|Boston Bruins have resigned Byron Bitz to a multi-year deal||07.01.09 at 5:38 pm ET|
The Boston Bruins made their first official move on July 1 and signed restricted free agent Byron Bitz to a multi-year contract on Wednesday afternoon. The rangy forward and Cornell product was expected to be the easiest — and most affordable — to sign of Boston’s three RFA candidates, and Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli indicated that the B’s had worked on the Bitz deal for most of Tuesday night and Wednesday morning headed into the noon-time free agency opening.
Inking Bitz gives the Bruins a good step in the right direction toward getting bigger and stronger along the front lines — a directive that is part of Chiarelli’s
“We got Byron signed and he’s got some size,” said Chiarelli. “We’re trying to add to that size (roster) during this free agency period, but that’s kind of an ongoing thing for us.
“I feel the day has been productive in terms of setting the market for the rest of the summer. For some of the larger contracts, for the most part, I think there’s been a conservative approach — believe it or not. We’ll see how the rest of the summer unfolds,” added Chiarelli, who also said he hadn’t received any offer sheets from teams on Kessel or Hunwick during Day 1 of free agency. “The terms are definitely shorter if you take out Hossa’s deal. There are still a lot of players out there, so I can’t judge the compensation that’s been given on these deals. Certainly there doesn’t seem to be the largess that there’s been in the past, and that’s a good sign. Whether it’s resigning somebody or it’s going out and acquiring somebody, I think it (provides some optimism). There’s still a lot of players out there too. Day 1 is almost over and there’s the whole summer left.”
A 6-foot-5 bruising forechecker, Bitz had four goals and three assists in 35 games for the Bruins last season, and worked himself into the roster with his intelligent, physical style of play once he was called up from Providence. Bitz was a restricted free agent and could have received offer sheets from other NHL teams. It’s expected that some mixture of Bitz, newly signed Steve Begin and Shawn Thornton will serve as a crushing, bruising, punishing fourth line capable of intimidating opposing hockey teams.
“When I came out of college, I had to make adjustments to the amount of games and other adjustments but I always had faith in myself,” said Bitz, who mentioned that the rib injury that knocked him out of participating in the AHL playoffs was completely healed up. “It’s really exciting to be given that opportunity (with the Bruins). Going into next year I just want to build on the momentum and confidence of last year, and just carry that over into next season.”
Bitz seemed to get better and more comfortable at the NHL level as the season progressed, and there’s a sense among B’s officials that he’ll continuing improving as a big man hovering around the net with a solid combination of strength and skill around the net.
With Bitz signed, winger Phil Kessel and defenseman Matt Hunwick remain the Bruins’ remaining two restricted free agents on the market. The signing with Bitz was the culmination of several weeks of negotiations, and starts to give Boston’s energy/checking line a bit more certainty going forward, and also gives Boston some flexibility with the youngster’s ability to play both wing and center. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but it would be shocking if Bitz was awarded anything over $850,000 per year by the Bruins coming off restricted free agency.
“There had been an ongoing dialogue for a couple of weeks now and we had been making progress,” said Bitz. “Boston is the only organization that I’ve ever known and that’s where I wanted to be. I’m just glad we came to an agreement.”
|Recchi: returning to ‘Boston is my first choice’||06.27.09 at 3:54 pm ET|
MONTREAL — Boston Bruins winger Mark Recchi was in Montreal for the NHL Draft this weekend, and told the Inside Hockey Radio Show Saturday that the Bruins are his top choice as an unrestricted free agent. B’s GM Peter Chiarelli has also indicated that he’d like to have Recchi back in the Boston fold after showing he’s still got plenty to offer in terms of offense and leadership. It’s expected the Bruins will address Recchi and Boston’s other UFAs after making a decision on RFAs like Phil Kessel, Matt Hunwick and Byron Bitz.
The 41-year-old Recchi scored 61 points all-together in the 2008-09 hockey season, and finished with 10 goals and 6 assists in 18 games for the B’s following the trade deadline. Recchi was a factor on both the power play, and 5-on-5 as a pesky force tipping pucks in front of the net.
‘We talked to Peter and he just left me a message a few minutes ago,” said Recchi to the Inside Hockey Radio Show on Saturday. “The situation with Boston (Chiarelli) has got some things to figure out cap-wise. But Boston is my first choice and I’m going to give them every opportunity in the world to figure things out, so I can go back there. They treated me great after I came there at the trade deadline, and I’m more than willing to give them a little extra time to figure things out.’
|Chiarelli: ‘I’d love to be able to keep (Kessel).’||06.26.09 at 1:19 pm ET|
MONTREAL — Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli continued his solid string of “no comments” on anything of interest to Bruins Nation Friday, but the B’s top executive did offer at least a glimmer of hope that 21-year-old winger Phil Kessel will again be wearing a Spoked B sweater next season.
Rumors of a Kessel-for-Tomas Kaberle swap have been swirling around the streets of Montreal as the 7 p.m. start of the 2009 NHL Draft approaches, and TSN reported on Friday morning that the B’s brass offered Kessel to the Maple Leafs for Kaberle and their No. 7 pick in the first round.
Chiarelli, while meeting with reporters at the Hotel Sofitel, coyly stated that he first heard about the trade proposal when he logged on to his computer this morning, and offered up a “no comment” — along with a few words of praise and a hope that the skilled winger will be with the team next season and beyond.
“I don’t comment on (trade) stuff,” said Chiarelli. “I don’t comment on negotiations. What I can say is that he’s a young player that’s shown tremendous progress. I’d love to be able to keep him.
“I don’t think something big will get done, generally speaking. You have discussions and I know there was a report this morning. I think it’s unfair to everyone involved, whether it’s true or not, to have that stuff reported.”
Chiarelli mentioned earlier this week that the Boston hockey club was hoping to move up higher in the first round from their 25th pick, and indications are that the front office is actively looking to increase their organizational depth at defenseman with a top selection. Names being bandied about that the B’s could move up and pinpoint depending on which team’s pick they might ultimately acquire: Dmitry Kulikov, John Moore, Olivier Ekman-Larsson, Jared Cowan, Simon Despres and Ryan Ellis.
Chiarelli allowed that his scouting staff was excited about “a couple of players” that the B’s would presumably have to improve their standing in the first round to land. The B’s exec also joked when asked if landing a “Top 4″ was an important item on the team’s agenda this summer.
“If I could afford it I’d like a Top 4 defenseman. I’d like another big, physical forward. It’s all stuff that you work into an equation and you have that cap that you’re working with. That player period starts July 1, so we’re not there yet. There are teams discussing a lot of different things at the draft, and we’re one of them.”
–Chiarelli confirmed that he’s sent out qualifying offers to RFAs Phil Kessel, Matt Hunwick and Byron Bitz, and said that both Hunwick and Kessel are recovering “rapidly and as-scheduled” from their respective surgeries. Ned Lukacevic, acquired in the Andrew Alberts deal, and Wacey Rabbit were the only two players with RFA status that won’t be receiving qualifying offers from the Bruins.
With regard to the UFAs like P.J. Axelsson, Stephane Yelle and Mark Recchi (who is in Montreal this weekend and met briefly with Chiarelli), Chiarelli said he asked them put potential contract talks on hold until the Monday following the draft. All the UFAs are free to negotiate with other teams beginning on July 1.
“There’s a group of those guys that I’ve told to ‘Hang on’ because I’ve got a few things to figure out over the course of this weekend, and I’ll get back to them on Monday,” said Chiarelli.
MONTREAL — According to a report by Bob McKenzie of TSN.ca, B’s GM Peter Chiarelli and their front office cohorts have made their first move of the weekend and offered restricted free agent winger Phil Kessel and their first round pick to Toronto for four-time All-Star defenseman Tomas Kaberle and the seventh pick in the 2009 draft.
According to the report, Leafs GM Brian Burke is “canvassing the league to see if there are any better offers out there”. Kessel scored a team-high 36 goals and 60 overall points in a breakout year for the Bruins, but hasn’t been able to come to an agreement with Boston on a contract for next season and beyond.
Kessel is rumored to have been on the trade market for weeks, and Kessel’s agent, Wade Arnott, didn’t deny any of the Kessel trade rumors in a phone conversation with WEEI.com earlier this week.
Kaberle is a 31-year-old skill defenseman with a palatable cap hit of $4.25 million per season for the next two years, and is widely-considered a puck mover and power play contributor. Kaberle was limited to 57 games with injuries last year, and is certainly not at an all-time high value-wise. Kaberle missed significant time last season with a broken right hand. The 10-year veteran has a no-trade clause in his contract, but there is a window in the clause that permits a trade of Kaberle between the NHL entry draft and Aug.15, a clause activated when the Leafs failed once again to make the playoffs.
For more updates on the Bruins and their weekend activity at the NHL draft, check in with the Big Bad Blog for updates.
UPDATE: TSN is now amending their report and stating that the Bruins offered Phil Kessel and a future draft pick for Kaberle. Doubtful the Bruins would do this without also getting Toronto’s 2009 first round pick at the No. 7 spot back in return. B’s GM Peter Chiarelli gave a warm, welcoming “no comment” about the rumors when met with the assorted hockey media this morning, and intimated that he first learned of them when he got on his computer this morning. We’ll have more later.
|Sources: Flyers are favorites to take on Bruins at Fenway||06.22.09 at 9:11 pm ET|
Sources confirmed months ago the Bruins have been awarded next year’s NHL Winter Classic and will play at Fenway Park on Jan. 1, and multiple reports had previously indicated that the Washington Capitals would be the Black and Gold’s opponent in hockey’s showpiece event.
The Boston Metro has reported that Boston College is already confirmed to play in an outdoor college hockey game that’s been added to the festivities. Boston University is also in talks to play in the outdoor college hockey game paired with the Winter Classic, according to the Metro report. NHL sources have also confirmed a second portion of the report to WEEI.com that the Philadelphia Flyers have taken the lead as the opponent for the Bruins on Jan. 1, 2010.
Several reports had named Washington as the leader in the clubhouse to take on the B’s on New Year’s Day, but multiple sources revealed to WEEI.com that there are concerns from NBC over television ratings with the Capitals ‘ who are being pushed by the NHL to be the choice. NBC is instead campaigning for Philadelphia, according to one source, and the odds are improving by the day that the Flyers will be traveling to the Fens in January.
The lackluster playoff ratings for NBC during an opening round Stanley Cup playoffs matchup between Alexander Ovechkin and his Washington Capitals vs. the New York Rangers — the hockey team from the nation’s #1 TV market — is believed to at least be partly behind the network’s motives.
Last season’s first round’s Game 6 between the Rangers and Capitals drew a paltry 0.7 rating, off 30% from a 1.0 for Red Wings/Predators Game 6 during the 2008 playoffs. An expected marquee matchup pitting Ovechkin against the Rangers averaged a mere 0.7 for two games on NBC, which was down 22% from a 0.9 for two comparable Red Wings/Predators matchups in ’08.
Surprisingly the 1.4 rating for NBC’s Game 1 between the Capitals/Penguins was 18% below the 1.7 that Penguins/Flyers Game 3 drew on the network just two weeks prior in the first round of the 2008-09 postseason. That may be the exact kind of number that NBC is looking at in pulling the strings for the Broad Street Bullies.
Locally in Washington, playoff TV ratings for Capitals games were labeled a disappointment as they were down from the 2007-08 postseason — a surprising development given the dream matchup between Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby in the second round of the playoffs. (Haggs’ Note: I had a Washington Caps’ official check in with me and assure me that the Caps’ local ratings were way up during the playoffs last year, and that didn’t have any bearing on NBC’s decision.)
In a conference call with Washington reporters Capitals GM George McPhee stated that he hadn’t heard anything from the NHL about the Winter Classic, and expressed doubt that the Caps would be a part of the game at Fenway Park.
“I have not,” McPhee said when asked if he had heard anything from the NHL regarding the Winter Classic. “You think we would know by this point.
“It doesn’t sound like we will be part of it. Maybe that’s not a bad thing. When you go, you have to play in front of 40,000 or 50,000 of the other team’s fans. …I would just assume if we were in it that we would know by now.”
The Bruins and NHL officials are expected to make the Winter Classic announcement official next month in a press conference at Fenway Park. Expect the Flyers to be the hockey team that suits up against the Bruins inside the Lyric Little Bandbox on Yawkey Way unless NBC has a change of heart concerning their top choice.
|Chiarelli agrees to four-year pact that will take B’s through 2013-14||06.16.09 at 3:39 pm ET|
The Bruins and GM Peter Chiarelli formally discussed a four-year contract extension that will kick into gear following the fourth and final year of his original contract during the 2009-10 season. Chiarelli and Principal for Delaware North and the Bruins Charlie Jacobs were on hand to answer questions at the TD Banknorth Garden on Tuesday afternoon, and the B’s GM indicated that discussions will begin with Claude Julien on a contract extension in the ensuing weeks.
Jacobs intimated Julien and members of the coaching staff were running under the same contract length as their GM, which meant they are set to enter the final year of their contracts. Don’t expect Boston’s Jack Adams award candidate to wait very long for his own contract extension now that Chiarelli has been taken care of.
Jacobs said that the B’s ownership had already decided to extend Chiarelli and avoid any “lame duck” possibilities prior to the playoff run, and it was only a matter of time before the father and son reworked the contract agreement with their top executive.
“It seems like it was just yesterday that we were up on the dais being the next GM. It’s happened so fast. He has grown and there’s no question about it,” said Charlie Jacobs. “If you think about the guy that was up there three years and the GM that we just heard, there is a lot of difference. It’s reflected in the team’s performance, it’s reflected in his decisions and the coaching staff and management staff he’s assembled over the last 36 months, which is really strong.
“You’ve got to judge the body of work. We’ve had highs and lows, but we’ve had many more highs. This wasn’t something that we talked about whether we wanted to do it or not, (extending Chiarelli) is something that we felt like we had to do.”
For his part, the 44-year-old Bruins general manager is midway through a stunning hockey success story in Boston that’s taken place over the last three years — and Chiarelli is excited to see what lies ahead for a hockey club that excelled during the regular season before falling in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Chiarelli clearly has some challenges to keep his present team intact while avoiding the pitfalls of a shrinking salary cap, and it all starts with restricted free agents Phil Kessel and Matt Hunwick along with valued free agents like P.J. Axelsson and Mark Recchi. Kessel is the big ticket free agent still under Boston’s control, and the B’s front office has until July 1 to negotiate with him. Reports have indicated Chiarelli and Kessel’s agent, Wade Arnott, are far apart in contract negotiations, but the B’s GM has been tight-lipped against the contract talks. He wouldn’t comment on any progress — or lack thereof — with his remaining restricted free agents in Kessel, Matt Hunwick and Byron Bitz heading up to the July 1 deadline — a date when RFAs can begin fielding offer sheets from other NHL teams.
“This gives the management group the latitude to do things and to continue on with their vision or plan,” said Chiarelli. “What we’ve tried to do since I’ve been here is try to instill certain attitudes and philosophies among the players, the employees, the staff and the coaches. This (contract) allows us to do that.
“We’re entering into a new level of expectation that’s exciting and — let’s be honest — more demanding. It’s more demanding, but you have to like a challenge. What I saw in the playoffs is guys that were sacrificing their bodies on every shift, and we’re not at that point yet. It makes it more clear where we have to be, and we’re getting there. I saw that at various stages this year, but it’s certainly more clear now when you see every player on every shift (in the Stanley Cup Finals) sacrificing their body blocking a shot or taking a check.”
Several times over the last few weeks, B’s owner Jeremy Jacobs made the observation that he hadn’t hired Chiarelli as GM simply for a four-year term, but instead viewed the Bruins exec as the kind of personality that should remain in the organization for the “rest of his professional life.” Chiarelli certainly wasn’t backing away from those kinds of expectations, but also knows — in this day and age — that things can change very fast in an NHL front office.
“I love the city and it’s a great place to bring up a family, and that’s important to me,” said Chiarelli, who was named Hockey Executive of the Year by The Sporting News. “The organization is something that I want to be a part of. I don’t want to be jumping around. Hockey is a tough sport.
“You’ve seen it with coaches and players, and now I think you’ll probably see it among GMs that people will be jumping around. That’s something I don’t want to do. Nothing is guaranteed in life, but I’m very happy to be here and I want to be here for a long time.”
|Chiarelli signs multiyear contract extension with Bruins||06.15.09 at 6:19 pm ET|
In a move that was expected to transpire at some point before the NHL draft at the end of June, the Bruins announced Monday afternoon that GM Peter Chiarelli has signed a multiyear contract extension with the Black and Gold. Chiarelli was entering into the fourth and final year of a deal that he signed when he took the B’s reigns back in May 2006. The B’s executive had been negotiating with Jeremy and Charlie Jacobs over the course of the last few months, and it was fully expected that Chiarelli would remain with Boston for next year and beyond.
Chiarelli and Charlie Jacobs will hold a press conference in Legends at the TD Banknorth Garden at noon on Tuesday, and it’s also expected that Chiarelli will discuss his own situation as well as provide updates on the upcoming NHL draft and current contract negotiations with restricted free agents like Phil Kessel and Matt Hunwick.
The B’s GM deserved plaudits — and a new pact — for steadily steering the organization back from oblivion over the three years after taking hold of a beleaguered franchise with an expansion team-level roster. Chiarelli and the B’s staff have stocked an NHL roster full of young, improving players — with some as holdovers from Boston’s prior front office regime — and built the foundation around a pair of big-ticket free agents in Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard.
Young skilled players like Phil Kessel, David Krejci, Blake Wheeler and Milan Lucic have all made the jump to the NHL level during Chiarelli’s tenure, and the B’s GM locked down All-Star goaltender Tim Thomas to a four-year deal earlier this spring. Goaltender Tuukka Rask and center Zach Hamill represent another wave of talented youngsters that have performed well at Providence, and stand ready to support the Boston hockey club in the near future.
Chiarelli was named the NHL’s Executive of the Year by the Sporting News for the 2008-09 season, and watched his hockey team improve by 22 points last season en route to capturing the Eastern Conference title. The B’s season ended in a Game 7 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in the Stanley Cup semifinals, but the organization is clearly on the right track.
Chiarelli has made missteps — signing Dave Lewis as his first coach and trading away prospect Kris Versteeg rank as the two biggest gaffes during his three seasons in charge of hockey operations. But the GM earned a contract extension for his overwhelmingly impressive body of work in Boston.
The GM’s biggest mandate was to come in and make the Bruins a tough, “hard to play against” unit with equal parts grit and skill, and he’s succeeded in molding a group of players into that classic image of a successful hockey club. Chiarelli’s work remains incomplete as he faces an important summer of negotiations with free agents — and potential trade talks if those contract discussions don’t go as well as expected — amid a shrinking salary cap. With a completed contract extension in hand, Chiarelli is now free to focus on the other tasks calling for his attention.
It’s also expected that Chiarelli will now turn toward a contract extension for head coach Claude Julien and members of his coaching staff — who are all expected to return for the 2009-10 season — after the Jack Adams Award finalist posted 94 wins over the last two seasons behind the Boston bench.
Before joining the B’s in 2006, Chiarelli was under the employ of his hometown Ottawa Senators for seven seasons, five as their director of legal relations and two as assistant GM. Chiarelli played four seasons of college hockey at Harvard, where he served as the team’s captain. He had 21 goals and 28 assists for 49 points in 109 collegiate games before earning his degree in economics in 1987.
The elder Jacobs gave plenty of evidence that an agreement was looming — perhaps to be announced after the Stanley Cup Finals were over — when he spoke with WEEI’s “Dale & Holley” last week.
‘I made this observation a few weeks ago. I didn’t hire Peter for four years. I hired him for his career. Peter wants to stay a Bruin. He sees this as a long range career relationship and I see the same. It’s evolving,’ said Jeremy Jacobs. ‘I kind of see him in a long term executive relationship and I think he sees himself in the same spot.”
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