|Boston Bruins have resigned Byron Bitz to a multi-year deal||07.01.09 at 5:38 pm ET|
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.”
|Thomas and Kessel invited to Team USA camp||06.30.09 at 12:50 pm ET|
A pair of Boston Bruins players have received the worthy honor of potentially playing for a Gold Medal for the Red, White and Blue of the United States. It just remains to be seen if both players remain members of the Bruins by the time the Olympics actually get here in February.
USA Hockey announced on Tuesday that Bruins goalie Tim Thomas and forward Phil Kessel have been invited to the Men’s Olympic Orientation Camp from August 17-19, 2009 at the Seven Bridges Ice Arena in Woodridge, Illinois (6690 S Route 53 Woodridge, IL 60517). They were among 34 American players that made the first cut en route to filling out a roster for the United States Men’s Olympic Hockey Team.
“I think it’s obviously a great honor for both of them,” said Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli. “With respect to Tim, he’s going to challenge for No. 1 and I would expect that given the season that he had. With Phil it shows that he’s really in their plans because he’ll be injured while going into this camp and they feel very strongly about including in all these orientation things because he’s in their plans.
“It’s exciting for both, and I think we’re going to have more of our players being part of these kind of camps in order to prepare (for the Olympics). I’m sure you’re going to see some more of our players that are going to come up for their respective national teams.”
The camp is designed to assist in the preparation of the 2010 U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Team that will compete at the XXI Olympic Winter Games to be held from Feb. 12-28, 2010, in Vancouver, B.C. Of the 34 invites to the Orientation Camp, 23 players (20 skaters and three goaltenders) will be chosen to represent Team USA at the 2010 Olympics. With Kessel expected to miss at least the first month of the NHL season following labrum and rotator cuff/shoulder surgery, the winger won’t be taking part in any on-ice drills during the August camp.
Tim Thomas set a career high with 36 wins this year and was the winner of the 2009 Vezina Troph while finishing the 2008-2009 regular season as the league leader in Goals Against Average (2.10) and Save Percentage
(.933), and played in his second straight NHL All-Star Game.
Thomas appeared in all 11 postseason games for the Bruins, finishing with the playoff’s best Goals Against Average (1.85) and second best Save Percentage (.935).
Phil Kessel established career highs in goals, assists and points this year after tallying a team-best 36 goals, 24 assists and 60 points in 70 games. Kessel become the club’s first 30-goal scorer since 2005-2006 and compiled the longest point streak in the NHL this season after recording a point in 18 consecutive games from November 13-December 21,
2008 (14-14=28 totals during this span). Kessel appeared in all 11 postseason games for the Bruins and contributed six goals and five assists.
Defensemen: Tom Gilbert, Tim Gleason, Ron Hainsey, Erik Johnson, Jack Johnson, Mike Komisarek, Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik, Brian Rafalski, Rob Scuderi, Ryan Suter, Ryan Whitney
Forwards: David Backes, David Booth, Dustin Brown, Dustin Byfuglien, Ryan Callahan, Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, Patrick Kane, Ryan Kesler, Phil Kessel, Jamie Langenbrunner, Ryan Malone, Mike Modano, Kyle Okposo, T.J. Oshie, Zach Parise, Joe Pavelski, Bobby Ryan, Paul Stastny.
|Recchi: returning to ‘Boston is my first choice’||06.27.09 at 3:54 pm ET|
MONTREAL — Boston Bruins winger Mark Recchi was in Montreal for the NHL Draft this weekend, and told the Inside Hockey Radio Show Saturday that the Bruins are his top choice as an unrestricted free agent. B’s GM Peter Chiarelli has also indicated that he’d like to have Recchi back in the Boston fold after showing he’s still got plenty to offer in terms of offense and leadership. It’s expected the Bruins will address Recchi and Boston’s other UFAs after making a decision on RFAs like Phil Kessel, Matt Hunwick and Byron Bitz.
The 41-year-old Recchi scored 61 points all-together in the 2008-09 hockey season, and finished with 10 goals and 6 assists in 18 games for the B’s following the trade deadline. Recchi was a factor on both the power play, and 5-on-5 as a pesky force tipping pucks in front of the net.
‘We talked to Peter and he just left me a message a few minutes ago,” said Recchi to the Inside Hockey Radio Show on Saturday. “The situation with Boston (Chiarelli) has got some things to figure out cap-wise. But Boston is my first choice and I’m going to give them every opportunity in the world to figure things out, so I can go back there. They treated me great after I came there at the trade deadline, and I’m more than willing to give them a little extra time to figure things out.’
|Chiarelli: ‘I’d love to be able to keep (Kessel).’||06.26.09 at 1:19 pm ET|
MONTREAL — Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli continued his solid string of “no comments” on anything of interest to Bruins Nation Friday, but the B’s top executive did offer at least a glimmer of hope that 21-year-old winger Phil Kessel will again be wearing a Spoked B sweater next season.
Rumors of a Kessel-for-Tomas Kaberle swap have been swirling around the streets of Montreal as the 7 p.m. start of the 2009 NHL Draft approaches, and TSN reported on Friday morning that the B’s brass offered Kessel to the Maple Leafs for Kaberle and their No. 7 pick in the first round.
Chiarelli, while meeting with reporters at the Hotel Sofitel, coyly stated that he first heard about the trade proposal when he logged on to his computer this morning, and offered up a “no comment” — along with a few words of praise and a hope that the skilled winger will be with the team next season and beyond.
“I don’t comment on (trade) stuff,” said Chiarelli. “I don’t comment on negotiations. What I can say is that he’s a young player that’s shown tremendous progress. I’d love to be able to keep him.
“I don’t think something big will get done, generally speaking. You have discussions and I know there was a report this morning. I think it’s unfair to everyone involved, whether it’s true or not, to have that stuff reported.”
Chiarelli mentioned earlier this week that the Boston hockey club was hoping to move up higher in the first round from their 25th pick, and indications are that the front office is actively looking to increase their organizational depth at defenseman with a top selection. Names being bandied about that the B’s could move up and pinpoint depending on which team’s pick they might ultimately acquire: Dmitry Kulikov, John Moore, Olivier Ekman-Larsson, Jared Cowan, Simon Despres and Ryan Ellis.
Chiarelli allowed that his scouting staff was excited about “a couple of players” that the B’s would presumably have to improve their standing in the first round to land. The B’s exec also joked when asked if landing a “Top 4″ was an important item on the team’s agenda this summer.
“If I could afford it I’d like a Top 4 defenseman. I’d like another big, physical forward. It’s all stuff that you work into an equation and you have that cap that you’re working with. That player period starts July 1, so we’re not there yet. There are teams discussing a lot of different things at the draft, and we’re one of them.”
–Chiarelli confirmed that he’s sent out qualifying offers to RFAs Phil Kessel, Matt Hunwick and Byron Bitz, and said that both Hunwick and Kessel are recovering “rapidly and as-scheduled” from their respective surgeries. Ned Lukacevic, acquired in the Andrew Alberts deal, and Wacey Rabbit were the only two players with RFA status that won’t be receiving qualifying offers from the Bruins.
With regard to the UFAs like P.J. Axelsson, Stephane Yelle and Mark Recchi (who is in Montreal this weekend and met briefly with Chiarelli), Chiarelli said he asked them put potential contract talks on hold until the Monday following the draft. All the UFAs are free to negotiate with other teams beginning on July 1.
“There’s a group of those guys that I’ve told to ‘Hang on’ because I’ve got a few things to figure out over the course of this weekend, and I’ll get back to them on Monday,” said Chiarelli.
|Chiarelli agrees to four-year pact that will take B’s through 2013-14||06.16.09 at 3:39 pm ET|
The Bruins and GM Peter Chiarelli formally discussed a four-year contract extension that will kick into gear following the fourth and final year of his original contract during the 2009-10 season. Chiarelli and Principal for Delaware North and the Bruins Charlie Jacobs were on hand to answer questions at the TD Banknorth Garden on Tuesday afternoon, and the B’s GM indicated that discussions will begin with Claude Julien on a contract extension in the ensuing weeks.
Jacobs intimated Julien and members of the coaching staff were running under the same contract length as their GM, which meant they are set to enter the final year of their contracts. Don’t expect Boston’s Jack Adams award candidate to wait very long for his own contract extension now that Chiarelli has been taken care of.
Jacobs said that the B’s ownership had already decided to extend Chiarelli and avoid any “lame duck” possibilities prior to the playoff run, and it was only a matter of time before the father and son reworked the contract agreement with their top executive.
“It seems like it was just yesterday that we were up on the dais being the next GM. It’s happened so fast. He has grown and there’s no question about it,” said Charlie Jacobs. “If you think about the guy that was up there three years and the GM that we just heard, there is a lot of difference. It’s reflected in the team’s performance, it’s reflected in his decisions and the coaching staff and management staff he’s assembled over the last 36 months, which is really strong.
“You’ve got to judge the body of work. We’ve had highs and lows, but we’ve had many more highs. This wasn’t something that we talked about whether we wanted to do it or not, (extending Chiarelli) is something that we felt like we had to do.”
For his part, the 44-year-old Bruins general manager is midway through a stunning hockey success story in Boston that’s taken place over the last three years — and Chiarelli is excited to see what lies ahead for a hockey club that excelled during the regular season before falling in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Chiarelli clearly has some challenges to keep his present team intact while avoiding the pitfalls of a shrinking salary cap, and it all starts with restricted free agents Phil Kessel and Matt Hunwick along with valued free agents like P.J. Axelsson and Mark Recchi. Kessel is the big ticket free agent still under Boston’s control, and the B’s front office has until July 1 to negotiate with him. Reports have indicated Chiarelli and Kessel’s agent, Wade Arnott, are far apart in contract negotiations, but the B’s GM has been tight-lipped against the contract talks. He wouldn’t comment on any progress — or lack thereof — with his remaining restricted free agents in Kessel, Matt Hunwick and Byron Bitz heading up to the July 1 deadline — a date when RFAs can begin fielding offer sheets from other NHL teams.
“This gives the management group the latitude to do things and to continue on with their vision or plan,” said Chiarelli. “What we’ve tried to do since I’ve been here is try to instill certain attitudes and philosophies among the players, the employees, the staff and the coaches. This (contract) allows us to do that.
“We’re entering into a new level of expectation that’s exciting and — let’s be honest — more demanding. It’s more demanding, but you have to like a challenge. What I saw in the playoffs is guys that were sacrificing their bodies on every shift, and we’re not at that point yet. It makes it more clear where we have to be, and we’re getting there. I saw that at various stages this year, but it’s certainly more clear now when you see every player on every shift (in the Stanley Cup Finals) sacrificing their body blocking a shot or taking a check.”
Several times over the last few weeks, B’s owner Jeremy Jacobs made the observation that he hadn’t hired Chiarelli as GM simply for a four-year term, but instead viewed the Bruins exec as the kind of personality that should remain in the organization for the “rest of his professional life.” Chiarelli certainly wasn’t backing away from those kinds of expectations, but also knows — in this day and age — that things can change very fast in an NHL front office.
“I love the city and it’s a great place to bring up a family, and that’s important to me,” said Chiarelli, who was named Hockey Executive of the Year by The Sporting News. “The organization is something that I want to be a part of. I don’t want to be jumping around. Hockey is a tough sport.
“You’ve seen it with coaches and players, and now I think you’ll probably see it among GMs that people will be jumping around. That’s something I don’t want to do. Nothing is guaranteed in life, but I’m very happy to be here and I want to be here for a long time.”
|Chiarelli signs multiyear contract extension with Bruins||06.15.09 at 6:19 pm ET|
In a move that was expected to transpire at some point before the NHL draft at the end of June, the Bruins announced Monday afternoon that GM Peter Chiarelli has signed a multiyear contract extension with the Black and Gold. Chiarelli was entering into the fourth and final year of a deal that he signed when he took the B’s reigns back in May 2006. The B’s executive had been negotiating with Jeremy and Charlie Jacobs over the course of the last few months, and it was fully expected that Chiarelli would remain with Boston for next year and beyond.
Chiarelli and Charlie Jacobs will hold a press conference in Legends at the TD Banknorth Garden at noon on Tuesday, and it’s also expected that Chiarelli will discuss his own situation as well as provide updates on the upcoming NHL draft and current contract negotiations with restricted free agents like Phil Kessel and Matt Hunwick.
The B’s GM deserved plaudits — and a new pact — for steadily steering the organization back from oblivion over the three years after taking hold of a beleaguered franchise with an expansion team-level roster. Chiarelli and the B’s staff have stocked an NHL roster full of young, improving players — with some as holdovers from Boston’s prior front office regime — and built the foundation around a pair of big-ticket free agents in Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard.
Young skilled players like Phil Kessel, David Krejci, Blake Wheeler and Milan Lucic have all made the jump to the NHL level during Chiarelli’s tenure, and the B’s GM locked down All-Star goaltender Tim Thomas to a four-year deal earlier this spring. Goaltender Tuukka Rask and center Zach Hamill represent another wave of talented youngsters that have performed well at Providence, and stand ready to support the Boston hockey club in the near future.
Chiarelli was named the NHL’s Executive of the Year by the Sporting News for the 2008-09 season, and watched his hockey team improve by 22 points last season en route to capturing the Eastern Conference title. The B’s season ended in a Game 7 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in the Stanley Cup semifinals, but the organization is clearly on the right track.
Chiarelli has made missteps — signing Dave Lewis as his first coach and trading away prospect Kris Versteeg rank as the two biggest gaffes during his three seasons in charge of hockey operations. But the GM earned a contract extension for his overwhelmingly impressive body of work in Boston.
The GM’s biggest mandate was to come in and make the Bruins a tough, “hard to play against” unit with equal parts grit and skill, and he’s succeeded in molding a group of players into that classic image of a successful hockey club. Chiarelli’s work remains incomplete as he faces an important summer of negotiations with free agents — and potential trade talks if those contract discussions don’t go as well as expected — amid a shrinking salary cap. With a completed contract extension in hand, Chiarelli is now free to focus on the other tasks calling for his attention.
It’s also expected that Chiarelli will now turn toward a contract extension for head coach Claude Julien and members of his coaching staff — who are all expected to return for the 2009-10 season — after the Jack Adams Award finalist posted 94 wins over the last two seasons behind the Boston bench.
Before joining the B’s in 2006, Chiarelli was under the employ of his hometown Ottawa Senators for seven seasons, five as their director of legal relations and two as assistant GM. Chiarelli played four seasons of college hockey at Harvard, where he served as the team’s captain. He had 21 goals and 28 assists for 49 points in 109 collegiate games before earning his degree in economics in 1987.
The elder Jacobs gave plenty of evidence that an agreement was looming — perhaps to be announced after the Stanley Cup Finals were over — when he spoke with WEEI’s “Dale & Holley” last week.
‘I made this observation a few weeks ago. I didn’t hire Peter for four years. I hired him for his career. Peter wants to stay a Bruin. He sees this as a long range career relationship and I see the same. It’s evolving,’ said Jeremy Jacobs. ‘I kind of see him in a long term executive relationship and I think he sees himself in the same spot.”
|David Krejci signs three-year, $11.25 million deal with Boston Bruins||06.02.09 at 4:52 pm ET|
The Boston Bruins have announced that 23-year-old center David Krejci and the team have come to an agreement on a multi-year extension that will pay him $11.25 million on Tuesday afternoon. According to TSN.com, the three-year deal will pay Krejci an average of $3.75 million per year, and pays out $3.5 million, $3.75 million and $4 million over the next three seasons.
Krejci was set to become a restricted free agent on July 1 after enjoying a breakout 73-point season for the Black and Gold and leading the NHL with a +/- of +36 last season. Both Krejci and Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli are scheduled for a Wednesday conference call to discuss the contract, but terms of the deal weren’t immediately disclosed. Krejci was part of an important restricted free agent class along with fellow RFA Phil Kessel, and the young Bruins sniper remains unsigned at this point.
It’s expected that Kessel is going to command/demand more dollars than Krejci after finishing among the top 12 in the NHL in terms of goals scored (36) this season. The $3.75 million that Krejci will average over the next three seasons is likely to be the dirt cellar floor of the Kessel negotiations, and the gifted young sniper — capable of breaking games open with his skating speed and snap shot but also prone to disappearing for long stretches of time, particularly when the going gets rough on the ice — is thought to be looking for something much closer to $5 million a year than $3.75 million per season.
With Matt Hunwick and Byron Bitz still also looking for contracts and roughly $10 million to spend on all four restricted free agents plus any roster upgrades, the chances of Kessel getting his payday in Boston don’t appear to be all that likely. It still appears to be Boston’s best to flip Kessel — or somebody else with a high price tag and good value on the trade market — to another NHL spot for a top 2 defenseman of the puck-moving variety.
Both Krejci and Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli will discuss the deal during a Wednesday conference call at 4:30 p.m. The skillful young center was also originally scheduled to undergo his hip surgery this week as well, so there should be more information about his medical status during the conference call. Check back with the Big Bad Blog for more details in the coming days.
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