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Adam McQuaid thinks he and Kevan Miller can both improve 08.08.16 at 8:35 pm ET
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Adam McQuaid

Adam McQuaid

Last summer, the Bruins signed Adam McQuaid to a four-year extension and seemingly left the writing on the wall for Kevan Miller. Both right-shot third-pairing defensemen with similar strengths (read: toughness) and less than a year apart in age, it seemed unlikely both players would get new contracts.

Then the Bruins signed Miller to a four-year deal a year later. The move reflected how desperate the Bruins were to stop the bleeding on defense, even if it meant having something of a positional redundancy signed up for a combined $5.25 million against the cap.

Of course, the signing could have meant that they didn’t intend on keeping both players, so when the Bruins signed the 28-year-old Miller in May, it was natural to wonder if perhaps McQuaid would be on the move. Though he skated in 64 games last season (his most since the 2011-12 season), McQuaid wouldn’t figure to fetch much in a trade because of his cap hit ($2.75 million), but the team could have opted to move his money and spend it elsewhere. Speaking at Shawn Thornton’s golf tournament Monday, McQuaid said he didn’t take the Miller signing as an indication he might be moved.

“Those are the questions that everyone asks and people are wondering about, but at the same time, I think there’s a chance for both of us to continue to improve our game and hopefully be more well-rounded and grab the opportunity to play bigger minutes against tougher opposition and stuff,” McQuaid said.

As for his reaction to the contract itself, McQuaid seemingly felt differently than the many who assumed the Bruins might have let Miller walk in free agency.

“I’m not really surprised by anything,” McQuaid said. “You’re not sure how things will play out in different ways, but I wasn’t surprised. I think in my opinion, Millsy’s underrated in a lot of ways. [He’s] a guy that continues to improve and a guy that you appreciate having on your team.”

Though McQuaid has two inches on Miller, both weigh around 210 pounds and rely on physicality as stay-at-home defensemen. Injuries to one or the other has limited the time the Bruins have had to build their six-man D group relying on both being in, but last season saw both players both dress in at least three quarters of the season’s games (Miller played in 71).

As the following usage chart from Corsica Hockey indicates, the Bruins gave Miller and McQuaid similar assignments regarding their quality of competition and zone starts, though Miller fared better in terms of puck possession.

Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 6.43.03 PM

Both players spent most of their even-strength minutes with Torey Krug and had Zdeno Chara as their second-most common partners. Miller had better possession metrics with both Krug and Chara than McQuaid did, though the Bruins did better in terms of goals for per 60 when Chara was paired with McQuaid rather than Miller.

Of course, the goal should not be to have either player paired with Chara. Given the Bruins’ current roster, it would appear that either McQuaid, Miller or Colin Miller will be heading into the season. None of those situations are ideal, as the Bruins need a budding top defenseman to pair with Chara as Boston’s captain continues to regress. Right now they don’t have that. What they do have is a lot of OK right-shot defensemen.

Read More: Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller,
Jay Leach, Trent Whitfield named Providence Bruins assistant coaches 08.04.16 at 5:37 pm ET
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The Bruins announced Thursday that former Providence Bruins Jay Leach and Trent Whitfield have been added to Providence’s coaching staff as assistant coaches. Leach and Whitfield will work under Kevin Dean, who was named the team’s head coach late last month.

The 36-year-old Leach coached under former Bruins assistant coach Geoff Ward for Adler Mannheim of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga in 2014-15 before returning to the states as an assistant coach for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins last season. He played in 70 NHL games between New Jersey, San Jose, Montreal, Tampa and Boston.

Like Leach, Whitfield is a former captain of the Providence Bruins, where he played from 2009-13. Whitfield played in 194 NHL games, scoring 11 goals and 18 assists for 29 points. His most time in Boston came during the 2009-10 season, when he played 16 regular-season games and four playoff games.

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Oilers officially hire Keith Gretzky away from Bruins 08.02.16 at 3:30 pm ET
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The Oilers announced Tuesday that they have hired Bruins director of amateur scouting Keith Gretzky as an assistant general manager. Gretzky joins his former boss in Peter Chiarelli by making such a jump.

Gretzky, whose older brother goes by “Wayne,” oversaw the Bruins’ last three drafts after being given the position in August of 2013. He had replaced Wayne Smith, whom Chiarelli fired after years of unproductive drafting outside of sure-things Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton.

While the Bruins drafted extremely poorly with Smith, they’ve fared better since. Gretzky’s first draft saw them select David Pastrnak late in the first round, and though two of the team’s first-round choices were criticized in the 2015 draft, the trio Boston landed in the second round (Brandon Carlo, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson and Jeremy Lauzon) represent a strong group of prospects.

It is not yet clear who will replace Gretzky. Scott Fitzgerald currently serves as the team’s assistant director of amateur scouting.

Read More: Keith Gretzky, Peter Chiarelli,
Kevin Dean named head coach of Providence Bruins 07.18.16 at 11:06 am ET
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The Bruins named Kevin Dean head coach of the Providence Bruins Monday, a move that had seemed a strong possibility since the promotion of Bruce Cassidy to Boston.

A former defenseman who played 347 games in the NHL after four years at the University of New Hampshire, Dean served as an assistant coach on Cassidy’s staff for the last five seasons. This is the first AHL head coaching job for the 47-year-old, who spent one season as head coach of the Trenton Devils of the ECHL and four seasons as an assistant coach for the Lowell Devils of the AHL.

Cassidy and Jay Pandolfo were both promoted to Boston in May as assistant coaches on Claude Julien’s staff. Pandolfo had spent last season as the team’s director of player development.

Read More: Bruce Cassidy, Jay Pandolfo, Kevin Dean,
Bruins have begun negotiations with Brad Marchand on extension 07.15.16 at 1:27 pm ET
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Brad Marchand scored a career-high 37 goals last season. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Brad Marchand scored a career-high 37 goals last season. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

WILMINGTON — Following the Bruins’ July 1 signings, general manager Don Sweeney said he would take a bit for the organization to catch its breath before proceeding on another key front: signing Brad Marchand to a contract extension.

Speaking at the end of the team’s annual development camp at Ristuccia Arena, Sweeney confirmed that he has indeed began negotiations with Marchand’s agent. Marchand, who is entering the final year of a contract that pays him an average of $4.5 million annually, will be 29 when his next contract starts in the 2017-18.

He won’t come cheap, as the 2006 third-round pick has established himself as an elite two-way player. Last season, Marchand finished sixth in the NHL with a career-high 37 goals. For an estimation of what Marchand might command, click here.

While former general manager Peter Chiarelli believed in signing players before they entered their walk years (with Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara and David Krejci serving as examples), Sweeney’s first year as GM saw him negotiate with free-agent-to-be Loui Eriksson throughout the season before the team ultimately opted to let him walk in free agency.

Asked whether he was inclined to get something done quickly with Marchand (which would mean signing him at the highest point of his career) or waiting, Sweeney was noncommittal but stressed his intentions to keep the player, who would be an unrestricted free agent next July without a new deal.

“I think I’ve been pretty up front that I’d like to be aggressive in trying to identify from what we have, I’ve identified March as a core guy and we want to continue down that path,” Sweeney said. “It always takes two sides to make a deal, and I would envision that he’d like to be part of this organization for what could be arguably his whole career, but Brad has a say in this as well.”

Marchand said in November that his hope would be to stay with the team that drafted him for his whole career.

“When someone has played in one place as long as I have — and I know there’s guys that have been here longer than I have — it would be a dream come true to play here my whole career,” he said. “I understand the game and the business of things, but I think as long as I continue to work hard and hold up my end of the bargain, hopefully I can be here for a while. It is something that crosses my mind. I know that I have a year and a half left on my deal, but it is something I think about and I would obviously love to be here for a long time.”

Read More: Brad Marchand, Don Sweeney,
Bruins sign Colin Miller, Joe Morrow to new deals 07.14.16 at 9:43 am ET
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Colin Miller

Colin Miller

The Bruins have signed defensemen Colin Miller and Joe Morrow to new contracts, the team announced Thursday. General Fanager was the first to report the signings.

Miller’s contract is a two-year, one-way deal with an average annual value of $1 million. The former Kings prospect, whom the Bruins acquired in the Milan Lucic trade last June, is coming off his first NHL season. Miller skated in 42 games for Boston and 20 for Providence, posting 16 points (three goals, 13 assists) in the NHL and 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in the AHL.

Morrow’s deal is a one-year, one-way contract worth $800,000. The 23-year-old played in a career-high 33 NHL games last season, scoring one goal and adding six assists for seven points.

Both players will be restricted free agents upon the expiration of their contracts.

With Miller and Morrow signed, the Bruins now have seven defensemen on one-way contracts: Zdeno Chara ($6.91 million cap hit in 2016-17; $4 million cap hit in 2017-18), Torey Krug ($5.25 million cap hit through 2019-20), Adam McQuaid ($2.75 million through 2018-19), Kevan Miller ($2.5 million through 2019-20), John-Michael Liles ($2 million cap hit for next season), Colin Miller and Morrow.

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Danton Heinen hopes to solve Bruins’ problems at right wing 07.12.16 at 11:50 pm ET
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Danton Heinen has emerged as one of the Bruins' top prospects. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Danton Heinen has emerged as one of the Bruins’ top prospects. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Assuming the team doesn’t trade Ryan Spooner, the Bruins replaced Loui Eriksson with David Backes. Whether or not that was a wise move at the end of the day can be debated (it probably wasn’t), but a simple way of viewing this offseason is that one right wing came in and one right wing went out.

That would be incorrect. The Bruins also parted with Lee Stempniak (Hurricanes), Brett Connolly (Capitals) and Landon Ferraro (Blues) while bringing in center/wing Riley Nash. In the Bruins’ recent heyday, this right wing situation might have been a position of panic for Bruins fans, but these days, the Bruins’ defensive woes make right wing a perhaps underestimated problem.

Realistically, David Pastrnak should continue to progress and be a set-it-and-forget-it right wing next to David Krejci. Assuming that’s the case, the B’s still have a question mark on the right side of their third line.

Jimmy Hayes bouncing back would solve it. So would signing Jimmy Vesey, as they would move guys around until someone (probably a lefty; perhaps Frank Vatrano) ended up over there. Otherwise, it’s a hole on the roster.

Danton Heinen says he’s doing “everything he can” to take that job in training camp.

The Bruins got Heinen to go pro after his sophomore year at the University of Denver. The 6-foot-1, 190-ish-pound left shot forward was a fourth-round pick in the 2014 draft [worth noting: considering that draft also included Pastrnak and that the bar wasn’t exactly set high, it’s entirely possible that Peter Chiarelli’s final draft with the Bruins was his best outside of 2010], but since his selection has used strong play at the NCAA level to cement himself as a high-end scoring prospect.

Like the departed Eriksson, Heinen is a left-shot wing with experience playing both sides. Last season, Heinen skated on the right as he helped lead the Pioneers to the Frozen Four. He racked up 48 points in 41 games as a sophomore, including 20 goals. After signing with the B’s, he skated in four games for Providence, posting two assists.

“He’s the type of player that he can play with good players because he’s got high hockey IQ and he’s got really good skill,” B’s assistant coach Jay Pandolfo said. “I think anywhere you put him, he’s smart enough to figure it out.”  Read the rest of this entry »

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