Haggerty: Seguin, Marchand signings show progress

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Haggerty: Seguin, Marchand signings show progress

Oh, what a difference seven years can make.

When the Bruins last faced a looming lockout, their general manager at the time, Mike OConnell, felt the best course of action was to allow a solid nucleus to dissolve in free agency. Playmaking center Michael Nylander, in-his-prime puck-moving defenseman Sergei Gonchar, prototype power forward Mike Knuble and Mr. Versatility Brian Rolston were all allowed to leave Boston heading into the lockout.

OConnell and the Bruins had a belief that the NHL lockout landscape would create a bountiful free agent class in a buyers market, but a few things tripped them up. Chief among those tripping points was a 24 percent salary rollback for the players that OConnell and Harry Sinden didnt foresee in those bitter CBA negotiations.

That serious free agency misread led to overpayment for cooked free agent veterans like Brian Leetch and Alex Zhamnov, and within two seasons the Bruins franchise was in a free fall after dealing franchise player Joe Thornton.

It wouldnt be hyperbole to say that the Bruins front office had the worst strategy coming out of the last lockout.

Its amazing how things have changed.

Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli is determined to keep his core of Bruins players together that won a Stanley Cup two years ago, and has re-signed young forwards Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin to multi-year deals over the last week. Marchand inked a four-year, 18 million extension at the end of last week that will keep him in Boston through the 2016-17 season, and Seguin signed a six-year, 34.5 million that will keep in Boston through the 2018-19 campaign.

I think thats where I am right now in my career. I feel like Ive settled in a bit here in Boston over two years. I dont think my age is a factor. I want to be a leader, even at the age of 20, said Seguin. Getting situated with the boys and learning everybody and getting to know everyone in the organization, I feel I can step into those leadership roles and step into those shoes.

Whether its new guys or just giving a good example out there on the ice, thats what I want to do.

Seguin will be earn an average of 5.75 million per season that will make him the highest paid forward on the Bruins roster, and put him in the same neighborhood as the contracts signed by Carolina Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner and Edmonton Oilers Taylor Hall last month.

Chiarelli has worked tirelessly to make sure that history wont repeat itself in Boston around this lockout even if he wasnt a primary witness to the botched roster strategy. He also wont be held hostage by the unknown CBA that will be in place over the next few months, and the conditions that might make it necessary for him to make trades under a lowered salary cap.

Chiarelli also took some issue with past reputations for penny-pinching within the walls of the Bruins ownership offices. It might have simply come down to a former Bs front office contingent -- one that helped lead the Bruins to more than 20 straight playoff appearances -- that made some major miscalculations in the end with the franchise paying the price.

You have to look at what our projected payroll and projected layout will be after this year to gauge the money thats being spent, said Chiarelli. But your point about the frugality of the Jacobs family? I hadnt been part of that and I dont know if it really ever existed. I take you for your word that that was the reputation. But I do know that when I came in here that -- Id seen past payrolls here -- the payroll was fairly high.

"We want to be prudent and we want to be fiscally responsible when we make these decisions. I think weve shown that we generally have been and will continue to try to be, but we also want to win. We want to put the best team on the ice for our fans. I think before you can characterize us as lofty, lofty spenders -- and were obviously in the top quartile over the course of my tenure here -- it does show commitment on the part of our ownership and a willingness to win. Were going to continue to do it that way, but in a responsible way. Its about making smart decisions."

Clearly both Marchand and Seguin had motives to get deals done before potentially unfriendly CBA conditions become a reality, and No. 19 is the future of the Boston Bruins franchise. Hes just scratching the surface of his greatness after leading the Bruins in goals, and points in his second NHL season, and he talked on Tuesday about beginning a life in Boston.

Chiarelli had plenty on his plate with Marchand, Seguin, Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton, Tuukka Rask and Andrew Ference all facing free agency after this upcoming season, and perhaps even greater headaches ahead if the players are fighting for less money. The Bruins general manager now has two of those major deals taken care of before the next NHL season eventually gets underway.

Lucic should be similarly signed if both sides can find something in the 5.5 million-per-season range to lock up a vital power forward piece in the Black and Gold attack.

As if the Stanley Cup championship and the four Northeast Division titles in the last five seasons didnt separate Chiarelli and Co. enough from the business as usual that had transpired on Causeway Street prior to their arrival, the Bruins pre-lockout strategy this time around is 180 degrees different.

It would appear this B's regime is determined not to repeat history, and that's a very good thing.

Its also another sign that the Black and Gold will be headed in the proper direction once the NHL comes to its senses and starts playing the games that everybody will be pining for over the next few months.

Veteran center Dominic Moore among Bruins signings

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Veteran center Dominic Moore among Bruins signings

The Bruins announced some organizational signings and one surprise dip into late summer free agency with a one-year, $900,000 contract for 36-year-old depth center Dominic Moore.

The B’s also announced one year, two-way contracts for forward Brian Ferlin, along with defensemen Chris Casto and Alex Grant, and all three of those players will serve as young, organizational depth players in Providence.

Moore has spent each of the last three seasons with the New York Rangers amid a career 765 NHL games played as a solid face-off and penalty-kill player that has fourth line candidate written all over him.

The Bruins will be former Harvard center Moore’s 10th NHL team. He’s coming off a season where he posted six goals and 15 points in 80 games for the Blueshirts, and has previously played for Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Toronto, Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, Tampa Bay and San Jose along with the Rangers.

While Moore is a solid candidate for fourth-line duty that will provide leadership, good face-off work, solid and gritty penalty-kill work and all kinds of NHL experience, he is also a 36-year-old on a team that has a ton of center candidates headed into camp. 

Moore’s presence could be problematic if he’s standing in the way of developing young centers Austin Czarnik and Noel Acciari. The expectation is that B’s coach Claude Julien, as he always has in the past with safe veterans like Chris Kelly, will go with a player like Moore over the youngsters if times start getting tough for the Black and Gold.

Ferlin, 24, completed his second professional season with the AHL's Providence Bruins in 2015-16, producing six goals and eight assists for 14 points with 27 penalty minutes and a plus-nine rating in 23 games. He was sidelined for much of last season in Providence by a concussion.

Casto, 24, completed his third full AHL season with Providence in 2015-16, establishing career highs with seven goals and 16 assists for 23 points with 47 penalty minutes in 68 games.

Grant, 27, spent the 2015-16 season with the Arizona Coyotes organization, splitting time between the Coyotes and their AHL affiliate in Springfield. He recorded seven penalty minutes in five games in the NHL, while compiling 11 goals and 31 assists for 42 points with 57 penalty minutes in 69 games in the AHL.  

 

 

Haggerty: Bruins say hunger is back, but we must see it on the ice

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Haggerty: Bruins say hunger is back, but we must see it on the ice

BRIGHTON – It only amounts to lip service coming in the first few days the Bruins players are simply getting together for informal captain’s practices, but it’s pretty clear the fire is burning brightly after missing the playoffs two years in a row.

For a group that still includes some players that made the playoffs seven seasons in a row, made it to the Cup Finals twice and hoisted the Stanley Cup in 2011, it feels like that sting of pride is very close to the surface.

Torey Krug wouldn’t even entertain discussion of last season when asked about it following Monday’s skating session at the new Warrior Ice Arena practice facility. David Krejci said he’s officially done talking about winning the Cup five long years ago. Now, it’s about righting the ship for the Bruins, and getting things back moving in a positive, forward progression after moving backwards and sideways over the last two years.

As always, the playmaking Krejci gives a straight, honest take about where the team is on the down side of their Cup years.

“I feel like we’re back to where we started 10 years ago, you know? The teams didn’t make the playoffs, and now we kind of have some new guys. It’s still a good mix with some experienced guys,” said Krejci. “But the hunger, it’s there again. Obviously we haven’t been in the playoffs for a couple of years. It’s exciting times.

“If you go back to 2011 and then to 2013, we were in the Final. But we knew that we had already won two years before. We did try, but you always knew in the back of your mind that you’d already won the Cup. Now, it’s like the Cup is out of the window and that was a long time ago. I’m going to talk about the Cup when I retire, so now we’re all hungry again. We missed the playoffs two years in a row, and it’s a new excitement again. I just can’t wait to get back into it.”

Krejci’s first full season in the NHL was actually the year that the B’s made it back into the postseason in 2007-08, but he was close enough to the organization to see what it was like at the 2006 training camp when a great deal was in flux for the Black and Gold.

It’s not unlike the big changes that the Bruins have seen in the past two years with the hopes that there will start being a payoff in the near future.

It’s exciting for Krejci, in particular, as he should be 100 percent healthy for the first time in three years after surgery on his left hip last spring. A healthy Krejci and Patrice Bergeron will give the Black and Gold their potent 1-2 punch down the middle and there’s also a healthy chip on the shoulder of the B’s defensemen crew after a difficult campaign last year.

Krug admitted as much while brushing off big picture questions about what happened last season, and why this season should be any different for a group of seven defensemen returning from last season’s crew ranked 19th in the league.

“I’m not going to talk about [last year]. We’re moving on. This group will use it as motivation moving forward. With this new practice facility, everybody is excited to get back together and start moving forward,” said Krug. “We have [D-men] pieces in here that maybe people aren’t getting too excited about, but we know what we have in this room. We’ve grown and developed together.

“We know that we’re highly capable of taking whatever is thrown our way. But I know the D-men especially are motivated to prove a lot of people wrong that we’re not ready to compete, and not ready to be a playoff team.”

That’s essentially what it comes down to for the Black and Gold. They can talk about regaining the hunger to compete and utilizing last season’s failures as motivation for this season, but it all amounts to nothing unless they show it on the ice on a consistent basis.

It will be months before everybody truly knows if it’s more than talk from the Bruins and before we learn whether the B’s even have the talent on the roster to truly compete in a difficult, improving Atlantic Division. 

For now, the optimism is running high for the returning Black and Gold players and that registers as something as they slowly ramp up to the start of training camp next month and the season opener on Oct. 13 in Columbus against the Blue Jackets. 

 

Bruins come away impressed with new practice facility

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Bruins come away impressed with new practice facility

BRIGHTON – It’s been a summer brimming with anticipation for Bruins players and management alike with the prospect of moving into a new, state-of-the-art practice facility.

The Bruins contingent hosted Jimmy Vesey at their new Warrior Ice Arena home a couple of weeks ago and the B’s players christened the ice by kicking off their informal captain’s practices on Monday morning.

Torey Krug, David Krejci, Adam McQuaid, John-Michael Liles, Noel Acciari and Frank Vatrano all hit the ice to work with a local goaltender and went through skating drills for the hour-plus to get the blood pumping. Krejci left the ice after roughly 15 minutes as he recovers from left hip surgery, but was still left excited at the prospect of practicing in the new digs after spending his entire Bruins career with Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington as their practice home.

The arena doesn’t officially open until the Bruins and New Balance hold a grand opening on Sept. 8, but color several Bruins veterans impressed.

“It’s beautiful. It’s great. It’s a little bit different than Wilmington,” said Krejci. “You guys will get a chance to see it next week, but it’s pretty cool.”

The captain’s practices will continue in earnest with more Bruins players joining the group as the calendar gets closer to the start of training camp. The expectation is that all of the B’s skaters will be wholly impressed with the new facility. 

Clearly, it’s got all the bells and whistles of a new rink, and the closer proximity is a bonus for Bruins players that these days live in and around Boston rather than in the distant suburbs.

There's even the distinct possibility in the not-so distant future that the Bruins could start holding game day morning skates at the practice facility rather than at the Garden. It's something already done in Montreal, where the Habs have a similar setup with their practice rink in Brossard, just outside of the city. 

“It’s beautiful. For the guys that have been the scenes and doing all the work in Wilmington all of these years, it’s great for them to be a part of this and move into a new building,” said Krug. “I’m fortunate to be here and be a part of it. That’s exciting.”

Krug joked that being an early arriver at Warrior Arena doesn’t guarantee him one of the big lockers in the dressing room once training camp gets going: “I’m pretty sure Zee [captain Zdeno Chara] will kick me out of whatever stall I picked. It’s obviously exciting to be one of the first guys skating on this ice.”