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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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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Surprise first-rounder Trent Frederic, who once played shinny with David Backes in Keith Tkachuk’s basement, doesn’t care about draft status anymore 07.12.16 at 4:29 pm ET
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Trent Frederic's selection at No. 29 overall turned heads. (Jeffrey T. Barnes/Getty Images)

Trent Frederic’s selection at No. 29 overall turned heads. (Jeffrey T. Barnes/Getty Images)

Trent Frederic’s time in the Bruins organization got off to a weird start.

First, the Bruins made the St. Louis native’s dream come true when they made him a first-round pick in the NHL draft. Yet Frederic, a projected second or third-rounder whom Central Scouting ranked the 47th-best North American skater in the draft, immediately became one of the most questioned picks of the weekend. It didn’t help when, a day later, the team’s director of amateur scouting said that Frederic is “not going to be a top two line guy” and that the team was OK with that.

Frederic admitted Tuesday that he was surprised when he was taken 29th overall, but noted that he went into Buffalo with the feeling that he would go anywhere from the late first to the early third-round.

Typically, a player with Frederic’s kind of game — he’s got “jam,” as they say — doesn’t go early in the draft, and they use the mindset that draft status doesn’t matter once you’re given an opportunity. Frederic is taking the same mentality despite his fortune of being made a surprise first-rounder.

“I just really don’t think it matters,” he said after his first development camp practice. “If you look at a seventh-round guy and a first-round guy, there’s not much difference. It all comes down to the work you put in now.”

Frederic projects as a bottom-six center, and though the Bruins could have swung for the fences more with a higher-end talent, a player taken in the late 20s who carves out a career as a third-line player would be considered a “hit” as draft picks go.

On Tuesday, Bruins assistant coach Jay Pandolfo took the opportunity to provide a little damage control regarding Gretzky’s comments, projecting a much higher upside for the University of Wisconsin-bound player.

“He’s a really good athlete,” Pandolfo said. “He’s explosive. … He probably has a little better skill than people give him credit for. He’s got some upside more than maybe just a third-line player. I know that’s kind of what everyone was saying, but there were a lot of teams that were pretty high on this kid. I think he just kind went under the radar playing for that US (Under-18) team with some top skilled players.”

Frederic said upon being drafted that he’d always looked up to David Backes and modeled his game after the longtime Blues center. One week later, the Bruins signed Backes, presenting the scenario that the two could end up teammates one day.

Interestingly enough, however, it wouldn’t be the first time the two played together. Growing up friends with Matthew Tkachuk and his siblings, Frederic’s family and the Tkachuks became family friends.

As you’ll remember from this wonderful feature on Lee Stempniak, the Tkachuk house was something of a dormitory for young Blues players back in the day. As he did with Stempniak, Tkachuk housed Backes when the center was breaking into the NHL.

“I actually played shinny hockey with him when I was really young,” Frederic said. “He was living with the Tkachuks. He probably doesn’t remember that, but I do.”

Given that he’s still 18, there’s plenty of time for Frederic to develop into an NHL player and join his idol on the Bruins’ roster during Backes’ five-year contract. If he can prove to have a higher ceiling than expected, an initially criticized pick could end up being a rather useful selection.

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