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Savard: I want to finish my career in Boston 09.08.09 at 2:01 pm ET
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Marc Savard and Zdeno Chara were the two building blocks for Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli when the hockey executive first came onto the scene in Boston, and the 32-year-old center — entering the final year of a four-year deal he signed on July 1, 2006 —  said that he’s hoping to sign another deal allowing him to finish his hockey career in Boston.

Savard was the B’s leading scorer with 25 goals and 63 assists last season, and has blossomed into an All-Star player under coach Claude Julien. Entering the final year of his $5 million per year deal with a great deal of financial uncertainty in the NHL’s future, Savard isn’t bothered by the unknown and is simply focused on driving the B’s toward a Stanley Cup.

Savard said he’s fully recovered from the left knee injury suffered in the playoffs against the Carolina Hurricanes, and he skated “10 or 15 times” before hitting the practice ice with his teammates at Ristuccia Arena for the first time on Tuesday morning.

“It’s a great city and I’ve enjoyed my time here so far,” said Savard, from the Bruins Foundation’s annual golf tournament at The International in Bolton, MA. “It’s a place that I’d like to finish if the chance comes and I’m excited to get the season going. Things keep getting better and our team keeps getting better, so that only helps everybody when that happens. I want to stay here. This is a place I love. I love the people. I love the fans. This is where I want to be.

“I’m not worried about the contract at all. (Peter and I) have a good relationship. Ever since I came to Boston I’ve given everything I had and if things work out well — and I think they will — then I’m going to be here for a long, long time.”

Savard was also visibly peeved when asked about getting snubbed by Hockey Canada when team officials announced the lineup for their Olympic Team Orientation Camp this summer. The crafty centerman was conspicuously absent from an admittedly talented roster of players, and that’s not sitting well with the two-time All-Star. Savard said that he shared an agent, Larry Kelly, with Steve Yzerman, one of the hockey minds charged with constructing the Canadian National Team, and that private campaigning with the Team Canada Executive Director for an invitation didn’t quite work for the skilled B’s pivot.

Savard has instead decided to turn the first half of the 2009-10 hockey season into a resume tape for Team Canada to watch what they might be missing out in Vancover come February. Though he was on the driving range at the International and excited for a day of golf with his teammates, Savard couldn’t hide the sting of disappointment at being left off the squad.

“I was pretty upset about it,” said Savard, who then cast his head down toward the ground as he talked about it. “I feel that I had a chance to at least go to the camp. I didn’t really come out and say anything. I had a lot of calls for a couple weeks after that. It’s something I didn’t want to talk about. I was pretty mad about it. I’ve had to prove myself over and over again. I’m hoping to get off to a good start. I still haven’t counted myself out, so I guess that’s all that matters.

“I’m going to go out and do what I do…try to prove somebody else wrong. I’m worried about the Bruins and winning games. I didn’t really talk to anybody (behind the scenes) but my agent had Yzerman as a player and he did most of the talking. I don’t know what happened, but I have to just keep trying to prove them wrong and have a good start to the season.”

Read More: Marc Savard, Peter Chiarelli, Steve Yzerman,
Chiarelli: ‘disturbed when they talk about us being cheap’ 09.04.09 at 12:44 pm ET
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While Claude Julien’s contract extension was the big Bruins announcement of the day on Friday morning, B’s general manager Peter Chiarelli addressed the ongoing saga of restricted free agent Phil Kessel, who remains unsigned with training camp less than two weeks away.

Chiarelli fired away at Kessel’s agent Wade Arnott for creating a “bit of a media war” and using some of the tools in his agent arsenal to coax the wheels of progress moving in negotiations. Arnott had told reporters that the Bruins had only submitted one contract proposal for Kessel prior to the NHL draft, and that it was quickly dismissed.

When talking cold, hard salary figures, the B’s head front office man also preached “balance” within the Kessel negotiations, and noted how important it is to hold down the inflationary nature of the “second contract” that hockey players like Kessel are getting after their rookie entry level deals.

Chiarelli even joked that he should ‘€œjust give (Kessel) a pailful of money and it will be done.’€

‘€œIt’€™s a different system now. It really is a different system now and to be a hard-liner so to speak, you have to keep in mind what these players make after their entry-level contracts,” said Chiarelli. “The percentage of increase is huge. And what it does is it throws everything else out of whack. So there’€™s a balance that you have to keep. And Phil’€™s a terrific young player.

‘€œAnd I’€™m responsible to our team and the fact that there’€™s a fixed-cost system that may go down, all parties considered have to look at the team, have to look at their own interest and you see more sacrifices made on both sides now. These are things that a lot of people don’€™t understand or they fail to look at. It’€™s a lot more of a balancing act now than ever.

‘€œHey, if you’€™re pushed toward the cap, you’€™re in a position where you have to balance it even more. That’€™s the position that we’€™re in. I’€™ve said publicly and I’€™ll say it again that I want Phil to be on our team. And I’€™ll do everything I can do to put him on our team, within reason, with the balance that I’€™m talking about. If it means moving players, I’€™ll do it. If it means matching offer sheets I’€™ll do it.’€

Chiarelli has never had a holdout during his tenure as the GM of the Bruins and deservedly has earned plaudits for taking care of young potential free agents like Patrice Bergeron, Dennis Wideman and David Krejci with lucrative contracts in the recent past. But there’s only so much cash growing under the salary cap tree, and NHL teams simply can’t hold on to every single one of their puck assets from season-to-season.

Kessel and his representation see a player who should make something comparable to fellow young scorers like Alexander Semin, David Booth and Jeff Carter ($4-5 million on a multi-year contract), and the B’s brass was surely hoping that Kessel would take something in the Zach Parise neighborhood ($3.125 million a year) for the greater good of the hockey club.

Chiarelli vowed that a potential training camp holdout wouldn’t affect a tight-knit, veteran group in the B’s dressing room, and revealed the only thing that bugged him was the notion that the Black and Gold are being too frugal with their funds. In this era of the NHL, according to the Bruins G.M., it’s got nothing to do with being spendthrift or affluent. It’s just about squeezing under the cap with as many assets as possible, and it’s difficult to see how they’ll be able to do that if Kessel seeks market value.

‘€œIt becomes a distraction because the other party starts making it a distraction,’€ he said. ‘€œI understand all the tools of their trade, too. I used to be an agent. So you deal with it. We have a strong room, we’€™ve got strong leadership. It’€™s just part of the game.

‘€œI just get a little disturbed when they talk about us being cheap. Because it’€™s not about that. Look at some of the second contracts we’€™ve given ‘€” Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci. It’€™s not about that. It’€™s about a balance.’€

Read More: Peter Chiarelli, Phil Kessel, Wade Arnott,
Julien nets multi-year contract extension from the Bruins at 12:23 pm ET
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Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien was entering the final year of a three-year pact signed in the summer of 2007, but added onto that deal with a multi-year contract extension announced by B’s general manager Peter Chiarelli on Friday morning at the TD Garden. Chiarelli wouldn’t disclose the terms of the deal, and also said that he hasn’t yet embarked on expected extensions for the other members of the B’s coaching staff.

“Claude has shown tremendous propensity to get the maximum results for our team. To me, Claude is a roll-up-your-sleeves kind of guy that really connects with the players,” said Chiarelli. “I think he commands the respect that a coach needs to get to be successful while maintaining a common sense, humble approach. We’re very happy that he’s in the mix for years to come.”

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, Peter Chiarelli,
Begin ready for a new beginning with Boston 09.03.09 at 8:25 am ET
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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.

Read More: Claude Julien, Peter Chiarelli, Steve Begin,
Sharks free up cap space for Phil Kessel? 08.28.09 at 3:36 pm ET
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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. ‘€œIt 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.

Read More: Doug Wilson, Peter Chiarelli, Phil Kessel,
Bruins announce rookie training camp roster 08.26.09 at 10:44 am ET
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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

Read More: Jordan Caron, Peter Chiarelli, Zach Hamill,
Thomas and Kessel commence Team USA tryouts 08.18.09 at 11:59 am ET
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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.

Read More: Peter Chiarelli, Phil Kessel, Tim Thomas,
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