|Blue Jackets sign James Wisniewski||07.01.11 at 11:43 am ET|
Tomas Kaberle’s biggest competition on the free agent market never even made it to unrestricted free agency. The Blue Jackets inked defenseman James Wisniewski to a six-year, $33 million pact Friday morning, less than an hour before free agency was set to open.
The pact will command an annual cap hit of $5.5 million, and leaves Tomas Kaberle and Ed Jovanovski as the top free agent defensemen. The Bruins are letting Kaberle test the market to see what he can get, but do not consider themselves out of the running for the 33-year-old.
Of course, with Wisniewski and Christian Ehrhoff (Sabres) signed, any team in need of a puck-moving defenseman must now put Kaberle atop their list. Kaberle disappointed in his time with the B’s, as turnovers and cuts in his icetime suggested, but he finished the postseason tied with Dennis Seidenberg for the most points (11) amongst Bruins’ defensemen.
Wisniewski finished last season with the Canadiens after being acquired during the season from the Islanders. The Habs sent his rights to Columbus this week in exchange for a conditional seventh-round pick, but since the 27-year-old signed with the team, the Blue Jackets will instead send a fifth-rounder to Montreal.
|With five returning, who will be the other Bruins’ defenseman?||06.30.11 at 2:34 pm ET|
The Bruins have five of their six defensemen from the Stanley Cup finals under contract through at least next season, with Tomas Kaberle’s spot the only question mark. B’s general manager Peter Chiarelli said Thursday that the team will let Kaberle test the waters, and that if he signs elsewhere, they’ll find a replacement. That means whoever the B’s have back there next year needs to be at least somewhat offensively minded. After the power play woes of the playoffs, that’s only logical.
So who might be that last (not necessarily the sixth) defenseman be? Here are some options:
TOMAS KABERLE (free agent, Bruins)
2010-11 team: Maple Leafs/Bruins
2010-11 stats: 82 GP, 4 G, 43 A, 47 P, +4 (regular season)
25 GP, 0 G, 11 A, 11 P, +8 (playoffs)
Height/Weight: 6-foot-1, 214 pounds
Pros: Outstanding passer
Cons: Poor skater, turnover-prone
The skinny: The sound of a full Garden screaming “SHOOT!” might keep Kaberle awake at night, and though there were plenty of roadbumps on the way to him becoming the solid player he was in the Cup finals, more time in Boston might make him better. Perhaps the reason he looked more like himself later in the postseason was because he was getting comfortable, but the minutes Claude Julien gave him in the playoffs suggest he won’t be worth the payday he seeks. If the B’s can get him for $3 million or less, maybe they’ll take a flier. Any more than that just isn’t sensible.
STEVEN KAMPFER (Bruins, signed through 2013)
2010-11 team: Bruins
2010-11 stats: 38 GP, 5 G, 5 A, 10 P, +9 (with Boston)
22 GP, 3 G, 16 A, 16 P, +10 (with Providence)
Height/weight: 5-foot-10, 188 pounds
Pros: Good skater, right-handed shot
Cons: Faded/lost spot down the stretch
The skinny: Kampfer needed very little time to settle into the NHL, and though his partner (some guy named Chara) had plenty to do with that, he showed he is capable of contributing at this level. He had as costly a 13-minute span as anyone could back on March 17, and his misplay and a penalty not only cost the Bruins the game in Nashville, but it cost Kampfer his spot in the lineup. He injured his knee while playing in the AHL late in the season, but was good enough to play again midway through the Eastern Conference finals. He did not play a game in the postseason.
If it ends up being an in-house promotion, the B’s will also give Matt Bartkowski a good look.
JAMES WISNIEWSKI (UPDATE: signed six-year, $33 million deal with Blue Jackets)
2010-11 team: Islanders/Canadiens
2010-11 stats: 75 GP, 10 G, 41 A, 51 P, -14 (regular season)
6 GP, 0 G, 2 A, 2 P, -2 (playoffs)
Height/weight: 5-foot-11, 208 pounds
Pros: Hard-nosed, crafty with the puck
Cons: Had career year in contract year, price may be high
The skinny: The Michigan native could become fast friends with Kampfer and Tim Thomas (both from Michigan), and given his tendency to get under the skin of opponents, he and Brad Marchand would probably go from being enemies to pals pretty quickly. The Red Wings have only three defensemen under contract for next season, so the idea of bringing the local boy to Detroit makes that a logical potential destination for Wisniewski. If the Red Wings are in on the 27-year-old, they won’t be alone. Wisniewski has only had one season with more than 30 points, and it was his contract year. He’ll be paid well, so the price could be too steep for the Bruins’ liking.
CHRISTIAN EHRHOFF (UPDATE: SIGNED 10-YEAR, $40 M contract with Sabres)
2010-11 team: Canucks
2010-11 stats: 79 GP, 14 G, 36 A, 50 P, +19 (regular season)
23 GP, 2 G, 10 A, 12 P, -13 (playoffs)
Height/weight: 6-foot-2, 200 pounds
Pros: Durable (77+ games each of last five seasons), strong on power play
Cons: Too much money, this video
The skinny: Ehroff suffered a shoulder injury against his old team in the Western Conference finals, explaining why he was less than impressive vs. the Bruins. The shoulder will not require surgery.
The German media would go nutbars at the prospect of Dennis Seidenberg, one of only two German Stanley Cup champions, to be teamed with Ehrhoff. The two are actually good friends, as they have played on national teams since they were 17 and were defensive partners at the Olympics. The issue is that the Islanders traded a fourth-round pick for his rights this week and, despite general manager Garth Snow saying they offered “well north” of Kevin Bieksa‘s five-year, $23 million pact, couldn’t get him signed. Maybe that’s because Ehrhoff wants to play for a winner, but it may also be because he’s holding out for top dollar. If it’s the latter, you can count the Bruins out. Given the financial aspect, it’s hard to imagine any circumstance in which the B’s bring him in.
At the end of the day, the Bruins might have to overpay for Wisniewski, which makes one feel that if the B’s don’t get Kaberle back, they could just go with Kampfer. The 22-year-old is still progressing, and if he plays with Chara, it will be that much easier. Plus, it’s the most economical thing to do. Unless the B’s can get a deal on a veteran who brings more to the table, they might be better off hoping that, much like Adam McQuaid did this past season, Kampfer can take an opportunity and run with it.
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli spoke with the media Thursday in anticipation of the NHL’s free agency period opening Friday. The Bruins have two players set to hit unrestricted free agency in winger Michael Ryder and defenseman Tomas Kaberle. The GM said that ties have not been severed with either player, but that the B’s likely won’t be active in the early stages of free agency.
“Certainly theres no finality to our relationship,” Chiarelli said of Kaberle. “What we’ve agreed to with Tomas and his agent is that he would look into the market and we would continue to talk with him. … Let me be perfectly clear, there’s no end to the relationship because we haven’t signed him to this point.”
Chiarelli noted that if the Bruins are unable to retain Kaberle, he will look both in-house and elsewhere for his replacement on the Bruins’ blue line.
He also indicated that the B’s are taking the same approach with Ryder, and that if the players take deals with other teams, the Bruins are willing to accept that fate.
“I’m wary of the market and where it stands now,” Chiarelli said. “I said, ‘Look guys, go out there, see what’s going on and let’s continue to talk.’ The risk that we run is that they get a deal and then they can’t come back to us, and I understand that risk. That’s where those two guys stand.”
Depending on what the B’s do with Ryder, Kaberle, restricted free agent Brad Marchand and what happens with Marc Savard, the team could be in good standing with the league’s salary cap (set for $64.3 million next season). Despite the fact that they should have money to spend, allocating resources to multiple years could make things difficult for the Bruins, as both David Krejci and Tuukka Rask will see their current contracts expire after the coming season. Tyler Seguin‘s deal is up in two years, and one would have to assume all three players will see increases in pay.
“It certainly impacts it,” Chiarelli said of knowing they have future raises to give. “I’m a little wary of the market, first and foremost. The cap is high, and the cap is certainly going to come down in some shape or form, so generally speaking, I’m wary of the market and where I think it may be going.
“Two, and a close two, is that we do have guys that we warrant to re-sign, and they’re going to command raises. I’m really not in a position to go out and give a guy a big-term contract. I think thwart we can find that help elsewhere other than a big-term contract and still be in a good position to re-sign our guys as they come up the next year or two.”
The Bruins qualified restricted free agents Marchand, Andrew Bodnarchuk and Stefan Chaput. Chiarelli said that negotiations with Marchand have not yet begun.
The GM also said that the team will not re-sign defenseman Shane Hnidy, who served as a healthy scratch/depth player during the stretch run and postseason. Hnidy, 35, played three games in both the regular season and postseason.
“We’ve told Shane that we aren’t re-signing him,” Chiarelli said. “I think he’ll be a good addition somewhere else, and I told him that. Certainly I’d help him along the way for that.”
As for whether the list of Bruins’ targets may be shrinking, Chiarelli admitted that some players have been taken out of consideration in recent days. The rights of players set to hit free agency have been traded, which may factor into that.
“I have a big whiteboard in my office and I have our interest list and I have our secondary list,” he said. “Yes, there are names knocked off. Just because they’re on our interest list doesn’t mean we’re going to go off and sign them, but certainly we’re going to explore them. And I’ve crossed off names.”
One thing that came up time and time again was Chiarelli noting how “wary” of the market he was. He assessed the crop as being less than outstanding, which may be a reason why he would have reservations about making a big splash.
“I look at my board and I see the number of players and the quality of players,” he said. “And the numbers may be the same, [but] the quality is … there’s just not the high end players. Then of course you’ve got the floor of the cap and teams have to spend, so you’re going to get contracts I think that, maybe that, they’re generally higher in the unrestricted market, but I even think they’ll be that added premium because teams have to spend. … That’s why I’m a little cautious going into this market. There’s not the supply that there normally is, and I think the demand is greater because of the cap floor and teams have to spend.”
|What does James Wisniewski trade mean to Bruins?||06.29.11 at 3:26 pm ET|
The latest shoe to kind of drop regarding the defensive free agent landscape came Wednesday, as the Canadiens have traded the rights to James Wisniewski to the Blue Jackets for a seventh-round pick.
The move suggests two things. First off, Wisniewski likely won’t be returning to the Habs after he scored seven goals and added 23 assists for 30 points following his trade from the Islanders. Second of all, the fact that the rights to the better, younger Wisniewski were worth only a seventh-rounder might mean the Bruins will be out of luck in their attempt to trade Tomas Kaberle‘s rights.
Of course, teams could simply be confident that Wisniewski wants to wait until free agency opens to pick his team, which would explain why his rights could be had for so little.
Wisniewski is a gritty blueliner who’s solid on the power play. He could conceivably be a target of the Bruins, but given that he’s coming off a career year (51 points), he may command too much for their liking.
If both Wisniewski and Christian Ehrhoff, whom the Islanders acquired the rights to on Tuesday, are signed before Friday, Kaberle could be considered the top defenseman on the open market. Woof.
Wisniewski played five-regular season games against the B’s last year, scoring a goal and adding three assists for four points and posting a minus-6 rating. He had two assists and was a minus-3 in the first round of the playoffs against Boston.
|Report: Bruins looking to trade Tomas Kaberle’s rights||06.28.11 at 10:38 pm ET|
According to a tweet from TSN’s Darren Dreger, the Bruins sent out an email Tuesday offering Tomas Kaberle‘s negotiating rights to other teams. Any team that acquired Kaberle would, as the Bruins do now, be able to negotiate with the defenseman exclusively leading up to the opening of free agency on Friday.
Kaberle, 33, is one of only two unrestricted free agents from the Bruins’ Stanley Cup champion lineup. Acquired on Feb. 18 in exchange for center Joe Colborne, a 2011 first-round pick and a 2012 second-rounder, he had one goal and eight assists for nine points in 24 regular-season games with the B’s. He and Dennis Seidenberg tied for lead among Bruins’ defenseman in postseason points with 11.
Rights to free-agents-to-be can be moved by the teams with which they last played, as the Flyers traded for the rights to goalie Ilya Bryzgalov before locking him up last week. The Canucks traded the rights to defenseman Christian Ehrhoff to the Islanders on Tuesday.
The list of solid free agent defensemen gets smaller with each passing day, as the Hurricanes have retained Joni Pitkanen on a three-year deal, according to multiple reports. ESPN.com has the deal carrying a $4.5 million annual cap hit.
That makes two good blueliners to pass on the open market in the last two days, as Kevin Bieksa re-upped with the Canucks for five years and $23 million on Monday. These signings will continue to push Tomas Kaberle higher on the list of coveted free-agent defensemen, as Christian Ehrhoff, James Wisniewski and Kaberle now make up the big three amongst remaining blueliners.
Free agency begins Friday, and Peter Chiarelli has maintained that he’s been in contact with Kaberle’s agent, Rick Curran. The 33-year-old had a $4.25 million cap hit last season and should see a pay decrease. It appeared he might have made significantly less based on his performance for most of his time with the Bruins, but if supply and demand works in his favor, a team could overpay to land him.
|Defense market gets thinner as Kevin Bieksa reportedly re-ups with Canucks||06.27.11 at 3:49 pm ET|
It looks like Kevin Bieksa feels that 29 other teams are just a bit too pee-wee for his liking.
According to multiple reports, the Canucks defenseman will not test the waters of unrestricted free agency, as he has agreed to a new pact with the Canucks, thus thinning the defensive free agent market.
TSN has the deal as being worth $23 million over five years, meaning the 30-year-old will carry a $4.6 million cap hit. It also reportedly includes a no-trade clause. Bieksa had a $3.75 cap hit in each of the three seasons of his previous deal. The immediate feeling here is that he got a fair deal, and that it isn’t exactly a hometown discount.
While he likely would not have been a target of the B’s in free agency, the fact that Bieksa’s name is now out of the pool means teams in need of help on the blueline will look elsewhere. That “elsewhere” is a group that includes Tomas Kaberle, Montreal’s James Wisniewski and Bieksa’s teammate, Christian Ehrhoff.
Bieksa led the Canucks with a plus-32 rating in the regular season, which put him in a tie for second behind Zdeno Chara (plus-33) for tops in the league. He was among the Canucks who may have put themselves in a bad light during the Stanley Cup finals, as he had the dive of all dives in Game 4 when he grabbed his face to draw a high-sticking call on Mark Recchi, despite Recchi’s stick being a good distance from his face. He also joked about the Bruins’ postgame jacket, likening the tradition to something a pee-wee team would do.
Free agency opens Friday.
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