Kelly, Campbell close to re-signing with Bruins

Kelly, Campbell close to re-signing with Bruins
June 11, 2012, 9:27 pm
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While the details still need to be ironed out, both sides of the negotiating table have communicated to CSNNE.com that centers Chris Kelly and Gregory Campbell are close to finalizing multi-year deals that will keep them in Boston.

With those close-to-ironclad agreements, it appears the Bruins are ready to take another two or three stabs at a second Stanley Cup with virtually the same cast of characters.

Key players like Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin -- who came up woefully short at times during the postseason -- will once again be counted upon to power Bostons engine.

Once Kelly and Campbell have signed on the dotted line, the Bruins will have their four centers intact, and the only winger to remain unsigned will be restricted free agent Benoit Pouliot.

A nucleus-altering deal could be in the cards for Boston at some point, and David Krejci would be the most logical piece with value that could be moved.

But it wouldnt radically change the roster for the reigning Cup champions. ("Reigning" until things get sorted out between Los Angeles and New Jersey, obviously.)

Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli has already stated hell be searching for a "top 9" forward, so that points to at least one addition being made to the Boston front line.

Names like Ryan Smyth, Olli Jokinen, P.A. Parenteau, Steve Sullivan and Ray Whitney dot a forward free-agent market thats very thin behind players like Zach Parise, Shane Doan and Teemu Selanne that have little-to-zero shot of coming to Boston.

It appears Nathan Horton is being counted on for a full recovery, and the Bruins will need his scoring and big-bodied presence around the net.

Its clear the Bruins were an offensively robust team prior to Horton taking a head shot in late January, and a less productive hockey club while going a pedestrian 18-16-2 over the final 36 games leading into the playoffs.

With Horton back and Rich Peverley slotted back into a better-fitting third-line role, the Bruins should look much more like the team that finished second in the NHL with 3.17 goals per game.

Horton is a big key for them in my mind, said one NHL scout that watched the Bruins closely all of last season. If he comes back then their top line and their third line are better for it. For my money, Peverley is a great third line player and thats what theyve got him pegged as. Trouble starts when you have to those kinds of guys up and down the lineup.

Its the kind of trouble that turns into a one-and-out in the playoffs.

Top drawer players like Rick Nash and Parise will be available for the highest bidder, but it's doubtful that bidder represents the Black and Gold. That would change if the Bs seriously entertained dealing away Lucic, Dougie Hamilton or Seguin, but there is zero shot of that.

That goes doubly so if the Bruins are saddled with the 5 million of Tim Thomas while hes off singing Rocky Mountain High for the season.

The defense will largely be the same as well.

Joe Corvo and his questionable on-ice decisions are gone in a classic case of addition by subtraction, and the 18-year-old Hamilton is expected to make the team after a summer of development camp, rookie training camp, and full Bruins training camp as NHL orientation.

But aside from Hamilton teaching the rest of the Black and Gold how to Dougie besides, Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand learned that last summer the Bs blueline corps should also be extremely familiar.

The only big difference for next season is between the pipes. Thomas is gone and has played his last game for the Boston Bruins no matter how his situation is resolved.

Tuukka Rask will be the man in a transitional season when Bruins management thought hed begin taking over the reigns anyway.

Thats why Thomas no-movement clause is gone July 1, and thats why the Bruins structured his contract to make him attractive to teams seeking to surmount the salary cap floor heading into the 2012-13 season.

So the Bruins will hitch their wagons to Rask and Anton Khudobin for next season, and hope they see their Finnish netminder turn into a franchise goaltender. Theres no doubting the challenge in Rask's first legit chance outside the considerable Thomas shadow.

Rask should get something in the 3 million range when negotiations are finished for the arbitration-eligible restricted free agent, and it will be up to him to prove he can maintain consistency with a 60-game workload as the franchise goalie.

Bostons goaltending play will go a long way toward deciding just how good the Bruins can be post-Thomas, but recent moves show theyll be giving it another run with the same nucleus that captured the Cup.

While some will clamor for the flashy names or the biggest free agent gun on the market, the Bruins know they can win with what they have inside their dressing room right now.

Watching another team hoist the Cup this summer could be exactly what the Bs need to motivate them to stomp their way through the Eastern Conference next season. It is a wide open conference and will be won by a healthy, motivated team that has fight, luck, depth and some good old-fashioned skill on their side.

The Bruins are banking on having all of that and then some, even without their Conn Smythe winner.

Nobody knows if they can do it or not, but it should be fascinating to watch them try.