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Aiming for average: Jonas Gustavsson’s track record makes Bruins’ signing questionable 10.06.15 at 11:41 pm ET
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Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 10.51.21 PMThe confusion over the Bruins’ decision to sign Jonas Gustavsson to a one-year contract this weekend was twofold.

For starters (OK, backups), the Bruins seemingly already had their No. 2 goalie for the season in Jeremy Smith. That obviously changed when the B’s gave Gustavsson the keys and Smith a ticket to Iowa.

Equally as notable, however, is that Gustavsson being the backup isn’t a particularly safe play. The former Maple Leaf and Red Wing couldn’t stay healthy last season, but that isn’t the extent of his concerns. His .901 career save percentage wasn’t skewed by a bad season or two: In each of his six seasons in the NHL, he has been below the league average in save percentage. It would be optimistic to assume that will change playing behind what could be a rocky defense this season.

Meanwhile, the Bruins backups always were above the league average over the last six seasons, including the discarded Niklas Svedberg last season.

There was no sure thing in the Bruins’ backup goaltending battle. The choice was to either go with the inexperienced Smith (zero NHL games but a .933 save percentage in 39 AHL games last season) or put faith in Gustavsson’s experience despite that it hasn’t been particularly good experience.

“It wasn’t just because of experience,” Claude Julien said. “We looked at different things. At the end of the day we took that direction, and I’m saying this again: We had to make a decision and it could have gone either way, but we made that one based on how we felt. Maybe it’s a slight, slight edge but even we can be wrong and maybe you do get to see Smitty back here again. We’re not saying that this is it [and] this is what we’re going with for the whole season. We’re keeping our options open there as well.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Jeremy Smith, Jonas Gustavsson,
Bruins loan Jeremy Smith to Iowa Wild at 7:46 pm ET
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Claude Julien wouldn’t say Tuesday morning whether the Bruins would send recently waived goaltender Jeremy Smith to Providence. He would only say that Smith wouldn’t be with the Boston club.

His phrasing made a little more sense Tuesday evening, as the B’s announced that they had loaned Smith to the Iowa Wild, the AHL affiliate of the Minnesota Wild.

Though it’s been a surprising few days for Smith, who was expected to be Tuukka Rask‘s backup this season, his assignment to another AHL team under this week’s circumstances makes sense given that Boston already has Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre in Providence. Jonas Gustavsson, who came to Bruins camp on a tryout, was signed to a one-year, $700,000 contract on Sunday.

The 26-year-old Smith was signed to a one-year, two-way deal worth $600,000 at the NHL level this summer after a strong performance in Providence last season. He was placed on waivers Monday and went unclaimed, allowing Boston to assign him to the AHL.

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Max Talbot and Jeremy Smith go unclaimed on waivers at 12:33 pm ET
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Max Talbot

Max Talbot

Bruins goaltender Jeremy Smith and forward Max Talbot both cleared waivers on Tuesday, meaning both players can now be assigned to Providence of the AHL.

Though both players were on waivers until noon, Talbot took part in Boston’s 10:30 a.m. practice and Smith did not. Though Smith was at TD Garden earlier in the day, his locker was cleared out by the team media was let into Boston’s dressing room.

Claude Julien did not reveal the team’s intentions with either player except to say that Smith would not be on the NHL roster as of noon.

Talbot is still awaiting word on Boston’s plan for him.

“There’s no more confusion,” Talbot said of learning that he was unclaimed. “It’s something I guess that’s part of the game, part of the business, part of the job. I’m just going to come back here to work every day. I came here to camp with the idea of helping my teammates.

“Right now, I’m not sure yet what’s going to happen to me, meaning if they’re going to send me down or keep me here, but I’m going to have a good attitude and whatever they ask me to do, I’ll do.”

Read More: Jeremy Smith, Max Talbot,
Bruins place Max Talbot and Jeremy Smith on waivers, Zdeno Chara on IR 10.05.15 at 12:52 pm ET
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Max Talbot

Max Talbot

According to Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports and Bob McKenzie of TSN, the Bruins placed forward Max Talbot and goaltender Jeremy Smith on waivers on Monday. If Talbot and Smith go unclaimed over the next 24 hours, they can be assigned to Providence.

While the writing was on the wall for Smith when the Bruins signed Jonas Gustavsson to be their backup goalie on Sunday, waiving Talbot comes as something of a surprise. The Bruins got the Avalanche to retain salary on Talbot when they traded for him last season, meaning the veteran fourth-liner only costs $900,000 against the cap. Still, the emergence of potential fourth-liners Joonas Kemppainen and Tyler Randell in training camp likely made Talbot expendable in the eyes of new general manager Don Sweeney.

By taking Talbot off the roster, however, some clarity is provided to the team’s fourth-line situation. With Boston’s third line set to consist of Ryan Spooner between Jimmy Hayes and Brett Connolly, the B’s were overflowing with fourth-line options, the vast majority of which were left shots in Chris Kelly, Kemppainen, Zac Rinaldo and Talbot. The right-shooting Randell could now push to see time as Boston’s fourth-line right wing, though a Kelly-Kemppainen-Rinaldo line also makes sense.

Either way, Talbot’s subtraction figures to lock in Boston’s 13 forwards to begin the season, with Kelly, Kemppainen, Rinaldo and Randell rounding out the group.

Smith, a second-round pick of the Predators in 2007, built a strong case to be Tuukka Rask‘s backup with a .933 save percentage in 39 games for Providence last season. Though he has yet to play an NHL game, he seemed a likely candidate to make Boston’s team after re-signing with Boston in the offseason on a one-year, two-way deal worth $600,000 at the NHL level. The Bruins already have Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre in Providence, so it will be interesting to see what the B’s do with Smith if he goes unclaimed.

Update (6:20 p.m.): In another minor roster move, Zdeno Chara is now listed as being on injured reserve. Given that players must be kept out for seven days after being put on IR, Chara’s potential status for Thursday’s season-opener is not impacted by this move. His placement on IR is likely retroactive to Sept. 24 (the day he suffered his upper-body injury), meaning the Bruins could activate him whenever they want.

Read More: Jeremy Smith, Max Talbot,
Jonas Gustavsson enters wait-and-see mode with Bruins 10.02.15 at 1:23 pm ET
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Jonas Gustavsson stopped 42 of 45 shots he faced in the preseason. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Jonas Gustavsson stopped 42 of 45 shots he faced in the preseason. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Now, the waiting game begins for Jonas Gustavsson.

After going through training camp and playing one and a half preseason games for the Bruins on a professional tryout, the 30-year-old netminder can do nothing but hope that the work he put in was good enough to earn him a contract and a spot on the bench as Tuukka Rask‘€™s backup.

Claude Julien said Friday morning that Gustavsson would not travel with the team for Friday’€™s preseason finale against the Capitals, with Rask starting and Jeremy Smith serving as backup. That means the preseason book is closed on Gustavsson, who stopped 42 of 45 shots over parts of two preseason games for a .933 save percentage.

“I’€™m not trying to think about it too much; I’€™m trying to do whatever I usually do –€” just practice, play games whenever I get a chance to play and have some fun,” Gustavsson said after Friday’€™s practice. “All the other stuff, that’€™s not in my hands. I guess I’€™m waiting, but on the other hand, at the same time, I’€™m just taking it day-by-day like I always do.”

Smith, a 26-year-old who was drafted in the second round by the Predators in 2007, is the favorite to win the backup job after a strong showing last season in Providence. That leaves Gustavsson, who played formerly with the Leafs and Red Wings but was limited to seven games with the Wings by injuries last season, potentially on the outside looking in.

Julien insisted Friday morning that a decision has not been made on the backup goaltender.

“There’€™s a lot that’€™s going to come into play there in that decision-making. It’€™s going to be a group decision,” he said. “We’€™re going to look at the pros and cons and everything else that goes into it. Unfortunately, that’€™s where it would be nice to have more preseason games and give a lot of those guys an opportunity to play even more and us assess them even longer, but that’€™s the way it is. Tuukka’€™s got to play. He’€™s our goaltender that we’€™ve got to get ready for the start of the season.”

Gustavsson’€™s preseason availability was limited by the birth of his first child, which cost him a preseason start that was perhaps made up when he played all of Wednesday’€™s game against the Rangers. Malcolm Subban (who started two preseason games) and Zane McIntyre are already back in Providence having been cut from camp.

Julien has noted that the decision the team makes for Rask’€™s backup will not necessarily be the team’€™s final decision. If the team loses confidence in the backup, as the Bruins did with Niklas Svedberg last season, they won’€™t hesitate to call up Subban and give him his shot. Should Smith get the first crack at the gig, such a scenario would do Gustavsson no good unless he remains unsigned.

Gustavsson saw his injuries create that situation last season in Detroit. As he battled a shoulder injury, AHL callup Petr Mrazek emerged as a starting option for the Red Wings, which made his services no longer required. If Gustavsson does happen to win a job in Boston, he intends to keep it.

“Every time you’€™re on the ice, you’€™re trying to prove yourself,” he said. “That’€™s what you’€™ve got to do, no matter if you have a contract or not. There’€™s always going to be competition. You can’€™t really take any spots for granted, no matter if you’€™re on a one-way or two-way or tryout or whatever it is. If you’€™re not going to perform over time, some younger kid or some other goalie’€™s going to take your spot. There’€™s only 60 spots in the league and there’€™s tons of good goalies.”

Gustavsson still considers himself one of them. He’€™ll have to wait to see if the Bruins agree.

Read More: Jeremy Smith, Jonas Gustavsson, Tuukka Rask,
Bruins roster projection: Which forward is odd man out? 09.27.15 at 11:19 pm ET
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Alexander Khokhachev

Alexander Khokhachev

With another round of cuts in the books, here’€™s a (still somewhat early) roster projection for the Bruins:

Forwards (13): Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Ryan Spooner, Chris Kelly, Brad Marchand, Matt Beleskey, Jimmy Hayes, Zac Rinaldo, Loui Eriksson, David Pastrnak, Brett Connolly, Max Talbot, Joonas Kemppainen

Boston’s top nine forwards (in no particular order/alignment) are already locked in. It’s the fourth line and 13th forward where things get tricky.

A line of Chris Kelly between Zac Rinaldo and Max Talbot could potentially be infuriating to play against (Kelly gets under his opponents’ skin enough to draw a good number of undisciplined penalties, Talbot is a pest and Rinaldo is Rinaldo), but it would lack skill. The B’€™s could try Alexander Khokhlachev on the fourth line to remedy that, but that likely wouldn’€™t happen unless the B’€™s were to trade Kelly, who is due $3 million against the cap.

Given what a tough time veteran forwards had finding jobs this summer, the guess is the Bruins would have difficulty trading the 34-year-old center this time of year even if they wanted to.

As such, assume for now that Kelly isn’€™t going anywhere and that Khokhlachev is the odd man out. Kelly and Talbot provide upgrades over Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille, so the B’€™s should hope to ice a better fourth line than they had last season.

Pushing for a job, however, is Kemppainen, a defensive forward who comes to the NHL as a 27-year-old after playing his entire professional career in Finland. To this point, Kemppainen has been put on lines this preseason with Rinaldo and Talbot more than Kelly has. That could simply be because the Bruins feel they already know what they have in Kelly, though giving him some reps with Rinaldo couldn’€™t hurt.

Early guess at lines:  Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Alexander Khokhlachev, Chris Kelly, Jeremy Smith,
Bruins sign Jeremy Smith to 1-year deal 07.01.15 at 9:25 pm ET
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In announcing their flurry of acquisitions Wednesday, the Bruins slipped in an interesting name that had yet to come up during free agency: Jeremy Smith.

The B’s announced that they had signed the goaltender, who split time with Malcolm Subban in Providence last season, to a one-year, two-way deal worth $600,000 at the NHL level. That would make it likely that Smith will at the very least contend to be the backup in Boston behind Tuukka Rask next season.

Smith has never played in the NHL. The Bruins have had mixed results with giving unproven veteran AHLers their backup gig in recent seasons. Chad Johnson proved to be a steal for $600,000 in the 2013-14 season, while the team lost faith in Nicklas Svedberg last season on the same contract. Svedberg bolted Boston early in the offseason to play in the KHL. Both Johnson and Svedberg had one-way deals, however, so Smith could easily be stashed in Providence for less money should he not make the big club.

Assuming Smith makes the team, the Bruins have $63,085,667 against the cap committed to 18 players for next season.

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