|Blue Jackets sign James Wisniewski||07.01.11 at 11:43 am ET|
Tomas Kaberle’s biggest competition on the free agent market never even made it to unrestricted free agency. The Blue Jackets inked defenseman James Wisniewski to a six-year, $33 million pact Friday morning, less than an hour before free agency was set to open.
The pact will command an annual cap hit of $5.5 million, and leaves Tomas Kaberle and Ed Jovanovski as the top free agent defensemen. The Bruins are letting Kaberle test the market to see what he can get, but do not consider themselves out of the running for the 33-year-old.
Of course, with Wisniewski and Christian Ehrhoff (Sabres) signed, any team in need of a puck-moving defenseman must now put Kaberle atop their list. Kaberle disappointed in his time with the B’s, as turnovers and cuts in his icetime suggested, but he finished the postseason tied with Dennis Seidenberg for the most points (11) amongst Bruins’ defensemen.
Wisniewski finished last season with the Canadiens after being acquired during the season from the Islanders. The Habs sent his rights to Columbus this week in exchange for a conditional seventh-round pick, but since the 27-year-old signed with the team, the Blue Jackets will instead send a fifth-rounder to Montreal.
|With five returning, who will be the other Bruins’ defenseman?||06.30.11 at 2:34 pm ET|
The Bruins have five of their six defensemen from the Stanley Cup finals under contract through at least next season, with Tomas Kaberle’s spot the only question mark. B’s general manager Peter Chiarelli said Thursday that the team will let Kaberle test the waters, and that if he signs elsewhere, they’ll find a replacement. That means whoever the B’s have back there next year needs to be at least somewhat offensively minded. After the power play woes of the playoffs, that’s only logical.
So who might be that last (not necessarily the sixth) defenseman be? Here are some options:
TOMAS KABERLE (free agent, Bruins)
2010-11 team: Maple Leafs/Bruins
2010-11 stats: 82 GP, 4 G, 43 A, 47 P, +4 (regular season)
25 GP, 0 G, 11 A, 11 P, +8 (playoffs)
Height/Weight: 6-foot-1, 214 pounds
Pros: Outstanding passer
Cons: Poor skater, turnover-prone
The skinny: The sound of a full Garden screaming “SHOOT!” might keep Kaberle awake at night, and though there were plenty of roadbumps on the way to him becoming the solid player he was in the Cup finals, more time in Boston might make him better. Perhaps the reason he looked more like himself later in the postseason was because he was getting comfortable, but the minutes Claude Julien gave him in the playoffs suggest he won’t be worth the payday he seeks. If the B’s can get him for $3 million or less, maybe they’ll take a flier. Any more than that just isn’t sensible.
STEVEN KAMPFER (Bruins, signed through 2013)
2010-11 team: Bruins
2010-11 stats: 38 GP, 5 G, 5 A, 10 P, +9 (with Boston)
22 GP, 3 G, 16 A, 16 P, +10 (with Providence)
Height/weight: 5-foot-10, 188 pounds
Pros: Good skater, right-handed shot
Cons: Faded/lost spot down the stretch
The skinny: Kampfer needed very little time to settle into the NHL, and though his partner (some guy named Chara) had plenty to do with that, he showed he is capable of contributing at this level. He had as costly a 13-minute span as anyone could back on March 17, and his misplay and a penalty not only cost the Bruins the game in Nashville, but it cost Kampfer his spot in the lineup. He injured his knee while playing in the AHL late in the season, but was good enough to play again midway through the Eastern Conference finals. He did not play a game in the postseason.
If it ends up being an in-house promotion, the B’s will also give Matt Bartkowski a good look.
JAMES WISNIEWSKI (UPDATE: signed six-year, $33 million deal with Blue Jackets)
2010-11 team: Islanders/Canadiens
2010-11 stats: 75 GP, 10 G, 41 A, 51 P, -14 (regular season)
6 GP, 0 G, 2 A, 2 P, -2 (playoffs)
Height/weight: 5-foot-11, 208 pounds
Pros: Hard-nosed, crafty with the puck
Cons: Had career year in contract year, price may be high
The skinny: The Michigan native could become fast friends with Kampfer and Tim Thomas (both from Michigan), and given his tendency to get under the skin of opponents, he and Brad Marchand would probably go from being enemies to pals pretty quickly. The Red Wings have only three defensemen under contract for next season, so the idea of bringing the local boy to Detroit makes that a logical potential destination for Wisniewski. If the Red Wings are in on the 27-year-old, they won’t be alone. Wisniewski has only had one season with more than 30 points, and it was his contract year. He’ll be paid well, so the price could be too steep for the Bruins’ liking.
CHRISTIAN EHRHOFF (UPDATE: SIGNED 10-YEAR, $40 M contract with Sabres)
2010-11 team: Canucks
2010-11 stats: 79 GP, 14 G, 36 A, 50 P, +19 (regular season)
23 GP, 2 G, 10 A, 12 P, -13 (playoffs)
Height/weight: 6-foot-2, 200 pounds
Pros: Durable (77+ games each of last five seasons), strong on power play
Cons: Too much money, this video
The skinny: Ehroff suffered a shoulder injury against his old team in the Western Conference finals, explaining why he was less than impressive vs. the Bruins. The shoulder will not require surgery.
The German media would go nutbars at the prospect of Dennis Seidenberg, one of only two German Stanley Cup champions, to be teamed with Ehrhoff. The two are actually good friends, as they have played on national teams since they were 17 and were defensive partners at the Olympics. The issue is that the Islanders traded a fourth-round pick for his rights this week and, despite general manager Garth Snow saying they offered “well north” of Kevin Bieksa‘s five-year, $23 million pact, couldn’t get him signed. Maybe that’s because Ehrhoff wants to play for a winner, but it may also be because he’s holding out for top dollar. If it’s the latter, you can count the Bruins out. Given the financial aspect, it’s hard to imagine any circumstance in which the B’s bring him in.
At the end of the day, the Bruins might have to overpay for Wisniewski, which makes one feel that if the B’s don’t get Kaberle back, they could just go with Kampfer. The 22-year-old is still progressing, and if he plays with Chara, it will be that much easier. Plus, it’s the most economical thing to do. Unless the B’s can get a deal on a veteran who brings more to the table, they might be better off hoping that, much like Adam McQuaid did this past season, Kampfer can take an opportunity and run with it.
|What does James Wisniewski trade mean to Bruins?||06.29.11 at 3:26 pm ET|
The latest shoe to kind of drop regarding the defensive free agent landscape came Wednesday, as the Canadiens have traded the rights to James Wisniewski to the Blue Jackets for a seventh-round pick.
The move suggests two things. First off, Wisniewski likely won’t be returning to the Habs after he scored seven goals and added 23 assists for 30 points following his trade from the Islanders. Second of all, the fact that the rights to the better, younger Wisniewski were worth only a seventh-rounder might mean the Bruins will be out of luck in their attempt to trade Tomas Kaberle‘s rights.
Of course, teams could simply be confident that Wisniewski wants to wait until free agency opens to pick his team, which would explain why his rights could be had for so little.
Wisniewski is a gritty blueliner who’s solid on the power play. He could conceivably be a target of the Bruins, but given that he’s coming off a career year (51 points), he may command too much for their liking.
If both Wisniewski and Christian Ehrhoff, whom the Islanders acquired the rights to on Tuesday, are signed before Friday, Kaberle could be considered the top defenseman on the open market. Woof.
Wisniewski played five-regular season games against the B’s last year, scoring a goal and adding three assists for four points and posting a minus-6 rating. He had two assists and was a minus-3 in the first round of the playoffs against Boston.
|Brad Marchand, James Wisniewski still talking as playoffs roll on||04.20.11 at 7:59 pm ET|
MONTREAL — Brad Marchand stood straight-faced in the hallway at Whiteface Lake Placid Olympic Center Wednesday and spoke about what the playoffs mean to him, not even acknowledging how ridiculous he looked.
Marchand, the Bruins’ 22-year-old rookie wise guy, was sporting two different shoes — a white one on the right and a taped-up black one on the left — as he touched on his first taste of playoff hockey at the professional level.
“The amount of emotion and energy of the crowd, it’s so exciting and you get such an adrenaline rush every time you’re on the ice,” Marchand said. “It’s a special time of year.”
Of course, Marchand’s quirks are why he’s become a fan favorite in his rookie campaign in Boston. Off the ice, he isn’t afraid to blast a player or team (he called out Matt Cooke and essentially called the Canadiens divers at different points this season), and on the ice his mouth is just as active as his legs.
Chippy and chirpy, Marchand is the type of player referees keep an eye on, and when going against similar guys, provides great entertainment.
That’s part of what has made this year such a great year (injuries and ugliness aside) for the Bruins/Canadiens rivalry. The additions of Marchand, James Wisniewski and P.K. Subban have provided proof that when it comes to the Bruins and the Habs, the hatred is just as apparent among the players as it is with its fans.
“I know a lot of fans and media like to build it up, but we do [too]. We try to use it to our advantages,” Marchand said of chirping. “It’s a different asset, and in a seven-game series, you can use it to your advantage. Even if the other team takes one penalty, you can capitalize on that one opportunity and it can change the game. Every guy who plays that role — me and Subban and Wisniewski — whoever it is, you definitely want to use it to your advantage.”
Marchand and Wisniewski have been frequent partners in the game of trash-talk. After all, it was Marchand’s hit on Wisniewski after a whistle on Feb. 9 that led to the line-wide scrap that culminated in the world’s worst goalie fight between Tim Thomas and Carey Price. Subban also crushed Marchand in the Dec. 16 game, causing Marchand to miss some time.
Wisniewski was acquired by the Habs back in December in a deal that sent a couple of draft picks to the Islanders. Like Marchand, he is known for using lip as an asset on the ice, so despite their history from the Feb. 9 game, Marchand sees the similarities between the two players as the biggest reason as to why they’ve developed their yapping rapport.
“I don’t know if it’s been like that [just because of Feb. 9]. He’s one of those guys who likes to chirp a bit, and I’m the same way,” Marchand said. “We’ve just kind of been at each other a little bit. It’s just part of both teams’ games to kind of chirp a bit. They play that same style, and we do too.
“When you get two teams like that, there’s always a little bit more after-the-whistle stuff. Maybe at some point it’s kind of taken away from my game, so I might settle down a little.”
The regular season was an exercise in not going over the line with his extracurricular activity on the ice. He would often admit that it could be difficult to know when he was crossing it, and that Claude Julien had a stare reserved for when he did.
Now in the playoffs, Marchand hasn’t seemed to change the way he’s gone about trying to bug the opponent. He can thank the nature of the playoffs, which generally sees referees more lenient, for that.
“I think that kind of helps a little bit, but at the same time, you are always aware of what you’re trying to do out there. You don’t want to be the guy that takes that bad penalty that ends up in a bad goal. You’re always a little extra careful, but at the same time, you don’t want to change the game too much.”
|Canadiens continue to clog shooting lanes in Game 2||04.17.11 at 1:28 am ET|
The Bruins have gotten a lot of shots on goal in their series against the Canadiens — 66 through two games — but they’ve also had a lot blocked. Montreal has registered a staggering 47 blocks in its pair of wins, including 27 in Saturday night’s 3-1 triumph. By comparison, the Bruins have blocked just 21 shots in the series.
‘We have some guys who are actually really good at it,’ forward Michael Cammalleri said. ‘[Brent] Sopel and [Hal] Gill right away come to mind. Those guys are two premier shot-blockers in the NHL. They’re leading the way and other guys are feeding off that.’
Gill led all players with five blocks in Game 2, while Sopel’s seven in the two games combined are a series high. It’s not just those two, though. Fourteen of the 19 Canadiens who have dressed in the series have blocked at least one shot. At the other end of the ice, only seven Bruins have registered a block.
‘That’s what it takes to win in the playoffs,’ forward Mathieu Darche said. ‘It wasn’t only our third and fourth line guys or our D. It was everybody.’
Defenseman James Wisniewski said the Canadiens have to make sure they’re getting in shooting lanes because the Bruins are a hard team to clear away from the front of the net. If they don’t block shots, he said, there’s a chance the Bruins could tip them or prevent goalie Carey Price from seeing them.
‘That’s the type of thing that’s huge for our team,’ Wisniewski said. ‘We can’t outmuscle them in front of the net, so we have to make sure forwards get in the shooting lanes. And if it gets by our forwards, we can come out and front the puck and get the puck out of our zone.’
The Canadiens play a layered defense that has become more and more common at all levels of hockey, and that makes it even more difficult for their opponents to get shots through.
‘It’s kind of a skill,’ Wisniewski said. ‘You have to see what the forward is taking away, if he’s taking blocker or glove-side away. If he’s taking blocker, then you step out and take glove-side. So it’s kind of like a double block that we’re doing.’
Price said it requires almost constant communication between him and his defensemen and between the defensemen and the forwards to make sure guys are blocking shots and not just deflecting them or screening him.
‘There’s a lot of talk on the ice,’ Price said. ‘It’s not always easy with the noise in the building, but communication is really important.’
|Brad Marchand calls out Canadiens||03.08.11 at 2:09 pm ET|
Hours before Tuesday’s game against the Canadiens was set to begin, Bruins forward Brad Marchand apparently wanted to get the first shot in.
Marchand, who has never been afraid to put things frankly, shared some interesting thoughts on the Habs Tuesday morning.
“They like to get in and shoot their mouths off and then when you hit them they’ll dive down and fall easy,” Marchand told a group that included CTV’s Arpon Basu.
“They get a lot of shots behind the play, and then they play it off like when we run them they didn’t do anything to deserve it.”
The rivalry has provided no shortage of fireworks this season, as the two teams combined for 187 minutes on Feb. 9, with many of those minutes coming from a scrap caused by a late Marchand hit on James Wisniewski after the whistle upon the Habs’ defenseman touching up on an icing call.
Marchand was also the recipient of a huge hit from P.K. Subban on Dec. 16 that caused him to miss a few games with what the team described as “soreness.”
|Steven Kampfer had ‘choice words’ for former teammate Max Pacioretty||02.11.11 at 11:23 am ET|
Maybe there are no Max Pacioretty fans in the Bruins dressing room after all.
Such a development can’t be extremely shocking, as it was Pacioretty, the Connecticut-born Canadiens winger who scored the game-winning goal against the Bruins in overtime on Dec. 16 and proceeded to shove Zdeno Chara in celebration, Eric Byrnes style.
Pacioretty’s latest stunt pulled was in the scrum following Brad Marchand‘s late hit on James Wisniewski on Wednesday. With players coming to the scene, Steven Kampfer arrived only to be jumped by Pacioretty. Chara came to Kampfer’s aid and got tangled up with the 22-year-old Pacioretty.
‘I wasn’t expecting to get jumped from behind there,’ an agitated Kampfer told WEEI.com following the game.
There is more to the story when it comes to Kampfer and Pacioretty, as the two played college hockey at the University in 2007-08, Pacioretty’s lone season in Ann Arbor. Unlike the game’s goalie fight in which Tim Thomas and Carey Price ended up smiling at one another, there was no resolution between the two former teammates.
“I grew up with Max playing with him. We had some choice words for each other after the game, especially to our agent,” Kampfer said Friday. “We had some choice words shared back and forth through him, but it happens. It’s part of the game.
“It’s the way he plays the game. He plays hard. He’s a gritty player. He’s good. He plays his style and he forces guys to play to him. He gets under guys’ skin, and it’s good for Max.”
In that same scrum, Kampfer wound up tied up with Wisniewski. After a couple of punches were thrown, the two decided against squaring off at the expense of five minutes in the sin bin. Kampfer remains the lone Bruins blueliner to not have a fighting major this season.
“If you think that that’s going to happen any time soon, you might be waiting a little while here,” Kampfer said with a laugh. “I’d have to be pretty mad to throw. I’m not saying I won’t, but I’m not saying I’m planning to either.”