Archive for June, 2009

Sources: BU and BC will play at Fenway Park on Jan. 8

Friday, June 26th, 2009

MONTREAL — According to a pair of sources with knowledge of the Winter Classic event, storied rivals Boston University and Boston College have agreed to play each other in an outdoor college hockey game at Fenway Park on Jan. 8. The sources told WEEI.com that the game will take place exactly a week after the Bruins and Philadelphia take part in the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day at Fenway.

Talks are still underway for a second college hockey game paired with BC/BU at Fenway, and it could be either two different Hockey East men’s teams or a pair of Hockey East women’s teams in second part of the college doubleheader. The Boston College/Boston University college hockey undercard is expected to be finalized and part of the announcement at Fenway Park when the NHL makes the 2010 Winter Classic official next month.

Chiarelli: ‘I’d love to be able to keep (Kessel).’

Friday, June 26th, 2009
Chiarelli said he'd "love to keep Kessel" this morning amid rumors that he'd been offered in a trade with Toronto

Chiarelli said he'd "love to keep Kessel" this morning amid rumors that he'd been offered in a trade with Toronto

MONTREAL — Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli continued his solid string of “no comments” on anything of interest to Bruins Nation Friday, but the B’s top executive did offer at least a glimmer of hope that 21-year-old winger Phil Kessel will again be wearing a Spoked B sweater next season.

Rumors of a Kessel-for-Tomas Kaberle swap have been swirling around the streets of Montreal as the 7 p.m. start of the 2009 NHL Draft approaches, and TSN reported on Friday morning that the B’s brass offered Kessel to the Maple Leafs for Kaberle and their No. 7 pick in the first round.

Chiarelli, while meeting with reporters at the Hotel Sofitel, coyly stated that he first heard about the trade proposal when he logged on to his computer this morning, and offered up a “no comment” — along with a few words of praise and a hope that the skilled winger will be with the team next season and beyond.

“I don’t comment on (trade) stuff,” said Chiarelli. “I don’t comment on negotiations. What I can say is that he’s a young player that’s shown tremendous progress. I’d love to be able to keep him.

“I don’t think something big will get done, generally speaking. You have discussions and I know there was a report this morning. I think it’s unfair to everyone involved, whether it’s true or not, to have that stuff reported.”

Chiarelli mentioned earlier this week that the Boston hockey club was hoping to move up higher in the first round from their 25th pick, and indications are that the front office is actively looking to increase their organizational depth at defenseman with a top selection. Names being bandied about that the B’s could move up and pinpoint depending on which team’s pick they might ultimately acquire: Dmitry Kulikov, John Moore, Olivier Ekman-Larsson, Jared Cowan, Simon Despres and Ryan Ellis.

Chiarelli allowed that his scouting staff was excited about “a couple of players” that the B’s would presumably have to improve their standing in the first round to land. The B’s exec also joked when asked if landing a “Top 4″ was an important item on the team’s agenda this summer.

“If I could afford it I’d like a Top 4 defenseman. I’d like another big, physical forward. It’s all stuff that you work into an equation and you have that cap that you’re working with. That player period starts July 1, so we’re not there yet. There are teams discussing a lot of different things at the draft, and we’re one of them.”

–Chiarelli confirmed that he’s sent out qualifying offers to RFAs Phil Kessel, Matt Hunwick and Byron Bitz, and said that both Hunwick and Kessel are recovering “rapidly and as-scheduled” from their respective surgeries. Ned Lukacevic, acquired in the Andrew Alberts deal, and Wacey Rabbit were the only two players with RFA status that won’t be receiving qualifying offers from the Bruins.

With regard to the UFAs like P.J. Axelsson, Stephane Yelle and Mark Recchi (who is in Montreal this weekend and met briefly with Chiarelli), Chiarelli said he asked them put potential contract talks on hold until the Monday following the draft. All the UFAs are free to negotiate with other teams beginning on July 1.

“There’s a group of those guys that I’ve told to ‘Hang on’ because I’ve got a few things to figure out over the course of this weekend, and I’ll get back to them on Monday,” said Chiarelli.

Report: Kessel and top pick offered for Toronto defenseman, seventh pick

Friday, June 26th, 2009

MONTREAL — According to a report by Bob McKenzie of TSN.ca, B’s GM Peter Chiarelli and their front office cohorts have made their first move of the weekend and offered restricted free agent winger Phil Kessel and their first round pick to Toronto for four-time All-Star defenseman Tomas Kaberle and the seventh pick in the 2009 draft.

According to the report, Leafs GM Brian Burke is “canvassing the league to see if there are any better offers out there”. Kessel scored a team-high 36 goals and 60 overall points in a breakout year for the Bruins, but hasn’t been able to come to an agreement with Boston on a contract for next season and beyond.

Kessel is rumored to have been on the trade market for weeks, and Kessel’s agent, Wade Arnott, didn’t deny any of the Kessel trade rumors in a phone conversation with WEEI.com earlier this week.

Kaberle is a 31-year-old skill defenseman with a palatable cap hit of $4.25 million per season for the next two years, and is widely-considered a puck mover and power play contributor. Kaberle was limited to 57 games with injuries last year, and is certainly not at an all-time high value-wise. Kaberle missed significant time last season with a broken right hand. The 10-year veteran has a no-trade clause in his contract, but there is a window in the clause that permits a trade of Kaberle between the NHL entry draft and Aug.15, a clause activated when the Leafs failed once again to make the playoffs.

For more updates on the Bruins and their weekend activity at the NHL draft, check in with the Big Bad Blog for updates.

UPDATE:  TSN is now amending their report and stating that the Bruins offered Phil Kessel and a future draft pick for Kaberle. Doubtful the Bruins would do this without also getting Toronto’s 2009 first round pick at the No. 7 spot back in return. B’s GM Peter Chiarelli gave a warm, welcoming “no comment” about the rumors when met with the assorted hockey media this morning, and intimated that he first learned of them when he got on his computer this morning. We’ll have more later.

Bruins make qualifying offer to Kessel, negotiations continue

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli and the rest of the Boston front office are surely be training their concentration and focus on the annual NHL Entry Draft this weekend in Montreal — and some of the misdirection and conflicting smoke signals consistent with the process have already begun.

But amid the usual subterfuge, however, the B’s brain trust will also be dealing with real big club issues like the ongoing negotiations with restricted free agent goal-scoring winger Phil Kessel. Both Chiarelli and Kessel’s agent, Wade Arnott, are expected to be in Montreal on Wednesday, and plan to continue discussions on the 21-year-old superstar’s future in Boston.

The B’s made a qualifying offer to Kessel this week — a perfunctory move by Chiarelli to keep Kessel a restricted free agent (RFA) if the July 1 free agency period comes and goes without any movement on a contract. An RFA must receive a “qualifying offer” from his team, or he becomes unrestricted, and the qualifying offer will be 100 percent of last season’s salary for players making under $800,000, and 75 percent of last season’s salary for those making over $800,000.

According to the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, a restricted free agent can accept an offer sheet from other teams. But the RFA’s old team can match the offer or receive compensation, as in the previous free agent system. If both sides can’t come to an agreement prior to training camp and no offer sheets are received, a restricted free agent must sign a contract within 14 days of the opening of training camp, or be ineligible to play that season. This is designed to prevent lengthy holdouts in contract disputes.

Arnott didn’t voice much in the way of surprise that a deal has yet to be reached with his speedy young superstar. Kessel’s agent felt like there might be some progress made in his client’s situation over the next few days with all the key players in the same place.

“We’ve had discussions at this point with Peter, but nothing to report actually,” said Arnott of negotiations that have been ongoing for the last few weeks. “I’m not surprised. We know July 1 is coming, but we’re all going to see each other starting (Wednesday) for draft weekend. July 1 will be right around the corner as well, but I’m not surprised (that there’s no contract).”

There’s been wild speculation that Kessel will be traded before July 1, and that his name has been tossed around in several potential deals that could both, 1) allow the Bruins to move way up in the draft and net one of the top four close-to-NHL-ready talents among the eligible group of amateur players, and, 2) fortify a need amid a less-than-ideal situation at the defenseman position.

Chiarelli said in general that — given salary cap considerations and particular player situations — there have been plenty of eye-opening names available on the NHL trade market this summer. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that deals will be pulled off throughout the weekend.

“Based on what I’m hearing in general conversations I’ve been having, there seems to be more significant players out there,” said Chiarelli. “So activity prior to the actual trade has actually increased.

“I don’t know that there’ll be any more trades than we’ve seen in the past, but I get the sense that there’s more activity, conversations and discussions. I would assume that — I know that — the other managers are thinking conservative like myself. Before you take on something (in trade) you really have to think twice about it. There is increased activity, but I don’t know if that translates into trades.”

There’s also a school of thought among some the extended negotiations and trade rumors are a tool being used by the Bruins to speed up the maturation of a sometimes immature young player in Kessel. Think something similar to the technique being employed by the Celtics with Rajon Rondo and trade rumors this summer — a development that might help a younger, immature individual snap into that next phase of maturation as a player.

There have been times in his first three years in Boston where the 21-year-old hasn’t always been on the same page with Boston’s coaching staff, and there’s a continued feeling Kessel is only just scratching the surface in terms of what he can do with his speed and shot.

Arnott wouldn’t confirm or deny any of the trade speculation, but instead deferred all potential thoughts about a Kessel trade to the one man that would potentially pull the trigger on a trade that could send the young superstar out of Boston.

“You know what? It’s a good question. I can’t comment on that,” said Arnott. “That is something for Peter to answer for you. I suggest you ask him that question.”

During a recent conference call to discuss the NHL draft, Chiarelli, of course, wouldn’t comment on anything involving the ongoing negotiations with Kessel.

In general, Arnott gets the sense that there’s going to be plenty of wheeling and dealing on the floor of the Bell Centre this weekend and there’s optimism that the two sides can bridge some gaps to hammering out a deal.

“The sense, the sense we get is that there’s more discussions and obviously publicly you see that there are more player issues around the league at the NHL level. You combine that with the draft, and there might be an opportunity (for trades and signings),” said Arnott. “Obviously with the economics and the times that we’re in, you add all of that up and there’s definitely a great opportunity for movement.”

While visiting a local school for a Bruins-related community event last week, Kessel himself denied that his side has made any demands of $5 million a year for a contract. But it’s clear his elite credentials combined with his on-ice skills and production set put him in the $4 million a year NHL neighborhood of fellow young superstars like Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin.

There’s been further speculation that Bruins management is set against giving Kessel more money than the $3.75 million per year that’s already been awarded to fellow restricted free agent David Krejci. It appears that — given Boston’s salary cap outlook over the next few seasons — there’s a required level of creativity and outside-the-box thinking in the contract negotiations, and perhaps talks have even involved a one-year deal for Kessel in the 2009-10 season.

A repeat of anything close to last year’s 36-goal season would then further cement his resume for a long-term contract and give him the arbitration rights that he doesn’t currently hold headed into this summer’s negotiations. One thing remains the same, however: Kessel has told his representation that he doesn’t want to go anywhere else but Boston for next season and beyond.

“Phil is the player and he wants to stay in Boston,” said Arnott. “Phil is open-minded (with regard to contract talks) and his first priority is still to remain with the Bruins.”

Sources: Flyers are favorites to take on Bruins at Fenway

Monday, June 22nd, 2009
The Flyers are the favorites to face off against the B's at Fenway Park next winter

The Flyers are the favorites to face off against the B's at Fenway Park next winter

Sources confirmed months ago the Bruins have been awarded next year’s NHL Winter Classic and will play at Fenway Park on Jan. 1, and multiple reports had previously indicated that the Washington Capitals would be the Black and Gold’s opponent in hockey’s showpiece event.

The Boston Metro has reported that Boston College is already confirmed to play in an outdoor college hockey game that’s been added to the festivities. Boston University is also in talks to play in the outdoor college hockey game paired with the Winter Classic, according to the Metro report. NHL sources have also confirmed a second portion of the report to WEEI.com that the Philadelphia Flyers have taken the lead as the opponent for the Bruins on Jan. 1, 2010.

Several reports had named Washington as the leader in the clubhouse to take on the B’s on New Year’s Day, but multiple sources revealed to WEEI.com that there are concerns from NBC over television ratings with the Capitals – who are being pushed by the NHL to be the choice. NBC is instead campaigning for Philadelphia, according to one source, and the odds are improving by the day that the Flyers will be traveling to the Fens in January.

The lackluster playoff ratings for NBC during an opening round Stanley Cup playoffs matchup between Alexander Ovechkin and his Washington Capitals vs. the New York Rangers – the hockey team from the nation’s #1 TV market – is believed to at least be partly behind the network’s motives.

Last season’s first round’s Game 6 between the Rangers and Capitals drew a paltry 0.7 rating, off 30% from a 1.0 for Red Wings/Predators Game 6 during the 2008 playoffs. An expected marquee matchup pitting Ovechkin against the Rangers averaged a mere 0.7 for two games on NBC, which was down 22% from a 0.9 for two comparable Red Wings/Predators matchups in ’08.

Surprisingly the 1.4 rating for NBC’s Game 1 between the Capitals/Penguins was 18% below the 1.7 that Penguins/Flyers Game 3 drew on the network just two weeks prior in the first round of the 2008-09 postseason. That may be the exact kind of number that NBC is looking at in pulling the strings for the Broad Street Bullies.

Locally in Washington, playoff TV ratings for Capitals games were labeled a disappointment as they were down from the 2007-08 postseason — a surprising development given the dream matchup between Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby in the second round of the playoffs. (Haggs’ Note: I had a Washington Caps’ official check in with me and assure me that the Caps’ local ratings were way up during the playoffs last year, and that didn’t have any bearing on NBC’s decision.)

In a conference call with Washington reporters Capitals GM George McPhee stated that he hadn’t heard anything from the NHL about the Winter Classic, and expressed doubt that the Caps would be a part of the game at Fenway Park.

“I have not,” McPhee said when asked if he had heard anything from the NHL regarding the Winter Classic. “You think we would know by this point.

“It doesn’t sound like we will be part of it. Maybe that’s not a bad thing. When you go, you have to play in front of 40,000 or 50,000 of the other team’s fans. …I would just assume if we were in it that we would know by now.”

The Bruins and NHL officials are expected to make the Winter Classic announcement official next month in a press conference at Fenway Park. Expect the Flyers to be the hockey team that suits up against the Bruins inside the Lyric Little Bandbox on Yawkey Way unless NBC has a change of heart concerning their top choice.

Bruins make it a hat trick at NHL Awards Show in Vegas

Thursday, June 18th, 2009
A Norris Trophy winner and a snappy dresser. Zdeno Chara has it all.

A Norris Trophy winner and a snappy dresser. Zdeno Chara has it all.

The Bruins had themselves quite a time in the pleasure-filled city of Las Vegas, and that was even before they hit the casinos and good times waiting for them on the Vegas Strip. It was a clean sweep of the biggie awards for the B’s candidates at the NHL Awards show in Las Vegas on Thursday night.

After Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez accepted the Jennings Award Trophy together, Zdeno Chara was named an NHL First Team All-Star and Thomas accepted the Vezina Trophy for the league’s best goaltender in a landslide victory over the competition. B’s head coach Claude Julien followed with a pretty comfortable victory for the Jack Adams Trophy and – in a tight win over offensive-minded blueliner Mike Green — Chara came away with his first career Norris Trophy.

Chara finished with 1032 overall points and 68 first place votes while Green finished with 982 total points and 50 first place votes in an incredibly tight voting race.

Julien was named the winner of the 2009 Jack Adams Award, which is awarded “to the head coach who has contributed the most to his team’s success,” Chara was named the winner of the 2009 Norris Trophy, which is awarded “to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position” and Thomas was named the winner of the 2009 Vezina Trophy, which is awarded “to the goalkeeper adjudged to be the best at his position.”

(more…)

Ference undergoes successful hernia/groin surgery at MGH

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference underwent successful surgery to repair an abdominal hernia and perform an adductor release at Mass General Hospital on Wednesday, according to a release from the Boston Bruins. Ference missed all but three games of the playoffs due to the abdominal/groin injuries, and was one of several key injuries along the blueline for the B’s during the postseason. Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli has pointed to the injuries of Ference and fellow D-man Matt Hunwick as having a significant effect on the B’s ability to break out of their own zone during the playoffs.

Ference is expected to be fully healthy and ready to go for the 2009-10 season after putting up 16 points in 47 games last season following a broken leg and hernia/groin issues. The surgery was performed by Dr. David Berger and Dr. Peter Asnis at Mass General Hospital and will force Ference to miss approximately four to six weeks of his normal offseason training time.