With Phil Kessel set to return to Boston for a contest against the Bruins on Saturday night, there is little doubt he has gotten off to a fast start with his new team in Toronto. The ex-Bruin has eight goals and five assists in 14 games.
‘We were looking for a dynamic, explosive offensive player and Phil has delivered on that,’ Toronto general manager Brian Burke said during a phone call with WEEI.com this week. ‘We paid a very high price. Peter Chiarelli drove a hard bargain. But we were happy to pay it. He has delivered exactly what we hoped to get.’
As for any purported deficiencies in Kessel’s game, Burke, who built a Stanley Cup-winning team in Anaheim, has an interesting analogy as to why a team needs a variety of playing styles and strengths.
‘I use the analogy of an orchestra, I think you need a first violin and you need a guy on the drum,’ said Burke, no apologist for players who lack grit or passion.
‘Everybody talks about how I like big teams. My teams are big, but my teams are also highly skilled. I’ve had plenty of players who didn’t fit this profile that people think I want ‘ of cave-dwelling, hard-nosed guys. My philosophy is very simple: I build top-six [forwards], bottom-six [forwards]. Top-six forwards is where I love skill and speed, my power-play unit comes from that group. My bottom-six guys are more pick-and-shovel men.
‘Phil Kessel is a first violin,’ Burke said.
Seven years sounded good to Marc Savard and the Bruins.
Formally announcing an agreement that had been in the works for some time, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli and Savard took to the podium at TD Garden Wednesday morning to discuss a seven-year contract extension that could keep Savard with the Bruins through the 2016-17 season.
‘Over the course of time since Marc has been here he’s obviously shown his offensive ability, ‘said Chiarelli. ‘I think we have seen a huge amount of growth on the other side of the puck. He’ll be the first to tell you that we have bugged him out about it, but he has responded very well. His stats speak for themselves, but it’s the intangibles that really impress me. ‘
Savard, 32, has led the Bruins in scoring for each of his three seasons with the team and is pleased to be committing to a long tenure with the team. The reported $28.05 million deal provides an average salary cap hit of just over $ 4million per season.
‘I’ve stated before in some articles that I want to stay in Boston for the rest of my career and it looks like I’m going to have my chance,’ said Savard. ‘I’m happy with that.’
‘Over the last three years I’ve watched this town grow back into a hockey town, hopefully our goal as a team and staff is to bring a Cup to Boston.’
In order to lock up Savard for the foreseeable future, Chiarelli needed to get creative, structuring a seven-year deal with large initial payments for the first four years ($7 million -$5 million) and considerably lesser amounts ($525,000) in the final years.
‘You get a little lower cap hit so’¦ it gives you the ability to build the team better and that’s a credit to Marc,’ said Chiarelli. ‘He takes a lower cap hit and helps keep the team together.’
For his part, Savard was glad to get the deal done before he would have been a free agent.
‘It’s something I’ve been interested in getting done as soon as possible, ‘ said Savard who has twice finished within the top ten in league scoring. He has 199 goals and 474 assists (673 total point) in 752 NHL games.
‘What (Chiarelli) has done here in brining in the young guys and core we have, I want to be part of that,’ he said.
Savard has four goals in six assists in 11 games this season. He missed 15 games with a broken foot between Oct. 15 and Nov. 23.
Two months into the season, a good week can still make or break a team’s spot in the WEEI.com power rankings.
1. (3) 17-6-1 The Devils go 3-0 this week, thanks in part to Zach Parise‘s slick shootout move against Tuukka Rask in Friday’s win over the B’s. Losing David Clarkson (broken leg) is the only dark spot on the horizon.
6. (6) 16-5-6 The Caps go 3-0, but the direction in which the combustible Alexander Ovechkin is heading is a bit of a concern.
The Bruins issued a press release this evening formally announcing a seven-year contract extension for center Marc Savard. The team will hold a press conference tomorrow at 11:15 with GM Peter Chiarelli, coach Claude Julien and Savard to discuss the deal. Savard had told WEEI.com Monday that the contract extension was close to completion. “Hopefully we’re going to get it done because this is where I want to be,” said Savard at that time. The 32-year-old has led the team in scoring for each of the past three seasons.
Wilmington ‘ While awaiting formal announcement of a seven-year contract extension for star center Marc Savard, the Bruins made their way through practice Tuesday looking to build upon a solid 6-3-1 record over their past ten games.
Savard was not available for comment after practice, but the deal could be announced by the team prior to Wednesday’s contest against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
As to who will be in the Bruins goal at TD Garden when the puck is dropped against the Lightning is unclear.
Normal starting goalie Tim Thomas returned from a brief hand injury to take a 4-3 shootout win over Ottawa on Saturday. But Thomas showed some rust in his return, yielding a bad angle game-tying goal with 19 seconds to play. Backup Tuukka Rask had excelled during six starts (4-1-1) while Thomas was injured.
‘They’re both playing well, so we’ll (have to) see who we’re putting in,’ said Bruins coach Claude Julien.
‘We’ve said many times, the way Tim plays with the energy he puts in, he’s not going to play 75 games,’ continued Julien. ‘So you need someone who can come in replace him at times and be a guy you can rely on. Right now, Tuukka, whether its stats wise or even watching him play, it’s pretty obvious he’s playing just as well as Timmy is.’
For his part Thomas is ready to move past Saturday’s uneven return.
‘In any sport, especially if you’re playing as often as we are there are going to be times of failure, during those times you have to have a short memory,’ said Thomas. ‘You have to learn your lesson, if there’s a lesson to learn and then you have to move past it.’
Aside from Milan Lucic, who will be sidelined for 3-4 more weeks while recovering from an ankle sprain, the Bruins should have their full roster available Wednesday as Patrice Bergeron and Matt Hunwick both returned to practice Tuesday.
Bergeron was given a maintenance day off Monday, in part to help recover from getting hit in the upper leg while blocking a shot by defenseman Filip Kuba in Saturdays victory over Ottawa.
‘I feel fine,’ said Bergeron, who headed to the Bruins dressing room for a stretch after getting struck. He returned near the end of the period.
‘There’s not much fat or skin close to (the area hit) I’m pretty happy it didn’t get right on the bone,’ explained Bergeron.
The Canadian web site TSN.ca is reporting that the seven-year contract extension for Bruins center Marc Savard is complete. Savard has had spoken with WEEI.com about the deal Monday, saying – “We’re getting really close, so hopefully we’re going to get it done because this is where I want to be.” The reported contract extension would result in a salary cap hit of $4.2 million to the Bruins each season.