Archive for July, 2010

Kovalchuk the best thing that never happened for Bruins

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Seventeen years is a long time, but not too long for the Devils and all-galaxy winger Ilya Kovalchuk, apparently. According to reports, Kovalchuk will get in excess of $100 million dollars in a deal that will run longer than both World Wars and the American Civil War combined. The front office in New Jersey must have had a whale of a time trying to project how things will be in 15, 16, and 17 years. Today’s babies will be driving. Today’s children will be parents. Today’s parents will perhaps be grandparents.

And Kovalchuk’s contract will still be on the books.

The Bruins' offseason would have been a lot different had they pulled of an in-season deal for Ilya Kovalchuk. (AP)

The Bruins' offseason would have been a lot different had they pulled of an in-season deal for Ilya Kovalchuk. (AP)

So, as Devils fans celebrate the retaining of their top offensive threat and take to partying like it’s 2027, it’s quite amusing to think back to a time when fans wanted the Bruins to make a deal last season to acquire the then-Thrasher at any cost. The asking price for Kovalchuk during the season included the first-round pick the Bruins had acquired from the Maple Leafs in the Phil Kessel deal. Blake Wheeler‘s name also popped up in rumors regarding the two teams, though it’s difficult to project which players would have made their way to Atlanta in a deal. During the season it was quite apparent the pick would be at least a top-five-to-top-three pick, and thus the Bruins pulled out of the running due to an unwillingness to move the pick.

Five months and an outrageously lengthy deal later, it appears the Bruins made the right move by making no move at all with the Thrashers. They kept the pick, which ended up being the second overall selection, and got what many believe is a star in center Tyler Seguin. Once signed, Seguin will receive a salary of $900,000 in addition to performance bonuses, which means his cap hit during the life of his entry level deal could max out at around $3.75 million.

Seguin’s contract, should he become the player many expect him to be, will be good money for a potentially elite player. However, given the current cap disaster the Bruins are dealing with, many are wondering how they will even be able to stay under $59.4 million while paying the rookie (who, at age 18, has been alive just one more year than Kovalchuk’s deal will run) the bargain rate of $900,000.

The team has between $500,000 and $600,000 in cap space and, in addition to having to sign Seguin, are just over a week from winger Wheeler’s arbitration date. That situation could be rather costly, as Wheeler earned $2.8 million last season and a source told WEEI.com Monday that the two sides have made “no progress” on a deal to avoid arbitration.

Had the Bruins made a deal involving the Toronto pick for Kovalchuk during the season, not only would they be without the long-term benefits of Seguin, but they would have almost surely lost the winger on the open market. Trying to work out a deal to keep him in the fold would be a stray from what the current front office is used to, as history has shown that general manager Peter Chiarelli’s idea of a lengthy contract is the seven-year, $28.05 million extension the team gave to center Marc Savard in November.

Keeping in mind the team has long-term plans outside of Seguin and Wheeler, getting and keeping Kovalchuk — even if he did receive as long a deal as he got from the Devils and carried a $6 million cap hit — would have made a lot of the Bruins’ other plans a lot tougher. Who knows if they would have been able to give defensemen Dennis Seidenberg and Johnny Boychuk raises before free agency hit or whether they would have waited it out in hopes of making sure they could retain Kovalchuk. Forget about devoting any time to potential extensions for Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron. Maybe Tim Thomas would have been forced to be expendable in a soft deal, thus making the goaltending situation far less stable. There are dozens of other combinations of undesirable cost-cutting maneuvers the Bruins would have been forced into just to make sure they had a chance at keeping the winger.

The Bruins should be applauded for having one of the better offenses for any team in the league. They gave themselves a chance to do big things by getting the pick from Toronto, and in keeping it, they may have avoided financial strife and roster catastrophe.

Source: Bruins, Wheeler making ‘no progress’

Monday, July 19th, 2010

The Bruins wanted to avoid arbitration in the cases of Gregory Campbell and Blake Wheeler, and though they did so with Campbell last week with a two-year, $2.2 million deal, locking up Wheeler before his July 27 hearing may not be as easy.

According to a league source, the Bruins and Wheeler’s camp have made “no progress” thus far on a new contract, though talks are expected to pick up soon. If Wheeler makes it to a hearing and the Bruins choose against paying him what he is awarded, the 23-year-old will become an unrestricted free agent and would be free to sign with any team.

The Bruins would officially be over the $59.4 million salary cap by signing Wheeler, who earned $2.8 million last season, but general manager Peter Chiarelli indicated last week that it is the team’s intention to come to deals with both Wheeler and rookie forward Tyler Seguin.

Defenseman David Tanabe is the only the case in which Chiarelli and a player saw the arbitration process through, with Tanabe being awarded $1.275 in 2006 and the Bruins letting him walk. Tanabe then signed with the Hurricanes and played parts of two seasons with the team before a concussion ended his career.

Wheeler is just two years into his NHL career and last season scored 18 goals and chipped in 20 assists for 38 points, a step down from the 21-24-45 totals he posted as a rookie in the 2008-2009 campaign. He has missed just one game in his career.

Slow free agency to blame for slowed trade market

Monday, July 19th, 2010

The Bruins had plans to be active in the trade market throughout the offseason, and as anyone who’s seen their current cap situation could infer, they would have been in far better shape had they been able to move contracts out as they brought new ones in. Yet in all their moves thus far, they’ve crept closer and closer to that $59.4 million cap ceiling with moves still left to be made.

Dennis Wideman and Nathan Horton‘s annual cap hits were essentially a wash, with Horton ($4 million) making slightly more, but the $1.1 million Gregory Campbell will earn in each of the next two seasons, in addition to multiple re-signings made by the Bruins, has left the team looking at just over $500,000 to sign both Blake Wheeler and Tyler Seguin, neither of which could be had for such cheap money.

Though the Bruins clearly are in a predicament, it’s tough to blame them. In fact, it could be argued that they have actually done the best with the situation the offseason has put them in, with free agency in particular preventing them from potentially making a deal they may be interested in.

Though Ilya Kovalchuk has gotten plenty of attention for still not having signed a deal, the fact of the matter is that the high-scoring winger is not alone is prolonged free agent status. Alexander Frolov, Lee Stempniak, Marty Turco, Paul Kariya and Maxim Afinogenov are just a few of the big names that remain on the market 20 days into free agency.

As a result, general manager Peter Chiarelli said last week to expect the Bruins to be “relatively quiet” as they wrap up Wheeler and Seguin. This means that anyone who has been strung along by each murmur of a rumored deal including Marc Savard or Tim Thomas may be disappointed. (more…)

Bruins host first annual summer camp

Friday, July 16th, 2010

The Bruins announced Friday that they will be hosting their first ever summer hockey camp for young skaters, which they have appropriately named “Boston Bruins Summer Camp.” The organization has teamed with Pro Ambitions Hockey to form the camp, which will run from July 19-23 at the Jim Roche Community Ice Arena in West Roxbury.

Each day of the camp, which is designed for youth hockey players ages seven to 14, will feature a different guest. Monday will feature general manager Peter Chiarelli, with Bruins alumni Gord Kluzak and Bob Sweeney on Tuesday, Andy Brickley and assistant coach Geoff Ward on Wednesday, and Ted Donato on Thursday. The camp rounds out on the 23rd with Bruins center David Krejci.

For more on the event, go to the Bruins’ official site.

Chiarelli conference call hits

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli spoke very highly of all four players the Bruins were able to sign on Thursday. Gregory Campbell was given a two-year deal that helped both parties avoid arbitration, while defenseman Adam McQuaid received a two-way deal that allows him to go from Providence to Boston with a little more flexibility for the team regarding waivers. The Bruins also gave one-year deals to 22-year-old defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk and 24-year-old forward Jeff LoVecchio. Here are Chiarelli’s comments:

On Campbell:

“He’s a very versatile player, and if you look at his stats other than his goals and assists, he blocks a lot of shots, takes a lot of faceoffs, actually logs some good minutes.

“With Gregory, it’s versatility, it’s grit, and he’s another guy that can play up and down the lineup.“

On McQuaid:

“I think he’s close, but the way we structured the deal is that the first year is a two-way deal and the second year is a one-way deal, so we’re projected a little over the course of the term that he is going to need waivers, so that will be something that we’ll have to deal with at the time.

“He showed a real good progression in Providence. I think [Providence Bruins head coach] Rob Murray and [assistant coach] Bruce Cassidy have done a good job with him down there. Even [former P-Bruins and current Islanders coach] Scott Gordon before that. He’s maturing as a player and he’s a big, strong kid and he’s shown a lot of compete. He showed me a lot of compete and he showed me a lot of progress in practice and when he was playing up here, so he’s close.

“I think he has a chance to be a real regular in that five-to-six pair, and who knows? With this defenseman position, it’s a hard craft to learn now in these rules. He’s showing me he can learn it, which is very promising, so we have him as an NHL player in very short order, and he made progressions even from there.”

On Bodnarchuk:

“I think Andy had a real solid year last year. The year before I thought he had more downs than ups, but last year I thought he really figured out the game and he simplified it for his gain, so I saw a guy who’s turning the corner a bit. He’s still quite young, but he’s got good speed and good compete and he did play with us a little and I didn’t mind his game up with us. When I say he simplified, I think that’s important for a defenseman, and Adam [McQuaid] certainly had to go one way and he had to upgrade his skills a little bit, but he plays a simple game.

Andy tended to run a little bit and he had to dial it back, and he’s done that. To me that’s a sign of maturation and I thought he had a good year last year.

On being able to groom NHL-caliber defensemen:

Whenever we can turn these players and watch them develop and have them close to becoming meaningful players, it’s always good. That’s what you strive for. That’s what we strive for in developing these guys, and with Adam and Johnny Boychuk in Providence, even to a certain degree Mark Stuart – when I was here, he was a bit in Providence – we’re putting out some defensemen and it’s nice to see.

On LoVecchio:

“He really missed his first year pro and we were able to assess him last year, because he had the injury his first year pro. Last year, while it was really his second year pro it was his first year playing. He’s a big guy who can kill penalties and can skate. I really have to see more of him beyond just the one year. He’s shown us enough that we wanted to bring him back and we feel he has a chance to play some games and add to our depth.”

Chiarelli: ‘We’ve got to sever cap space’

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli spoke with members of the media in a conference call on Thursday and shed light on some of the issues regarding the Bruins and their financial situation heading into the 2010-2011 season. With the signing of Gregory Campbell to a two-year deal, the Bruins would now be estimated to have around half a million dollars remaining to sign Blake Wheeler and Tyler Seguin.

Wheeler made $2.8 million and is headed for an arbitration hearing on July 27. That, in addition to the $900,000 salary Seguin will almost certainly get, would suggest the Bruins need to make some sort of move, something Chiarelli didn’t deny.

“We’re tight at the cap and we’ll be able to put Blake in the mix and then we’ve got to sever cap space and we’ll see where we’ll go from there as it applies to the start of the year,” Chiarelli said.

Chiarelli added that the team has spoken to Seguin’s agent, Ian Pulver, and that the sides will “get going on that next week.” The impression was that the team will ideally get a deal done for Wheeler first before moving their attention to Seguin. As for what the team might do to get under the cap, Chiarelli noted that even if the Bruins do use Marco Sturm‘s long-term injury status for cap relief (Chiarelli said the team doesn’t expect Sturm back until mid-November), they would still have to make a move anyway to shed money before the winger returns.

With Tim Thomas trade rumors having died down a bit in recent weeks, Chiarelli said that there is “no update” on the situation and reiterated that Thomas wants to remain a Bruin and that the Bruins still want the goaltender.

As for the “secondary market” players — guys the Bruins would not put on the forefront in free agency but could potentially look to sign later in the offseason — that Chiarelli spoke about in the beginning of the offseason, which consisted of Steve Begin and Miroslav Satan, Chirarelli said that he has not “moved on from them yet.”

“I really haven’t dismissed anything,” Chiarelli said. “I think there’s still a lot left in the summer and we’ll see where things go, but after we get [Wheeler] [and Seguin, he later corrected himself to include] done, we’re going to be relatively quiet for the time being.”

This has been a big offseason for the Bruins, and a busy one at that. Rather than sitting back and letting the selection of Seguin be the team’s only major improvement, Chiarelli said early on in the offseason that the team would be active in the trade market more so than in free agency. The team then made a major trade with the Panthers, securing Nathan Horton and Campbell in exchange for Dennis Wideman and a pair of draft picks, including the 15th overall choice last month.

Still, the transaction sheet wouldn’t paint the Bruins as giants in the trade market since, unless anyone thinks the Vladimir Sobotka-David Warsofsky swap was a game-changer. Despite which moves were actually completed, Chiarelli insisted he remained in the thick of trade talks.

“I was active in the market even so after [getting Horton], but nothing really happened. It’s just quiet right now,” Chiarelli said. “Everything’s slow and I’ve talked to a few guys and everything is kind of grinded to a halt. I’m just kind of riding the market a bit and that’s why I say we’re going to be quiet for a while.”

Campbell, three others inked by Bruins

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

The Bruins announced on Thursday that they have signed center Gregory Campbell, who had filed for arbitration and had a hearing scheduled in Toronto for next Thursday, to a two-year contract. Campbell was acquired by the Bruins in the Nathan Horton trade with the Panthers last month. He totaled just 17 points in 60 games last season but scored 13 goals a season prior and is a presence on the penalty kill.

Defenseman Adam McQuaid was also given a two-year deal while defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk and forward Jeff LoVecchio were each given one-year pacts. The 23-year-old McQuaid played in 19 contest for the Bruins last season, scoring his first goal on February 7 against the Canadiens. He added 10 points in 32 games for the Providence Bruins. Bodnarchuk played in five games last season with the Bruins but did not show up on the scoring sheet, while LoVecchio, considered a strong defensive forward, picked up 24 points last season for Providence.

In signing Campbell, the team has avoided one of its cases of arbitration. The Bruins still need to agree to terms with winger Blake Wheeler, who made $2.8 million last season. Wheeler’s agent recently told WEEI.com that there has been “not much talk” between the two parties.