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Gary Bettman: Hard to prove whether a team exploits playoff cap loophole 02.24.15 at 10:45 pm ET
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Gary Bettman

Gary Bettman

In an interview that will air on this week’s episode of Sunday Skate, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman shed some light on the possibility of teams sitting players for the rest of the regular season in order to go over the salary cap come playoff time.

This situation applies to the Bruins and how they could handle things with David Krejci, who they recently announced will miss four-to-six weeks with a partially torn MCL. Because there is no salary cap in the playoffs, the Bruins could, in theory, sit Krejci for the rest of the regular season, put him on long-term injured reserve and exceed the salary cap by his $5.25 million cap hit (as well as Kevan Miller’s $800,000 hit).

Such action, whether done by the Bruins or another team, could mean teams sitting healthy players for longer than they are injured and using LTI space by dishonest means. Asked whether the league would take issue with such maneuvers, Bettman said that while the NHL “frowns upon the use of loopholes,” the league would have a tough time proving teams were doing it.

“You can only ice a certain number of skaters,” Bettman said, “and the fact of the matter is, who’s to say how severely the injury will impact his play longer term, what kind of shape he’s been in? These are all speculative kinds of questions, and I’m not trying to duck them. It’s just simply, let’s wait to see what happens before we try to draw any conclusions.”

Added Bettman: “We frown upon the use of loopholes, but I don’t think an injury was sustained in order to create a loophole,” he said. “The rules are the rules. They’re competitive. The collective bargaining agreement tends to be fairly clear and we try to enforce it pretty consistently across the board.”

For the rest of the interview, tune in to this week’s episode of Sunday Skate at 8 a.m.

Read More: David Krejci, Gary Bettman,
5 things we learned as Bruins return home with loss to Canucks 02.24.15 at 9:39 pm ET
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The Bruins’ playoff hopes looked a little better Tuesday night as the Panthers, their top competition for the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, traded forward Sean Bergenheim to Minnesota. The Bruins still have to win games, however.

While the effort was light years better than they displayed for most of their recent road trip, the B’s returned to Boston Tuesday night with a 2-1 loss to the Canucks.

The game saw the Bruins get ample scoring chances but fail to get more than one goal past Eddie Lack. Ironically enough, the Bruins’ only goal was scored by Daniel Paille, who had been as snakebitten as any Bruin of late and had been taken out of the lineup for the two games prior to Tuesday.

Lack made 40 saves in the win for Vancouver, as the B’s outshot Vancouver, 41-28.

The loss dropped the Bruins to 29-22-9 on the season. The Panthers lost to the Blackhawks in a shootout Tuesday and now trail the B’s by two points.

Here are four more things we learned Tuesday:

PAILLE RETURNS (AND SCORES)

The news that Gregory Campbell will be out for at least a week with an upper-body injury meant that Paille returned to the lineup after serving the previous two as a healthy scratch.

Paille skated in Chris Kelly‘s place, as Kelly moved to the fourth line to center Jordan Caron and Brian Ferlin. The lineup was as follows:

Marchand-Bergeron-Smith
Lucic-Spooner-Pastrnak
Paille-Soderberg-Eriksson
Caron-Kelly-Ferlin

Chara-Hamilton
Bartkowski-Seidenberg
Krug-McQuaid

Paille scored his first goal since Nov. 21 when he buried a Loui Eriksson rebound in front of the net early in the first period. It was just his second goal of the season, both of which have come skating with Eriksson and Soderberg.

CANUCKS CATCH A BREAK

Rule 67.4 reads, “If a defending player, except a goalkeeper, while play is in progress, falls on the puck, holds the puck, picks up the puck, or gathers the puck into his body or hands from the ice in the goal crease area, the play shall be stopped immediately and a penalty shot shall be awarded to the non-offending team.”

Somehow, the officials didn’t feel that applied here. No penalty shot (or infraction at all) was called.

After Paille sent rebound of an Eriksson shot on net with crowd in front, puck went off Eddie Lack and was then covered up two different times by Ryan Stanton. As the Vine above shows, Stanton literally pulled the puck off the goal line the second time.

RASK MAKES IT 18 STRAIGHT, 27 OF 28

By starting Tuesday night, Tuukka Rask took to the pipes for the 18th consecutive game and 27th time in the Bruins’ last 28 games.

The Bruins won’t play next until Friday, when the team faces the Devils in New Jersey. The Devils were the Bruins’ opponent the last time Rask had a night off, as Niklas Svedberg had a 14-save shutout on Jan. 8.

KASSIAN KEEPS SCORING

Zack Kassian, who once upon a time looked like he could become one of the league’s premier power forwards but has had a disappointing career with the Canucks, has been mentioned in trade speculation at points this season.

With the Canucks in line for a playoff spot in either the Pacific or as a Wild Card, they should be happy they haven’t moved the 24-year-old winger.

With a blast past Rask in the third period, Kassian has now scored seven goals in his last nine games. He had a pair of assists against the Bruins when the teams met in Vancouver earlier this month.

Kevan Miller reflects on frustrating season as he awaits surgery 02.24.15 at 1:35 pm ET
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Kevan Miller

Kevan Miller

David Krejci wasn’€™t the only casualty of the Bruins’€™ disastrous five-game road trip.

In a stretch that saw the Bruins lose more players than win games, Kevan Miller’€™s season was ended after his shoulder popped out for the second time this season. He will undergo surgery on Thursday.

The injury ended what began as a promising season for the second-year NHLer but ultimately proved to be more frustrating than anything else.

When the Bruins traded Johnny Boychuk prior to the season, an opportunity was provided for Miller, a right-shot defenseman like Boychuk, to grow into a bigger role. Yet Miller dislocated his shoulder on Oct. 18 and missed the next 13 games. His play on the Bruins’€™ third pairing with Torey Krug was strong given the role that he was in, but Miller’€™s shoulder limited him. He was advised against fighting and admitted Tuesday that he never totally got over the injury when he was playing.

“You always had it in the back of your head; to be honest with you, it was always there,” Miller said. “So I never felt 100 percent, if that’€™s what you’€™re asking. There were times I felt like it was pretty good or I was pretty comfortable with how things were going, and that changes obviously through the season.”

Miller was sixth among Bruins defensemen with 18:02 of ice time per night, but he led the team with a plus-20 rating.

“After I came back from recovery and I started to play, I thought I started to play better, and as the season went on I established myself again,” he said. “For it to happen right now is kind of frustrating. It’€™s more frustrating that I’€™m not able to help the team out. You feel like you almost let the guys down a bit. That’€™s probably my biggest worry.”

Read More: Kevan Miller,
David Krejci doesn’t want to miss more time than he has to 02.24.15 at 1:15 pm ET
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As you may know by now, David Krejci’€™s injury could give the Bruins a chance to exploit the NHL‘€™s salary cap system and ice a much more expensive roster come playoff time than it could in the regular season.

Because there is no salary cap in the playoffs, the Bruins could put Krejci on long-term injured reserve for the rest of the season, exceed the cap by as much as his $5.25 million cap hit (Kevan Miller’€™s $800,000 hit as well) and then ice a roster come playoff time that consists of every healthy guy they have.

There are a couple of problems with that. First, there’€™s the fact that expensive players would also probably cost the team good trade assets, which may not be the smartest thing for the Bruins given that everything that could go wrong has gone wrong this season.

Then there’€™s the idea of sitting a player for up to a month longer than necessary. Guess who isn’€™t on board with that?

“That question is for the management, but no, I don’t want to sit out,”  Krejci said Tuesday. “I want to play, obviously. If there’s only a little chance I can play, I would like to play.

“The management has to do whatever they feel is right for the team to get our team into the playoffs. It’s not an easy decision for them, but [Peter Chiarelli] has been making good decisions since I’ve been here and I’m pretty sure he’s going to make the right one again.”

Krejci’€™s expected to be out four-to-six weeks with a partially torn MCL in his left knee. Depending on his recovery, he could be ready to play with between three and six games remaining in the regular season. Considering how important he is to the Bruins’€™ operation (especially in the playoffs), Krejci’€™s postseason performance would probably benefit for some games before the playoffs begin.

“I know they said four-to-six weeks, but I’€™m going treat my knee every day,” Krejci said. “I’€™m going to do the best I can to be back as fast as I can.”

Read More: David Krejci,
Gregory Campbell out at least a week with upper-body injury 02.24.15 at 11:59 am ET
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Gregory Campbell is out for at least a week with an upper-body injury, Claude Julien said Tuesday.

Campbell scored in Sunday’€™s win over the Blackhawks as he centered a fourth line with Jordan Caron and Brian Ferlin that looked more promising than any other bottom trio the team has iced this season. The injury to Campbell provided an upgrade to the line in Tuesday’€™s morning skate, however, as Chris Kelly moved down from the third line to center Caron and Ferlin.

The Bruins’€™ lineup in morning skate was as follows:

Marchand-Bergeron-Smith
Lucic-Spooner-Pastrnak
Paille-Soderberg-Eriksson
Caron-Kelly-Ferlin

Chara-Hamilton
Bartkowski-Seidenberg
Krug-McQuaid

Rask

David Krejci injury could change way Bruins deal with free agents to-be 02.24.15 at 10:29 am ET
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Peter Chiarelli likes to sign his big-name players before their contract years begin. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Peter Chiarelli likes to sign his big-name players before their contract years begin. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Peter Chiarelli likes to sign his pending unrestricted free agents before they go into their walk years. It’€™s a tactic that saved the Bruins a lot of money when he re-upped both Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron before they helped lead the Bruins to the Stanley Cup in 2010-11.

Yet with the news of David Krejci‘€™s partially torn MCL that will keep him out for 4-6 weeks, the Bruins are learning for the second straight year that waiting a bit to sign a player has its benefits too.

The Bruins gave Dennis Seidenberg, who was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after last season, a four-year, $16 million at the start of the 2013-14 season. At the time, the fourth year looked like it could potentially be a problem down the road, but given the reasonable $4 million cap hit for the trusty No. 2 defenseman, no one batted an eye.

Seidenberg tore his ACL in December of that season. He most likely would have still gotten even more money than he signed for had he hit free agency (here’€™s your daily reminder that Brooks Orpik, who is older than Seidenberg, got five years and $27.5 million, and he’€™s Brooks Orpik), but the fact that Seidenberg signed before the season showed his preference to stay with Boston. Had the Bruins waited to sign him, perhaps they would have gotten him on a better deal, or perhaps the Bruins would have chosen to try to sign Johnny Boychuk and let Seidenberg walk.

Now, Seidenberg’€™s deal is viewed as one of the worst contracts the Bruins have. His play has dropped significantly and he looks like he would be more at home on a third pairing. The Bruins could probably move him if they wanted to, but his contract –€” the very one that looked good at the time of its signing — could hurt his trade value.

It’€™s hard to imagine the Bruins experiencing the same thing with Krejci, but it’€™s fair to say his price tag would have been lower after the most injury-plagued season of his career. Krejci, who signed a pretty team-friendly six-year, $43.5 million contract before the start of the season, had already missed 20 games due to lower-body injuries this season prior to getting hurt again in Friday’€™s loss to the Blues.

No matter what happened with Krejci this season, he would have been the best free-agent center if he made it to free agency this summer. His only competition already signed in Jason Spezza, so even with the injuries, Krejci would have easily gotten six years and $43.5 million this summer. In fact, he probably still would have gotten a lot more than that.

Next season, Milan Lucic will be the Bruins’€™ biggest-name free-agent-to-be. The Bruins need to think long and hard before determining whether he’€™d be worth whatever money he would command, but it is a no-brainer to opt against signing him before the season. Lucic has not lived up to his $6 million cap hit this season and the team shouldn’€™t carelessly throw him into the group of players they perceive to be their core.

If they go into the season with Lucic playing for a contract, they can use the opening months of the season to further evaluate the player while potentially getting the elevated performance that often comes when players are looking for a pay day. At the very least, they would avoid signing a player just before they get hurt.

Read More: David Krejci, Dennis Seidenberg, Milan Lucic,
5 things we learned as Bruins blow out Blackhawks to end losing streak 02.22.15 at 6:15 pm ET
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The Bruins finished a horrid five-game road trip with their only victory of the stretch, but at least it was a blowout.

Playing in their first game since David Krejci suffered an undisclosed injury Friday, the Bruins scored half a dozen goals — the fourth of which chased Corey Crawford — as they earned a 6-2 victory over the Blackhawks (box). The win gave the Bruins just four points of a possible 10 in the five-game trip (1-2-2). It also snapped a six-game losing streak (0-4-2).

Boston got goals from Patrice Bergeron, Loui Eriksson, Milan Lucic, Gregory Campbell, Dougie Hamilton and Reilly Smith. Bergeron’s first period goal put him in a tie with linemate Brad Marchand for the team lead.

The victory keeps the Bruins (28-21-9) three points ahead of the Panthers (26-20-12) for the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Here are four more things we learned Sunday.

BRUINS (FORCED TO) SHOW FAITH IN SPOONER

Claude Julien gave Ryan Spooner a lot of responsibility and displayed a lot of patience with the center in Spooner’s first NHL game since October.

Julien skated Spooner with Krejci’s usual linemates in Milan Lucic and David Pastrnak and put him in Krejci’s place on Boston’s first power play unit. Spooner had a brutal turnover on a first-period power play when he entered the zone, pulled up and sent a pass intended for Torey Krug into the neutral zone that Versteeg took for a breakaway that Rask stopped. Spooner responded by facilitating a Loui Eriksson goal moments later and added an assist on Milan Lucic‘s second period goal for his first assist of the season.

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