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Boston Bruins have resigned Byron Bitz to a multi-year deal 07.01.09 at 5:38 pm ET
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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.”

Read More: Boston Bruins, Byron Bitz, Peter Chiarelli,
Chiarelli: ‘We have room to sign our guys tonight’ 06.30.09 at 3:37 pm ET
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Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli held a Tuesday afternoon conference call with reporters, and confirmed that the team has enough room under the salary cap to sign all of their restricted free agents prior to the July 1 deadline for RFAs.

After July 1 the Bruins RFAs (Phil Kessel, Matt Hunwick, Byron Bitz) can begin accepting offer sheets from opposing NHL teams, and Chiarelli said that it’s a roll of the dice that the Bruins are willing to take. Chiarelli is surely taking into account the fact that teams can go 10 percent over the salary cap in the summer, but must fit snugly under the $56.8 cap number before the start of the 2009-10 hockey season.

The “read-and-react” philosophy that Chiarelli is employing is one that your humble hockey writer opined about on Monday, and it looks as if there won’t be any Kessel trade in the works over the next couple of days. Instead the B’s GM is fine with watching how things play out when the July 1 free agent shopping period begins, and players like Kessel can be wooed by other teams. 

It was assumed that Chiarelli couldn’t fit Kessel’s $5 million per season salary demands under the cap, but perhaps the 21-year-old sniper is asking for something closer to $4.25-4.5 million. Either way, Chiarelli said he doesn’t anticipate coming to terms with any of his free agents prior to Wednesday.

‘€œWe have room (under the cap) to sign our guys at what they’€™re asking tonight, but we’€™re not going to do it,” said Chiarelli. “There’€™s a risk allowing these guys to go out unsigned into the market place, I understand that. That’€™s a risk we’€™re willing to take and we’€™re also willing to continue to negotiate.’€

Other tidbits from the conference call:

–Chiarelli restated that his No. 1 priority in a world with no salary cap would be another No. 1 or No. 2 defenseman to ease some of the pressure off Zdeno Chara in terms of on-ice minutes.

‘€œMy (wish) list would probably include an impact defenseman, either a 1 or a 2 (pairing). It’€™s more minutes to sort of ease the pressure on Zdeno (Chara),” said Chiarelli. “Z can play both (the right or left) side, and it’€™s not just (getting a right-handed shot).

“If we don’€™t do anything with our ‘€˜D’€™ then I’€™m happy with it. You have to remember that two of our defenseman didn’€™t play in the last series (against Carolina) and I feel that’€™s a big part that’€™s missing. Let’€™s say I don’€™t have that (imaginary) $12 million or whatever, I’€™m happy with where I’€™m at defensively. If I don’€™t do anything defensively, then I’€™d like to get some size on the wing.”

–Both Matt Hunwick and Byron Bitz have arbitration rights as RFAs and have until 5 p.m. on July 5 to opt for arbitration with the Bruins concerning their contracts.

–Peter Schaefer has cleared waivers and the Bruins have until 5 p.m. on Tuesday to decide whether they’ll but out the remainder of his contract. Schaefer was scheduled to make $2.1 million this coming season, but Chiarelli said Schaefer’s contract settlement would amount to an approximate $566,667 salary cap hit for the next two seasons.

UPDATE: The Bruins sent out a release on Tuesday evening that announced the Bruins were buying out Schaefer’s contract, and the B’s will have an additional $566,667 cap hit on the books for the next two seasons. Schaefer is now a free agent capable of signing with any other NHL team.

Read More: Byron Bitz, Matt Hunwick, Phil Kessel,
Seidenberg ties it up at 1-1 in the first period 05.14.09 at 8:12 pm ET
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19:40: Quick shot from Joni Pitkanen at the left point on Tim Thomas. Glove save with some pushing and shoving afterward. The crowd is appropriately crazy tonight.

18:15: Couple of quick shots by Dennis Wideman from the right point, and a nifty little curl-and-drag move by David Krejci after he shook of a check behind the net. Krejci looks sharp tonight.

17:05: Solid defense by Aaron Ward during a potential one-on-one between him and Eric Staal coming down the left side. Ward didn’t back off and Staal’s shot bounced off his right skate and away from danger.

14:57: Tuomo Ruutu with another tester from well beyond the left faceoff dot with Ryan Bayda bearing down on Tim Thomas. Tank made the save cleanly before Bayda could get to the cage. The Canes are pushing a constant flow of bodies at the Boston net in the early going. The early flow of this game has a Carolina advantage to it.

12:18: This place just went nut. Byron Bitz with his first career playoff goal. A Dennis Wideman blast from the high slot missed wide left of the net and then caromed back out in front. Krejci missed the puck as he went for it at the left post, but Bitz picked the puck clean out of the traffic and fired the shot into the open net. Bitz followed the goal with a Stanley Cup primal roar that any Bruin would be proud of.

9:25: Scott Walker yacking at Patrice Bergeron, Mark Recchi or anybody else that will listen following a Tim Thomas cover-up for a whistle. He’s determined to play the bad guy in the series, but the Bruins aren’t listening – or more importantly, responding – at this point.

BTW, there was definitely a Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake sighting in the TD Banknorth Garden press box tonight. He’s wearing his trademark white Underarmor T-Shirt and his arms are roughly the size of Kansas from end-to-end.

7:58: Hooking penalty on P.J. Axelsson for going after Eric Staal as he crashed into Tim Thomas. No call on Staal as he came crashing toward threand a hook for P.J.

6:01: The Canes tie it up with score in front of the net from the Ultimate Warrior, Rod Brind’Amour. With one second left on the Carolina PP, Dennis Seidenberg wound up from the high slot and blasted away with Brind’Amour redirecting the puck in front of the net. Edit: Check that, Seidenberg got credit for the goal for his shot up top, but a good screen job from Brind’Amour in front.

3:59: Milan Lucic just missed on the tip of a Dennis Wideman blast from the right point. The puck trickled just to the left of the net after Big Looch camped out in front.

3:08: Two minutes in the sin bin for Tuomo Ruutu for slashing. First PP for Boston.

1:45: Best bid of a disjointed PP came when Phil Kessel worked the puck in from the point to the right faceoff circle and fired a shot at Cam Ward. Ward made the initial stop, and Chuck Kobasew had two good whacks at it in front of the net. The second shot hit Ward’s pads and then bounced right out past the left post. Nobody there to blast it home, though.

00:00: A hit on Marc Savard there at the end that looked as if it hobbled the center a little bit. He bent over and then limped a bit as he skated off the ice.

The Bruins and Hurricanes are tied at a a 1-1 score after one full period in the decisive Game 7 at the TD Banknorth Garden.

Read More: Byron Bitz, Rod Brind'Amour, Tim Thomas,
Wheeler is the scratch for the Bruins again in Game 6 05.12.09 at 7:00 pm ET
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RALEIGH, N.C. — For the second straight game rookie winger Blake Wheeler is the scratch for the Boston Bruins — along with Andrew Ference and Matt Hunwick — and Byron Bitz is again in the lineup and skating with David Krejci and Michael Ryder.

Read More: Blake Wheeler, Boston Bruins, Byron Bitz,
Lucic suspended by NHL for ‘reckless and forceful blow’ 04.19.09 at 6:02 pm ET
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Bruins winger Milan Lucic has been suspended by the NHL for Monday’s Game 3 of the best-of-seven series after delivering a blow to the head of Canadiens forward Maxim Lapierre in the third period of Game 2 on Saturday night. Lucic was assessed a match high-sticking penalty following the hit.

The Bruins contended Lucic hit Lapierre with his glove in self-defense as Lapierre approached him in front of the Canadiens’ net, but NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell ruled that Lucic’s hit was a “reckless and forceful blow” that merited both a match penalty and a one-game suspension.

“While it is unclear whether Lucic’s glove or stick makes contact with Lapierre, what is clear is that he delivered a reckless and forceful blow to the head of his opponent,” said NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell.

It’s expected that big forward Byron Bitz will take Lucic’s spot in the lineup for Monday night’s Game 3 at the Bell Centre.

Read More: Byron Bitz, Milan Lucic,
Yelle “doubtful” for Saturday afternoon vs. the Islanders 03.13.09 at 3:23 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — Veteran center Stephane Yelle went through another practice at Ristuccia Arena Friday afternoon, but Bruins coach Claude Julien termed the fourth line pivot “doubtful” for Saturday afternoon’s game against the New York Islanders. Yelle has missed the B’s last three games with an “upper body injury”, but appears to be making progress toward a return.

‘It doesn’t mean he won’t (play), but I’d put him at doubtful,” said Julien.

It’s expected that rookie center Byron Bitz will again line up in the middle for the fourth line in place of Yelle tomorrow afternoon.

While many will likely take the lowly Islanders lightly, they have taken five of their last seven games and shocked the Canadiens in overtime last night. 

“That’s what happens this time of year. The Islanders have taken the ‘youth’ path and those guys have a lot of energy this time of year,” said Julien. “They know that they’re not necessarily headed for the playoffs, but they’re looking at their future and they want to make an impression this season.

“So they’re playing with as much intensity as teams that are trying to stay where they are — like us at the top for example,” added Julien. “I don’t think we should approach that game like any other game because we know the damage that they can potentially do to a team.”

Read More: Byron Bitz, Claude Julien, Stephane Yelle,
Kessel and Krejci are in tonight’s lineup, Yelle out 03.12.09 at 11:08 am ET
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David Krejci and Phil Kessel both missed Wednesday’s practice with minor bumps and bruises, but will be in the lineup against the Ottawa Senators tonight at the TD Banknorth Garden. Kessel appeared to injure his left arm during Tuesday night’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets while Krejci took a shot off the foot during the game as well. Stephane Yelle will miss his third straight game with an “upper body injury” after tumbling back against the boards versus the Blackhawks.

“They should be good to go,” said Julien of Krejci and Kessel. “Stephane won’t go.

Rookie Byron Bitz will again center the fourth line with PJ Axelsson and Shawn Thornton, a spot that he manned during the majority of his collegiate career at Cornell University prior to signing with the Bruins.  So it’s not exactly unfamiliar territory for the unusually composed young guy.

The 6-foot-5, 215-pounder certainly gives the Black and Gold a bit more of a size and strength package up the middle with smaller centers like Marc Savard, David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron holding up the other pivot positions.

“I think he’s done a pretty good job there,” said Julien of “Bitz Cat”. “He’s done a good job because he’s played (at center) most of his career, and he played there a lot when he was Providence last year as well. This was the first year where they utilized him more at a wing and we wanted to see him play that game as well.

“It’s not much of an adjustment when you’ve played (center) most of your career,” added Julien.

–Julien also said that he doesn’t feel that his Bruins club is that far off after watching a solid win over the Chicago Blackhawks and tight, competitive losses to highly motivated hockey clubs in New York and Columbus over their last two games.

“Anybody who has watched us closely knows that the effort has been there the last three games,” said Julien.  “It takes timely goals and timely saves that you hope to get along the way. We’re working on those situations and creating them, and our goaltender is trying to make that extra save we need.

“It doesn’t mean because we’ve lot a game that we’re playing bad hockey,” added Julien. “I don’t know that we’ve lost a game 8-0 or 8-2 like some of the teams at the top of the standings have done this year, so we can’t be that bad.”

Read More: Byron Bitz, David Krejci, Phil Kessel,
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