|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.
|Recchi reveals he’ll probably retire after the 2009-10 NHL season||07.03.09 at 1:12 pm ET|
Mark Recchi talked about his one-year, $1 million deal to return to the Boston Bruins for the 2009-10 season on a Friday afternoon conference call, and said that next season in Black and Gold will “probably” be his 21st and final NHL campaign. The veteran doesn’t see his role as being any different next season, and Recchi said he was looking forward to skating with Patrice Bergeron and Chuck Kobasew again and playing a role on the B’s power play.
The 41-year-old has a pair of Stanley Cup rings — one with the Pittsburgh Penguins and another with the Carolina Hurricanes — but returned to Boston with the feeling that he may be able to go out of his playing career on top of the hockey world next season. Recchi has authored 545 goals in a Hall of Fame-level career with a handful of NHL teams, and said it was his “first priority” to return to Boston and wrap up some unfinished business with a dressing room full of hungry hockey players.
“I think this is probably going to be it,” said Recchi, who finished with 16 points in 18 games after being traded to the B’s on March 4 last season. “I want to go out and finish it off right by winning another championship and help this team be successful. I’d say this will probably be it. I’ve got my family situation I’ve got to consider and kids I’ve got to consider. It’s been a great run. I think I want to give it one more chance.
“My personal things have all been done in my career, and I’m playing for one more ring. That’s the most important thing for me. The reason I liked Boston is that 99 percent of the guys on that team, I felt, wanted to win that Cup. That’s the most important thing to everybody in that dressing room.”
As I wrote yesterday, the Recchi signing leaves the Bruins with roughly $4.3 million under next season’s $56.8 million salary cap, and B’s GM Peter Chiarelli still has RFAs Phil Kessel and Matt Hunwick to negotiate deals with. It would appear that both can’t be signed — and perhaps not even Kessel alone — with the amount of room left under the cap, and that a deal to trade away an NHL-level player off the Bruins is imminent.
Recchi acknowledged that there is some unknown as to what will eventually happen with Kessel’s future (“a dynamic player” said Recchi), but also sympathized with the tough decisions that Chiarelli is surrounded by amid fiscal limitations.
“It’s tough right now with the salary cap. You build a good team and then you have to let people go or you have to make moves to restock again. It has to be really frustrating for GMs now, but it is what it is. He’s done a tremendous job. I think the biggest thing is that he’s got his goaltender and he’s got the core of his defense settled in and the core of his centermen settled in — which is how you build a franchise.
“If you’ve got those guys then you fit the other pieces all-around and I think he’s going to do a great job of that.”
|Bruins sign Mark Recchi to a one-year, $1 million deal||07.02.09 at 11:51 am ET|
The Bruins welcomed the grit, leadership and scoring touch that 41-year-old Mark Recchi brought with him at last season’s NHL trade deadline, and they’ve decided that he was worth keeping around another year. The B’s signed Mark Recchi on Thursday afternoon to a one-year, $1 million contract that will see the cagey veteran on the wing next season.
Recchi scored 61 points between 80 games with the Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning last season, and the veteran had 10 goals, 6 assists in 18 games after landing in Boston on March 4. He was an inspiration with the fearless way he played in front of the net hunting for pucks and goals, and then added to his reputation when he played in Game 7 against the Carolina Hurricanes after undergoing surgery to remove painful kidney stones.
The signing — along with the deals given to Steve Begin and Byron Bitz yesterday afternoon — gives the Bruins 12 forwards already under contract with restricted free agent Phil Kessel still unsigned and Vladmir Sobotka expected to threaten for a spot on the team next season. All of this makes it pretty difficult to imagine there being a roster spot held for longtime Bruin P.J. Axelsson, should he fail to find a landing spot elsewhere in the NHL this summer.
By my math, the signings of Bitz, Begin, Recchi plus the cap hit for buying out Peter Schaefer leaves the Bruins with roughly $4.3 million in cap space with the need to sign/or trade both RFAs Phil Kessel and Matt Hunwick. That’s certainly not enough to get both talented young players signed — and doesn’t include the potential cap hit for Johnny Boychuk should he make the team — so obviously something has to give with roster as currently constructed.
|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.”