Bruins will stay course in free agency

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Bruins will stay course in free agency

WILMINGTON, Mass. Peter Chiarelli has been nothing if not consistent in his message this spring and summer.

His words arent going to inspire Bruins fans to work up into a free agent lather or allow them to play rotisserie hockey with their hometown hockey club.

But instead theyre the steady, intelligent strategies of somebody building a long term hockey winner.

The Bruins GM cant afford to start shoehorning high priced mercenaries from the free agent market into a proven dressing room, and its probably the best course of action at the end of the day.

Chiarelli once again warned everybody on Friday that the Bruins wont be big time players when NHL free agency opens on July 1. The priority for the Bs front office is simple and clear: keeping a proven playoff club together.

Perhaps there will be a hockey deal for a veteran winger made in the days following Sundays open to free agency, but there wont be a dismantling of a team thats made it to the second round of the playoffs in three of the last four seasons, won Northeast Division titles in three of the last four years and snagged the organizations first Stanley Cup in nearly four decades.

That can lead to little movement during the leagues biggest days for transactions, and that doesnt have to be a bad thing.

My gut is telling me that well be quiet on July 1thats my gut, said Chiarelli. If you look at as to how weve built our team over the years - but for my first year and maybe when we signed Michael Ryder we havent really gone out and hit a couple home runs on July 1.

Maybe I look at the trade market after the July 1, but my gut instinct is Ill probably be quiet.

Some may point to fluky elements to last years Stanley Cup run and others see a clear and present offensive problem with the Black and Gold if Nathan Horton doesnt return to pre-concussion form next year. Some chalk up the Bruins Cup to an insanely hot goaltender that carried them through a wide open Eastern Conference.

There may be small, hidden truths within all of those statements, but lets be clear about one thing: no team has ever won four playoff rounds including three Game 7s because it was a fluke.

That notion is dumber than Jim Carey and Jeff Daniels double-riding a motor scooter through Aspen.

While the offense isnt as big a problem as some might have you believe with a bevy of 20-goal scorers and a goal-scoring star just waiting to explode in Tyler Seguin, the Bruins also didnt look like the NHLs No. 2 ranked offense in their first round loss to the Washington Capitals.

So instead of tearing apart his team to chase after Zach Parise, Rick Nash or Ryan Suter, Chiarelli is resolute in keeping the Bruins together with the re-signing of Tuukka Rask to a one-year deal as the latest piece of evidence. Improvements are expected in big games from guys like Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Brad Marchand, and reputations will be on the line next season.

The Bruins are at roughly 68.2 million in contracts with a tentative 70.2 million cap ceiling set for the summer, and there is a temporary 10 percent bump over the cap ceiling for the summer. That means Chiarelli could spend as much as 9 million more on a free agent or trade acquisition this off-season while working to move the 5 million Tim Thomas cap hit before September rolls around.

The Bruins could conceivably expend all of that cap room while assuming a new CBA will push the salary cap ceiling higher than its ever been, or before a soft cap with a luxury tax is installed just like Major League Baseball.

But Chiarelli and the Bruins cant run on assumptions with a new CBA.

Thats what Mike OConnell and Harry Sinden did seven years ago when they let Sergei Gonchar, Michael Nylander, Mike Knuble and Brian Rolston walk away from the Bruins for nothing in return. They assumed there would be a free agent bonanza coming out of the NHL lockout, and cleared the decks to throw cash at the superstar free agents sure to be free on the market.

Instead the immortally cooked Alex Zhamnov and the ghost of Brian Leetch walked through that door.

Sinden and OConnell totally misread the market and never saw the 24 percent player salary rollback coming. They were left with rookies, retreads and a glorified expansion roster coming out of the work stoppage, and the woeful assumption business model was proven once again to be a failure.

It took years to undo the damage done during that single offseason, and Chiarelli and Co. wont be making the mistake of assuming anything in the new labor deal.

Instead Chiarelli has been conservative while spending close to the 70.2 million cap set for the summer, and is prepared for the worst financial landscape possible should it arise out of the new CBA.

Things could be better or worse for the Bruins when Don Fehr and Gary Bettman get done with each other, but theyll be prepared either way.

Believe it or not, Im trying to be cautious and trying to keep the team together. I like the flexibility we have going forward. Whether its the upcoming RFAs, the contracts that are expiring, whether its the young guys coming up that may be good replacement players, or whether its specifically on Tim Thomas deal his deal will be expiring, said Chiarelli. I actually like that flexibility but I try and be cautious. Im trying to operate under that 70.2 million number; Im a shade under it now.

Keeping the team together is a priority. If for whatever reason the cap goes down a significant number, then we have to deal with it and we feel that we have very good players if we have to move players aroundthen we can do that. I would hope that we dont do that, but the short answer is yes. Im trying to be cautious and stay under that number.

Those dreaming of chasing high-priced free agents or wooing Rick Nash to Boston also arent looking ahead to what awaits after next season has concluded.

Win, lose or draw Chiarelli and the Bruins will have plenty of work to do a year from today.
Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand, Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton and Tuukka Rask will all be due for new contracts, and their showing this coming season whether the Bruins fall short during the playoffs or make another deep, inspiring Cup run as they did last season will determine whether the Bruins stay together.

Some of those players may be signed during the season a la Johnny Boychuk, Shawn Thornton and Rich Peverley last season.

But it would appear the upcoming season will have a major impact on the teams future outlook with personnel decisions.

It will be a challenge to win without arguably the most important piece in Tim Thomas, but two seasons ago the Bruins earned the right to get a few cracks at the Cup after proving they were championship material.

Sometimes the most difficult thing in the world is to have faith while a world of sound and fury cries for change and improvements.

Thats what Chiarelli is showing in his current group of players for at least this upcoming season, and it will be much clearer a year from now whether that roster faith has been properly rewarded.

Saturday, Aug. 27: Adding toughness Habs' priority

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Saturday, Aug. 27: Adding toughness Habs' priority

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, after a busy morning celebrating my 3-year-old’s birthday at the trampoline park. Yee-ha.

*PHT writer Joey Alfieri says that adding toughness was a big offseason priority for the Montreal Canadiens.

*There’s at least one big fan of the Edmonton Oilers trade that brought defenseman Adam Larsson from the New Jersey Devils, and that fan’s name is Mark Letestu.

*Here’s everything you need to know about the Ice Guardians movie premiering this fall that takes a long, balanced look at the NHL enforcers.

*Roberto Luongo has an alibi for the robbery in Winnipeg with one suspect getting away in goalie equipment, and it’s funny as you would expect it to be.

*CSN Washington takes a look at the New York Rangers in their season previews for the Metro Division.

*I’m not entirely sure whether this “RIP Harambe” thing is genuine or meant to be ironic by the largely millenial group that seem so enamored with it, but I think it’s just stupid. I think the same with the crying Jordan meme…also stupid.

*For something completely different: a look at how Triumph the Insult Comic Dog learned how to poop on Trump’s politics.

 

Countdown to camp: Danton Heinen

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Countdown to camp: Danton Heinen

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From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2016-17 Bruins. Today: Danton Heinen.

Danton Heinen exploded into a high-profile prospect for the Bruins after finishing among the NCAA’s top scoring players a couple of years ago as a freshman along with a couple of guys named Jack Eichel and Dylan Larkin. 

Since then, Heinen has continued to produce offense at the University of Denver and continued to create offense that leads to points. Now, the 21-year-old Heinen will be entering the professional arena for his first full season with the Bruins and he’ll be attempting to transition from the prospect phase to a regular gig in the NHL. That’s the challenge for a talented player who appears headed into a very good opportunity in NHL training camp.

 

What happened last year

Heinen was every bit as explosive in his second season for Denver as he was in his brilliant freshman campaign. He improved on his scoring with 20 goals and 48 points in 41 games. Then Heinen signed with the Bruins at the end of his sophomore season and played in a couple of pro games in the AHL with Providence as a tune-up for this first full pro campaign with the Bruins organization. Heinen finished with two assists and a plus-1 rating in four games with the P-Bruins and showed the coaches in Providence that he was ready to play and produce with more talented players. If Heinen surprised a little bit as a breakout freshman two years ago, his sophomore follow-up in Denver last season proved to everybody that he wasn’t a fluke.

 

Questions to be answered this season

The real question surrounding Heinen is about his ceiling as an NHL player and just how good he can become as a player with the skills and playmaking abilities to be a top-six forward. He’s proven he can dominate at the collegiate level while admittedly playing with some pretty good teammates at Denver. Heinen showed at the end of the season in Providence that the pro scene might not be much different for him. At this point, Heinen simply needs to go out and prove it against the best players in the world and show that his speed, playmaking and hockey sense are all elite in the AHL or NHL. Heinen’s biggest obstacle might be his size. He'll need to survive as a targeted skill player despite not being much more than the 6-feet, 180-pound range for a forward. It’s about average for a playmaking wing in the NHL, but the hits and attention will be at a much more intense level than anything he faced in the NCAA world.

 

What they're saying

“He’s the type of player that he can play with good players because he’s got high hockey IQ and he’s got really good skill. I think anywhere you put him, he’s smart enough to figure it out. I think you’ll notice him during training camp. It will definitely be up to him, but I think he’ll push some guys.” –Bruins assistant coach Jay Pandolfo on Heinen during last month’s development camp where Heinen soared as a performer.

 
Outlook

While Heinen still has some things he’ll need to prove before he’s a regular contributor for the Bruins, he comes into the Boston fold as an experienced player following two very good seasons at the college level. So, Heinen should be a little closer to plug-and-play for Claude Julien than some of the other young players that have come through the system in the past couple of years. Heinen will still need to flash in camp while being handed a big spot to perform with high-end veterans Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Brad Marchand potentially off playing in the World Cup of Hockey. Heinen also has a much greater chance of winning an NHL job sooner rather than later after the Bruins lost out on the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes and still have a top-six forward opening that somebody is going to fill. Heinen and Frank Vatrano are the two biggest favorites to fill that position, which became vacant when Loui Eriksson departed for Vancouver. Whichever winger loses that battle should be also be a strong candidate for a role on the third line, as well, barring any late veteran signings by the B’s. That set of circumstances leaves a very good situation for Heinen to potentially walk into with the Black and Gold, but he'll still have to show he’s fully capable of seizing his good fortune and good timing. 

Bruins’ new Warrior Ice Arena practice facility to open Sept. 8.

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Bruins’ new Warrior Ice Arena practice facility to open Sept. 8.

The Bruins’ new practice facility has been years in the making and they will finally get to officially open the doors to Warrior Ice Arena in Brighton next month. 

The B’s players will start informal captain’s practice skates at the new facility on the New Balance property in these final days of August, but the team announced on Friday that the new facility will be officially opened to the public on Thursday, Sept. 8.

Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, Bruins CEO Charlie Jacobs, team president Cam Neely, general manager Don Sweeney and a number of players will be on hand for the opening ceremony and ensuing open house for the media. Also planning to attend from New Balance will be Owner and Chairman Jim Davis and NB Development Group LLC Managing Director Jim Halliday, along with Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Massachusetts Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo. 

Following the formal portion of the event, Warrior Ice Arena will host the “Boston Youth All-Star Game featuring Bruins Alumni” which will feature local squirt players from the Boston communities of Allston-Brighton, Charlestown, Dorchester, Hyde Park, South Boston and West Roxbury mixed in with members of the Bruins alumni. 

The Youth All-Stars will team with Bruins alumni and they will play the first official game before the ice is turned over to the current Bruins players for their training camp later in the month.

The Warrior Ice Arena gets its name from the Warrior brand of hockey equipment that is now a division of New Balance and comes with a 79-foot high Warrior hockey stick that greets visitors at the front entrance doors.

Warrior Ice Arena will be the B’s new and permanent practice home after the Bruins spent 25-plus years practicing in the suburbs of Boston at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington.