|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.”
|David Krejci signs three-year, $11.25 million deal with Boston Bruins||06.02.09 at 4:52 pm ET|
The Boston Bruins have announced that 23-year-old center David Krejci and the team have come to an agreement on a multi-year extension that will pay him $11.25 million on Tuesday afternoon. According to TSN.com, the three-year deal will pay Krejci an average of $3.75 million per year, and pays out $3.5 million, $3.75 million and $4 million over the next three seasons.
Krejci was set to become a restricted free agent on July 1 after enjoying a breakout 73-point season for the Black and Gold and leading the NHL with a +/- of +36 last season. Both Krejci and Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli are scheduled for a Wednesday conference call to discuss the contract, but terms of the deal weren’t immediately disclosed. Krejci was part of an important restricted free agent class along with fellow RFA Phil Kessel, and the young Bruins sniper remains unsigned at this point.
It’s expected that Kessel is going to command/demand more dollars than Krejci after finishing among the top 12 in the NHL in terms of goals scored (36) this season. The $3.75 million that Krejci will average over the next three seasons is likely to be the dirt cellar floor of the Kessel negotiations, and the gifted young sniper — capable of breaking games open with his skating speed and snap shot but also prone to disappearing for long stretches of time, particularly when the going gets rough on the ice — is thought to be looking for something much closer to $5 million a year than $3.75 million per season.
With Matt Hunwick and Byron Bitz still also looking for contracts and roughly $10 million to spend on all four restricted free agents plus any roster upgrades, the chances of Kessel getting his payday in Boston don’t appear to be all that likely. It still appears to be Boston’s best to flip Kessel — or somebody else with a high price tag and good value on the trade market — to another NHL spot for a top 2 defenseman of the puck-moving variety.
Both Krejci and Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli will discuss the deal during a Wednesday conference call at 4:30 p.m. The skillful young center was also originally scheduled to undergo his hip surgery this week as well, so there should be more information about his medical status during the conference call. Check back with the Big Bad Blog for more details in the coming days.
|Rask looking forward to next year. Will it be in Boston?||05.26.09 at 9:46 am ET|
PROVIDENCE, RI — The Bruins organization’s 2008-09 season full of promise and wonder came to an official close yesterday afternoon when the Providence Bruins dropped a 5-2 decision in Game 5 to Chris Bourque and the Hershey Bears at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence.
The P-Bruins seemed to have some of the same defenseman problems that plagued Boston in the playoffs beyond steady blueliners Johnny Boychuk and Jeff Penner, and it was a pretty one-sided affair despite Providence still hanging around in the third period thanks to some superior goaltending from Tuukka Rask (33 saves).
One other observation about the P-Bruins: 22-year-old Mikko Lehtonen is going to be a pretty good player in the NHL someday soon. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound forward was a big nuisance in front of the net during the game, squeezed off four shots and scored a goal on an NHL-level top shelf wrister from the left faceoff circle when the game was still in question in the third period. Lehtonen was part of a group of promising young Providence players that will be heard from when Boston Bruins training camp rolls around next fall.
In the meantime, Lehtonen — and perhaps Rask if he can be pried out of Finland — will be a part of Boston’s annual rookie development camp this July at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington.
“You’ve got to look at it starting with Tuukka. He’s come a long way in a year. He was very good last year and I think he’s only gotten better and he’s matured a lot this year. I think Brad Marchand got better,” said P-Bruins coach Bryan Murray. “I think Mikko Lehtonen probably was under the radar, but had a fantastic season. Jeff Penner, you almost forget he’s a first-year player because of the way he played as a rookie. I could go on and on.
“That says a lot for our future development here in Providence and with the Boston Bruins,” added Murray.
The 6-foot-2, 170-pounder was pretty peeved after the game — a great sign for a Finnish goaltending product, as sometimes it’s difficult to find a pulse on many of the European netminders — and didn’t seem to want to elaborate much on his plans for the offseason.
The hockey season started on a sour note when Rask didn’t make the big club out of training camp — a virtual certainty given Rask’s cap hit north of $3 million for this season — and the ending wasn’t much better when he allowed a pair of third period goals en route to a 5-2 defeat.
Rask finished 33-20-4 in 57 games for Providence this season with four shutouts and a .915 save percentage and a 2.50 goals against average, and the 22-year-old bumped that up to a .930 save percentage and a 2.21 GAA during the Calder Cup playoffs. The young goalie was pleased with his final year of minor league hockey seasoning, and will be readying himself for a Spoked B Boston sweater next season.
“I think I really stepped up enough from last year; I’m better and more consistent,” said Rask. “Overall I’m happy with what I did this year and I want to keep growing next year. Obviously when you feel like you’ve had a great camp and expect to stay there — and then you get sent down (to Providence) — it’s frustrating. But you need to keep battling and bounce back.
“You can’t just stay in and be sad every day. It’s your job and you’ve got to work hard. It took a few weeks to get over it, but after all of that it was a great season.”
“Why not?” said Rask, who said he’s still focused on gaining size and muscle headed into next season. “I played in a couple of games there and I don’t feel like I sucked. So why not? I’m going to take a couple of weeks off (in Finland) and let my body recover from all of the games that I played. I’m really looking forward to next year.”
|Chiarelli named NHL Executive of the Year by Sporting News||05.20.09 at 9:21 am ET|
Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli, the architect of a Boston team that went barely squeaking into the playoffs in 2007-08 to an Eastern Conference-best 116 this season, has been named Sporting News’ Executive of the Year by his NHL peers, a panel of 39 coaches and executives.
Chiarelli, when asked for the moves he made that had the biggest impact on the team, cited the signing of underachieving Montreal forward Michael Ryder as one.
‘I know it was a criticized move at the time,’ Chiarelli said. ‘We put a lot of thought into it from the perspective that it was a guy who I had seen for many years in the Northeast Division. He was a guy who had a long relationship with our coach, and he was the type of player we were looking for.’
Ryder scored 27 goals and was a plus-28 for the Bruins. The entire NHL awards package will appear in the new Sporting News Magazine, which will be available at all Barnes & Noble, Borders and Hudson Retail outlets later this week.
The Bruins have several candidates for awards and trophies being handed out at the NHL Awards Show at the Palms Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on June 18.
|Putting the ‘B’ back in the Bruins||05.18.09 at 6:14 pm ET|
The Bruins are Boston’s darlings once again. Even with the heartbreaking end in Game 7 against Carolina, these Bruins seemed to have captured the imagination of the blue-collar fan while casting in the average fan who heretofore has been preoccupied with the Red Sox, Celtics and Patriots.
“It was honestly one of the best (experiences),” 36-year-old defenseman Aaron Ward said on break-up Monday at the Garden. “I came in here two years ago towards the tail-end of the season and I don’t know if people even knew what the ‘B’ represented anymore. We didn’t have an identity. We didn’t have guys that you could associate with or to. You ask people who their favorite Boston Bruin was and they’d reach to yesteryear and it would be Cam Neely or Ray Bourque or Johnny Bucyk and now I think the game is revitalized.” Read the rest of this entry »