|Begin ready for a new beginning with Boston||09.03.09 at 8:25 am ET|
Steve Begin said that he doesn’t do a lot of chirping out on the ice, but the hard-working forward still manages to get his message across in a way that’s been effective throughout his career. The 31-year-old Begin isn’t a 50-goal scorer and he isn’t going to dazzle with gaudy power play numbers, but he brings a set of hockey skills to the table that will help win hockey games.
Begin’s intangibles are valuable enough to Boston, in fact, that GM Peter Chiarelli was the only hockey executive that made the extra effort to contact the high-energy skater during the first day of hockey free agency this summer — and pretty much cinched that he was signing with Boston. Begin had his best seasons in Montreal while B’s coach Claude Julien was the head coach there, and all of that added up to an easy decision for Begin to choose the Spoked ‘B’ for the upcoming season.
“I said ‘Where do I sign?,” said Begin. “If you work hard then (Julien) is going to reward you. I wanted to be on a hard-working team.
“Big time. This is a perfect team for me and I said that from Day One. Usually with players like me teams will wait to call me until they take care of the bigger players, but they called me on the very first day. That meant a lot to me.”
Begin takes the body at every opportunity, kills penalties and adds a different element to the Bruins as a player that doesn’t mind getting under the skin of enemy players during the heat of battle on the ice. He’s the kind of player that fans hate when he’s wearing the Bleu, Blanc and Rouge, and adore when he dons the Black and Gold of the hometown hockey team. A cross-check to the back of Marc Savard or a headshot to Michael Nylander in years past will be long forgotten when Begin is filling the provocateur role for the Bruins.
The new B’s forward drove down from Quebec with his wife and two kids on Tuesday night, and went through his first on-ice skate with his new Bruins teammates on Wednesday afternoon. Afterward, Begin admitted that he’s probably a much better fit for these current Bruins teams than he was for a set of Canadiens squads more interested in scoring power play goals than playing gritty hockey.
“You need every kind of player on a team. You need fighters, you need guys that hit, block shots, defensive players, offensive players and goal-scorers. You need every kind of player if you’re going to win and you can’t just do it with 20 goal-scorers on a team,” said Begin, who had 12 points (7 goals, 5 assists) in 62 games for the Canadiens and Stars last season. “I’m a grinder. I’m not a big talker on the ice. I talk with my shoulders. I’m in-your-face. I just go skate, hit, block shots. That’s what is fun about this fun. Everybody contributes and talks with their shoulders. They hit and this is a hard team to play against.”
In just about every way imaginable, Begin is a much better fit for blue-collar Boston than the wine-and-cheese Les Habitants. That’s saying quite a bit for a puck-loving kid that grew up in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec.
“I played in Montreal for 5 1/2 years and it’s always been a big war against Boston. I can’t wait to be on this side of it, and to be on a good team,” said Begin. “That’s why you play hockey. You want to be on a first place team and you want to win. They’ve got a good bunch of guys and it’s awesome to be a part of a winning team. A lot of people told me they were pissed that I got traded (to Dallas) last year, and a few people told me they will cheer for the Bruins now. So I can’t wait to see that.”
With P.J. Axelsson and Stephane Yelle both out of the Black and Gold picture this season, there will certainly be an open spot on a Boston PK squad looking for quality members. Begin could be a gritty addition to a penalty kill unit that will certainly once again feature Blake Wheeler as a prominent piece of the puzzle, but the former Hab wasn’t getting ahead of himself prior to the Sept. 12 beginning of training camp.
“We’ll start training camp and we’ll see how they use me,” said Begin, who said he’ll left wing, center and even right wing “if he has to”. “Of course I would like plenty of ice time, but I’ll just come and see what they want me to do and go from there. That’s what I do — play on the PK — and I think Claude (Julien) obviously knows this having coached me up in Montreal.
“They just told me to be in shape, come in and do my job. That’s all you can really do.”
That, and keep on talking with his shoulders like the rest of his new teammates.
|Sharks free up cap space for Phil Kessel?||08.28.09 at 3:36 pm ET|
Interesting roster movements made on Friday afternoon by the San Jose Sharks, who have been rumored to be in the Dany Heatley derby this summer while looking to peddle Patrick Marleau after another underachieving postseason. Sharks GM Ron Wilson dealt away a pair of middle-class hockey players to the Vancouver Canucks for two young skaters, and freed up roughly $4.65 million in salary cap space for the upcoming season in the process.
Defenseman/power play specialist Christian Ehrhoff has two years left on his contract at $3.1 million per year and forward Brad Lukowich has a $1.567 million cap hit in his final season before unrestricted free agency, and the two players San Jose got in return (University of Minnesota forward Patrick White and AHL player Daniel Rahimi) aren’t expected to be big role players for the upcoming season.
So the Sharks freed up $4.667 in salary cap space while heading into the last few weeks of the off-season, and require at least two more forward spots to round up their NHL roster among the top 12-forwards for next season. It doesn’t take a noted puckologist to assume that Dany Heatley and Phil Kessel are two of the best skill forwards still hanging out there in hockey limbo, and the Sharks have been rumored to be in the Kessel run at several different points over the last few months.
“This trade speaks to the confidence we have in the young players coming up through our system who have earned the right to compete for a spot on this team,’ said Sharks GM Doug Wilson in discussing the deal. ‘It also creates some flexibility in our team payroll for potential future transactions as the season progresses and adds two more talented players to our reserve list that can help this organization in the future.’
The $4.667 million in payroll flexibility also fits in roughly with what Kessel was expected to be looking for in a multi-year deal this summer while rehabbing right shoulder surgery. That figure is far from the $5 million per year Jeff Carter-type money that some assumed Kessel and agent Wade Arnott were chasing after, and is pretty close to what Kessel comparables like David Booth and Alexander Semin are currently making in terms of player salary.
The 21-year-old sniper is expected to miss all of October while recovering fully from the rotator cuff/labrum surgery, and will be hard-pressed to match his 36-goal output from last season given the injury situation. During his recent participation in the Team USA Orientation Camp, Kessel indicated that he’d like something in the neighborhood of a three-year deal and expected that his deal would be done by the beginning of the NHL season on Oct. 1. Adding to the intrigue is that Kessel’s name doesn’t appear on a quick afternoon perusal of the team’s roster on www.bostonbruins.com, though that doesn’t mean anything definitively (Kessel was added back to the online roster by the early morning hours of Saturday).
Arnott told WEEI.com in an interview earlier this summer that Kessel was willing to be “creative” in terms of contract discussions, and that his client had directed him to get a deal done with the Bruins before entertaining offers from other teams.
The $4.65 million is probably right around where Kessel expected his payday to be at the beginning of this summer, as his numbers and service time are pretty much right in lock-step with Florida Panthers forwar David Booth. Booth signed a six-year, $25.5 million contract this summer amid the current hockey economy that’s going to pay him $4.25 million annually for the next six seasons.
The chances of Kessel getting awarded that kind of salary from the Bruins are “slim and none” as long as fellow teams avoid the option of signing the talented young restricted free agent to an offer sheet — but perhaps that’s about to change with the Sharks payroll shed on Friday afternoon. Wilson told reporters that the money was freed up to make moves “as the season progresses”, but it remains to be seen whether that means a new home for Kessel riding shotgun with Jumbo Joe Thornton.
|Bruins announce rookie training camp roster||08.26.09 at 10:44 am ET|
With the Boston Bruins gearing up for rookie and veteran training camp next month in September, the B’s finally announced the roster of rookie players set to report to Kitchener, Ontario for rookie training camp beginning on Sept. 5. The rookie roster is comprised of 24 players that will take part in the mini-training camp from Sept. 5-10 and play three preseason games against the Toronto Maple Leafs (Sept. 7), Ottawa Senators (Sept. 9) and the Pittsburgh Penguins (Sept. 10).
Veteran training camp — which will include a handful of Providence Bruins players like Brad Marchand and Mikko Lehtonen expected to know on the door this year – is expected to begin on Sept. 12 with all players reporting for measurements and testing, but 21-year-old sniper Phil Kessel remains unsigned and appears to be a good bet to hold out at the beginning of training camp.
2009 First round pick Jordan Caron will not be participating in the rookie training camp camp after fracturing his collar bone during Team Canada World Junior tryouts this summer, but center 2007 First round pick Zach Hamill as well as 2009 draftees Ryan Button, Lane MacDermid and Tyler Randell are all slated to be among the 24 rookies on hand.
Other recent draft selections making the trip to Kitchener include: Max Sauve (2008, second round), Mike Hutchinson (2008, third round), Jamie Arniel (2008, fourth round), Alain Goulet (2007, sixth round), Jordan Knackstedt (2007, seventh round) and Levi Nelson (2006, sixth round).
Rounding out the travel roster are players acquired through trades or free agency Jeff LoVecchio, Matt Marquardt, Rob Kwiet, Scott Fletcher, Matt Dalton and Adam Courchaine and rookie camp invitees Chris DeSousa, Saugus native and BU alum Jason Lawrence, Taylor MacDougall, Jason Wilson, Mark Isherwood, Peter Stevens, Marc Zanetti and Brad Good.
Here’s the full 2009 BRUINS ROOKIE CAMP ROSTER:
Goaltenders (3): Adam Courchaine, Matt Dalton, Mike Hutchinson
Defensemen (7): Ryan Button, Scott Fletcher, Brad Good, Alain Goulet, Mark Isherwood, Rob Kwiet, Marc Zanetti
Forwards (14): Jamie Arniel, Chris DeSousa, Zach Hamill, Jordan Knackstedt, Jason Lawrence, Lane MacDermid, Taylor MacDougall, Matt Marquardt, Jeff LoVecchio, Levi Nelson, Tyler Randell, Max Sauve, Peter Stevens, Jason Wilson
Will not participate due to injury (1): Jordan Caron
|Thomas and Kessel commence Team USA tryouts||08.18.09 at 11:59 am ET|
Vezina Trophy winning goaltender Tim Thomas and unsigned sniper Phil Kessel are the only two Bruins representatives attending Team USA Orientation Camp this week at the Seven Bridges Arena in Woodridge, Il. — and both players were among the 34 skaters invited to appear Monday for workouts and team-bonding exercises leading up to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Kessel, a restricted free agent without arbitration rights, is mired in a contract stalemate with the B’s that clearly isn’t headed for a quick ending. The increasingly rare chance that another team swoops in with a $4-5 million per year offer sheet for Kessel could change the tenor of negotiations, or the 21-year-old winger could drop all contractual demands and agree to something in the neighborhood of David Krejci money (three years for $3.75 per year).
Unless either of those things happen — and both seem to have long shot chances of happening — then it could be an address-changing trade that ends up shifting some movement from one or both sides, as Kessel clearly wants his contract situation resolved before the NHL regular season begins in October.
In some interesting comments made to the USA Today’s Kevin Allen on Monday, Kessel said that he fully expects to be signed — one way or the other — by the time the regular season begins on Oct. 1. There had been some speculation that last season’s 36-goal scorer would be A) out until December with rotator cuff/labrum surgery on his right shoulder and B) could hold out until Dec. 1 before finalizing his contract.
Kessel put that notion to bed on Monday, and said that he intends to be ready for game-action by early-to-mid November. According to the player, he already has 95 percent strength in his shoulder. and should be ready to skate some time in September.
The young B’s winger also admitted that the two sides are in something of a “stalemate”, but that some kind of resolution will be made when the NHL season commences on Oct. 1. It’s been a very civilized negotiation between agent Wade Arnott and B’s GM Peter Chiarelli thus far, and Chiarelli has already made statements that Kessel will be returning to Boston next season barring an outlandish offer sheet from another NHL team. To this date, there hasn’t been one offer sheet given to an RFA player this summer.
“It’s at a stalemate and I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Kessel said to the USA Today. “‘¦I think it could go either way at this point.”
Is there a date that Kessel expects to sign by?
“There is no date,” Kessel said to the USA Today. “Either way it will get done before the season for sure.”
Fellow 21-year-old young gun Anze Kopitar struck it rich with the LA Kings for a multi-year deal that’s going to pay him $6.8 million per season for the next seven years, but a better comp for Kessel continues to be Florida Panthers forward David Booth. Booth has similar service time and stats to Kessel, and inked a market-setting six-year, $25.5 million deal this summer as a restricted free agent.
The cap hit amounts to $4.25 million per season for the Panthers, and that is exactly what just about every hockey observer outside the negotiations felt that the young B’s superstar would eventually settle in for. It remains to be seen when that actually happens, but it’s safe to say it’ll be in September if Kessel has his druthers.
|Axelsson signs four-year deal with hometown Frolunda||07.27.09 at 10:04 am ET|
P.J. Axelsson didn’t want to leave the Boston Bruins after 11 seasons with a hockey club that looked to be on an upswing heading into next season, but ‘ without receiving an offer from the Black and Gold this summer ‘ the longest-tenured member of the B’s has signed a four-year deal with his hometown Frolunda team in the Swedish Elite League.
Axelsson’s agent Neil Abbott confirmed the signing to WEEI.com Monday morning, but said that there’s always the possibility of leaving Sweden after this coming hockey season for another NHL shot at the elusive Stanley Cup. Clearly B’s GM Peter Chiarelli is experiencing his own challenges keeping the Bruins’ core together under the current NHL salary cap conditions, and there wasn’t room for Axelsson when younger, affordable models like Vladimir Sobotka are challenging for spots on the Black and Gold roster.
‘We never received an offer from the Bruins and they never asked for an offer from us,’ said Axelsson’s agent Neil Abbott, who said the winger has already been told he’s a strong candidate for the Swedish Olympic team in Vancouver this winter. ‘P.J.’s first choice always would have been to return to Boston, but at the end of the day we had a couple of multi-year proposals (from other NHL teams) that were contingent upon bodies being moved to create cap room. That didn’t happen.
‘P.J. played here (in Boston) for 11 years. He has over 850 games as a Bruin and the next guy has about 250 or 260. His heart was (in Boston). He loved it here and he loved the Boston fans. There wasn’t anything he enjoyed more than playing (in Boston), but once that wasn’t an option it became a choice of playing here, playing there or taking a very nice offer to stay home. We respected and accepted the decision by the Bruins. Once he found out that returning to (Boston) wasn’t an option, going back home to Europe became a much easier decision to make.’
The 20 percent escrow giveback on player’s salaries was a big factor in Axelsson opting for a Swedish Elite League opportunity in his hometown Gothenberg over a one-year deal in Ottawa or Colorado. But legally Axelsson could return to the NHL after next season if there’s a ‘good’ offer waiting for him in certain locales, and Abbott said that winning a Cup is something that’s still on Axelsson’s list of career goals.
With an early August start date for training camp in the European Leagues, Axelsson was under the gun to make a decision and heading home to play hockey for the foreseeable future became a pretty easy choice for the winger and his family. The signing of Steve Begin and Mark Recchi to one-year deals also made the B’s writing on the wall pretty clear to Axelsson and his representation concerning any potential future with the team.
Axelsson was a defensive stalwart known for his consistency and versatility during his long career in Boston, and his easy smile and keen sense of humor — along with the natural leadership bred from a decade plus of experience with the Bruins — will be sorely missed in the Black and Gold dressing room next season.
So the Boston Bruins 1995 7th round pick will bring his penalty killing grit and 287 career points in 797 regular season games back to Europe, and another link to the B’s past moves right along with the 34-year-old Swede.
‘If the right circumstance developed in the next year or two where he could jump in and the goal would be to win, obviously, that might be possible,’ said Abbott of Axelsson, who managed 6 goals and 20 assists in 75 games for Boston last season. ‘But in the short term his wife is pregnant with their second child and due in the fall, and he had a very good offer from his hometown team in Sweden. The hometown offer was very good, and timing-wise the European Leagues start much earlier than the NHL and training camp begins on Aug. 1.’
|Hunwick signs two-year, $2.9 million deal with Boston Bruins||07.20.09 at 4:06 pm ET|
Boston Bruins defenseman Matt Hunwick avoided a Friday arbitration date and signed a two-year deal worth $2.9 million, according to a hockey source, with the Boston Bruins on Monday afternoon. The pact comes with a $1.45 million cap hit for the next two seasons, and leave the B’s with less than $3 million under the cap next season.
The 24-year-old defenseman was third on the B’s among defensemen with 27 points last season (6 goals, 21 assists) and had become a key member of the blueline corps by the end of his first full season in the NHL. Hunwick also tied with LA Kings defenseman Drew Doughty for the NHL lead among rookie defensemen with his 27 points in 53 games played during the 2008-09 hockey season.
Hunwick is one of few puck-moving defenseman currently gracing the B’s roster, so it was of paramount importance that Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli got the 24-year-old signed in plenty of time for a full, productive hockey season. After the seven-game loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in the playoffs, Chiarelli pointed to the injuries to both Hunwick and Andrew Ference as reasons why the team had issues breaking the puck out of their own zone during the series.
Hunwick ruptured his spleen after playing one playoff game against the Montreal Canadiens last spring, but has recovered fully after having his spleen removed and losing close to 10 pounds immediately following the emergency surgery. Hunwick is back undertaking normal workouts in his native Michigan this summer, and is expected to be without restrictions when training camp begins in September.
The 24-year-old native of Warren, Michigan was originally drafted by the Bruins in the seventh round (224th overall) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. He made his NHL debut with the Bruins on November 10, 2007 against the Buffalo Sabres and recorded his first career point on December 10, 2007 against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He played in 13 games for Boston during the 2007-08 campaign and registered one assist.
Hunwick spent most of the 2007-2008 season with the Providence Bruins notching two goals and 21 assists in 55 regular season games. Prior to joining the Bruins, Hunwick played four years of collegiate hockey for the University of Michigan with 24-73=97 totals and 256 penalty minutes in 163 career games.
|Matt Hunwick arbitration date set for July 24||07.14.09 at 11:59 am ET|
Defenseman Matt Hunwick and the Bruins have set their arbitration date for Friday, July 24 — less than two weeks away. But the two sides have had discussions on a multi-year deal that would keep the 24-year-old with Boston for up to three years.
According to sources with knowledge of the negotiations, discussions have recently dried up between the two sides, however, and arbitration appears to be a more likely resolution for the disparity in contract terms over the NHL’s leading rookie scorer at the defensemen position last season. With only $4.3 million remaining under the cap and Phil Kessel still unsigned (but still B’s property), it’s likely that the Bruins are looking for a little bit of savings with Hunwick, and seeking something in the $1-1.3 million range.
It’s also likely that Hunwick and Co. are looking for something closer to the $1.5-2 million for the 2009-10 season and beyond. Hunwick’s camp should also have the knowledge in the back of their minds that the young defenseman was labeled by Bruins management — no less — as one of the key elements missing in last season’s seven-game playoff defeat at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes after he ruptured his spleen against Montreal.
There is also precedent for Hunwick, as RFA defenseman Alex Goligoski signed a three-year deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins for $5.5 million on June 19. Goligoski’s pact will pay him $1.833 million a season over the next three years — with annual salaries of $1.25 and 1.5 million in the first two years – and Hunwick’s numbers were actually better than the 23-year-old Goligoski’s last season for the Pens.
Boston has a distinct lack of puck-moving defensemen, and that’s exactly what Hunwick flashed ample evidence of when he was on the ice for the Black and Gold last season. Hunwick was the B’s third-leading scorer at defensemen with 6 goals and 21 assists last season, and he tied Los Angeles defenseman Drew Doughty for tops among rookie defensemen while actually playing in only 53 games.
Hunwick is back undergoing his normal offseason workout regimen in Michigan after fully recovering from the splenectomy performed on April 18, and shouldn’t be under any kind of physical restrictions when Bruins training camp commences for veteran players in September.
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