Healthy again, Kelly happy to contribute to Bruins

Healthy again, Kelly happy to contribute to Bruins
September 3, 2014, 1:30 pm
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WILMINGTON – Chris Kelly spent a long, frustrating part of this summer unable to do anything after back surgery, but he’s back on the ice without any hindrances as he approaches an important season with the Boston Bruins. Kelly missed the last few weeks of the regular season and the entire playoffs with a herniated disc in his back that required surgery once Boston’s postseason was over in May.

He then spent about six weeks unable to exercise in any way, lift up his young children or keep in any semblance of shape. It might sound like paradise to some of the lazier people out there, but the B’s third line forward didn’t exactly love it.

“I was kind of a skinny fat guy,” said Kelly. “I had these skinny arms and legs, and a little bit of a bigger belly. I’m a guy that’s used to being active all the time, so it was definitely hard. It was the hardest part of the summer for me. I went home, and I was just sitting around.

“I started feeling much better in August, and getting on the ice was a really big step. I think I’ve been on the ice more this summer than I can’t even remember how long. I only played 55 games last year, so I was excited to get back on the ice. It’s good to get back with the guys, and see what everybody is doing.”

The B’s alternate captain skated as he could once he was cleared by doctors, and has worked out diligently in anticipation of a training camp that could have plenty of turnover among the 12 forwards. For the first time in a while Kelly doesn’t seem to be a lock to be the third-line center, and will instead be among some mixing and matching among the bottom six forwards.

But at least it appears he’ll be fully healthy at the start of NHL training camp on Sept. 18.

Kelly could easily play third-line wing with Carl Soderberg manning the pivot position, and continue to be the reliable, responsible forward covering defensively for his teammates. Or Kelly could be the fourth-line center should the Bruins have alternate plans for Gregory Campbell after a tough year for the recently busted up Merlot Line.

The flexible Kelly could also be a trade consideration after informing the media on Wednesday that he has a limited no-trade clause, and has a list of eight teams he can be traded to at any time.

A deal could certainly alleviate some of the B’s cap problems given Kelly’s $3 million cap hit for next season, but it would also further compromise a dressing room that’s lost big leadership pieces in successive years with the departures of Andrew Ference and Shawn Thornton.

“I’m sure you guys will let me know,” said a smiling Kelly to the media when asked about trades, or what position he’ll play next season. “I’ve played every position before, so I’ll play wherever I’m needed, or wherever it helps.

“[The salary cap and trades] are out of my control. That’s not a hockey player’s issue. That’s a management issue. They do a great job with that, and I’m sure that will continue. There’s been speculation my entire career: who are you going to play with…are you going to be here, or not going to be here? You can go crazy worrying about that stuff.”

It’s notable that Kelly, Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara – arguably the three biggest pieces of Boston’s leadership group -- are all in Boston bright and early with the start of NHL training camp still more than two weeks away. Those kinds of things are the understated, sometimes underappreciated qualities to Kelly’s game that many people overlook when clamoring about an oversized contract for a complementary player on the ice.

While shedding Kelly’s cap hit might help slightly in the short term, losing his voice inside the dressing room could be something with longstanding implications for the Black and Gold.