I spent most of the end of May and the first week in June on vacation, leaving little time for Bruin-related musings and writing. Some stuff certainly merits discussion, so here’s a quick rundown on some of the things that have gone on.
- Kelly and Campbell re-sign I like both of the deals, Campbell’s more so than Kelly’s. Kelly had a terrific year in 2011-2012, setting career highs in goals and points. As an unrestricted free agent, he was probably going to cash in on July 1st. However, Peter Chiarelli locked him up, and didn’t really overpay for his services. I don’t mind the cap hit ($3 million), but the four year term is a hiccup for me. In my opinion, it’s at least a year too long. Kelly’s a solid player, and is almost more valuable on the defensive end (and on the PK) than he is on offense. But one of his biggest assets is his speed, something that will probably start to slow down as he skates past his 32nd birthday in November. I like what he brings to the team, but would’ve preferred three (or even two) years. As far as Campbell’s deal goes, I like that signing. It keeps the “Merlot Line” intact, and while that trio had its struggles last season, it has been one of the better fourth lines in the NHL since its inception. And for $1.6 million? Not bad. Plus, it keeps Papa Campbell and the NHL on the Bruins’ side, right conspiracy theorists?
- The Thomas Saga I don’t even know where to begin with Tim Thomas. Yikes. The idea that Thomas might sit out the season came out of left field, seeming far-fetched at first before rapidly gaining steam and being confirmed by the Bruins and Thomas himself. Whoa. To me, this is one of two things: Thomas sincerely wishing to spend more time with his wife and kids, or Thomas taking his ball and going home. Let’s face it: 2012 wasn’t exactly Thomas’ best year. On the ice, he was decent enough; off the ice, he was lambasted by most for skipping out on the White House, had a scathing story written about him in the Boston Globe that basically called him a locker room cancer, and was just about run out of town by certain media members (*cough* Comcast SportsNet). I keep going back and forth on this. On the one hand, he worked so hard to get to the NHL and was, just a year ago, at its peak, and all of a sudden he wants to spend more time with his family? On the other hand, he’s always been one to thrive on criticism and use it as fuel; if that’s the case, one can be sure that he heard and noted everything said about him by the Boston media. He knows about the trade rumors as well. So what does it all mean? Your guess is as good as mine or anyone else’s. Only Thomas knows for sure. Did he skip out on his team (again), or should he be respected for putting family first? Is he selfishly trying to prevent the Bruins from trading him, or is he legitimately burnt out? Who knows, but I’m willing to bet that the saga is far from over.
- Kelly contract “issue” There were rumblings on Twitter last week about the NHL “rejecting” Chris Kelly’s contract, rumors that turned out to be garbage. An RDS reporter said that the league rejected the deal, when the deal was never actually signed in the first place. The deal was agreed to in principle, but the B’s and Kelly had to wait until July 1st to finalize things. Why? Tagging, or the practice of going over the current salary cap in future dollars. Kelly’s new raise would’ve put the B’s over the current salary cap, and even though it’s in future years’ money, it’s not allowed by the CBA. The B’s knew about this in advance, hence the “in principle” part. Kelly’s deal should be finalized on July 1st when free agency opens.
- Draft! I’m not really much of an NHL draft junkie, but there are plenty of people out there who follow prospects religiously. The B’s are picking 24th, and appear to be targeting a defenseman again. Aside from Dougie Hamilton, the B’s don’t really have a high-end defensive prospect in the system. They’ve got players like David Warsofsky, Torey Krug, and Tommy Cross, but that’s about it. They’ve got plenty of youth in their forward corps (Tyler Seguin, Jordan Caron, Ryan Spooner, Jordan Knight, Alexander Khokhlachev, etc.), so another defense prospect would be, in my opinion, the best way to go.
- Awards! The NHL Awards are tomorrow night in Las Vegas, with Zdeno Chara (Norris) and Patrice Bergeron (Selke) representing the B’s. Bergeron should walk away with his first Selke Trophy, as he finally seems to be getting the recognition he deserves from the national hockey media (scoring twice in Game 7 of the Cup Final will do that, I guess). Chara? Eh. Probably not. Chara is probably the best defenseman (period) out of the nominated trio (Erik Karlsson and Shea Weber being the other two nominees), but it seems like it might be Weber’s time. Karlsson has probably gotten the most press, but it seems like the writers have long hesitated to give the award for best defenseman to a player known more for his offense than his defense. Honestly, Chara is probably third on most ballots, mainly because he did what he’s done for years now: shut down top players and played under-the-radar, solid defense. Karlsson has the flash, and Weber has the youth. Both of those will probably overshadow Chara.
- Free agents! The B’s, as of Tuesday night, have yet to qualify RFA’s Benoit Pouliot and Tuukka Rask. Rask will certainly be qualified prior to Monday’s deadline, meaning he will stay Bruins property and will either sign a new deal or go to arbitration. Pouliot, however, is a wild card: the B’s could elect to let him walk, passing on a qualifying offer and letting Pouliot become a UFA. He played solid hockey for the most part for the B’s, and should generate much more interest than he did coming out of Montreal. I could go either way with this one. I could see the B’s signing him to another one-year deal with an eye towards Nathan Horton’s health; but I could also see them passing, electing to go instead with a youngster like Jordan Caron. Either way, we’ll have more solid news on the Benny front within a week.