘€œWe put a lot of thought into it from the perspective that it was a guy who I had seen for many years in the Northeast Division. He was a guy who had a long relationship with our coach, and he was the type of player we were looking for.’€

Ryder scored 27 goals and was a plus-28 for the Bruins. The entire NHL awards package will appear in the new Sporting News Magazine, which will be available at all Barnes & Noble, Borders and Hudson Retail outlets later this week.

The Bruins have several candidates for awards and trophies being handed out at the NHL Awards Show at the Palms Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on June 18.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Michael Ryder, Peter Chiarelli,

The Sporting News names Julien as NHL Coach of the Year

05.19.09 at 9:47 am ET
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Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien, who guided the Boston Bruins to the top of the Eastern Conference standings this season, has been named NHL Coach of the Year by The Sporting News in a vote by 39 coaches and executives from throughout the league.

Julien, whose team posted a 53-19-10 record and 116 points in his second season at the B’s helm, molded the Bruins into a league power by instituting a more offensive style with his normal defensive system — and also impletemented an effective blueprint for dealing with players.

“When things are going well, he doesn’€™t mess them up,” goalie Tim Thomas said. “He knows how to step back and let go. But if he sees something he wants to do better, he also lets it be known.”

Julien is also considered a leading candidate for the Jack Adams Award given to the NHL’s top coach at the NHL Awards Show at the Palms Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on June 18.

Putting the ‘B’ back in the Bruins

05.18.09 at 6:14 pm ET
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For all the accomplishments the Boston Bruins achieved this past season, the biggest may reach far beyond the ice sheet at TD Banknorth Garden.

The Bruins are Boston’s darlings once again. Even with the heartbreaking end in Game 7 against Carolina, these Bruins seemed to have captured the imagination of the  blue-collar fan while casting in the average fan who heretofore has been preoccupied with the Red Sox, Celtics and Patriots.

“It was honestly one of the best (experiences),” 36-year-old defenseman Aaron Ward said on break-up Monday at the Garden. “I came in here two years ago towards the tail-end of the season and I don’t know if people even knew what the ‘B’ represented anymore. We didn’t have an identity. We didn’t have guys that you could associate with or to. You ask people who their favorite Boston Bruin was and they’d reach to yesteryear and it would be Cam Neely or Ray Bourque or Johnny Bucyk and now I think the game is revitalized.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Aaron Ward, Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, Montreal Canadiens

Banged up Bruins talking about “unfinished business”

05.18.09 at 2:05 pm ET
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The end of an NHL season is usually rife with announcements of assorted surgeries and full disclosure of injuries previously hidden to the media through the season and the ensuing playoffs.

It’s no different for the Bruins this morning as they conducted their break-up meetings for the season and announced that David Krejci (impingement in his right hip), Phil Kessel (torn left rotator cuff and labrum in his shoulder) and Andrew Ference (torn groin, hernia) are all scheduled to go under the knife for a bevy of hockey injuries.

In addition to the surgeries, Chuck Kobasew was playing with broken ribs, Zdeno Chara had shoulder, knee and groin woes, Mark Recchi had surgery to remove kidney stones between the Games 6 and 7 and Marc Savard had a sprained knee that will require a month of rest. Despite all of that, each of those players soldiered through and for that the Spoked B skaters certainly deserve credit.

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Read More: David Krejci, Peter Chiarelli, Phil Kessel,

Bruins’ trade deadline choice partly to blame for playoff demise

05.17.09 at 12:51 pm ET
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The Bruins season is kaput after a seven-game struggle against the Carolina Hurricanes that revealed a serious flaw or two on a Black and Gold team that cruised through the 82-game campaign.

The Big Bad B’s were the best team in the Eastern Conference during the regular season, and pumped up expectations ever so higher when they dispatched the hated Montreal Canadiens with four quick, short and sweet strokes of their collective hockey sticks.

It was a magical hockey ride that spiked fan expectations and had many firmly bracing for a full Stanley Cup run in Boston’s first year back on the hockey map. But the series against the Hurricanes revealed weaknesses on the B’s roster that must be addressed going forward in the brave new world of a potentially shrinking salary cap.

This isn’t just solely about player mistakes or flaws on the ice, however.

There were also miscues made by the front office during the season that affected Boston’s playoff run, and none was bigger than Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli’s mis-step at the NHL trade deadline.

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Read More: Matt Hunwick, Peter Chiarelli, Steve Montador,

Scott Walker’s wife diagnosed with cancer during playoff series

05.16.09 at 8:44 pm ET
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The Carolina Hurricanes released a sobering piece of news this morning following Scott Walker’s tumultuous series against the Boston Bruins that saw the scrappy Canes forward sucker-punch Aaron Ward in Game 5 and then pot the OT game-winner in Game 7. Walker’s wife, Julie, has cervical cancer, but the disease is treatable and she is expected to make a full recovery. Walker learned of his wife’s diagnosis during the seven-game series against the Bruins.

“My wife is an amazing person and we are looking forward to a positive outcome from this challenge,’€ said Walker on Saturday afternoon. ‘€œI will address the situation with the media, but my family would appreciate its privacy going forward.’€

Read More: Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, Scott Walker,
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