Kelly wants to return to Boston, but will it happen?


Kelly wants to return to Boston, but will it happen?

There is plenty of unknown for the Boston Bruins as they stagger into the offseason well short of their season-long goal.

Perhaps the biggest name in question for next year and beyond is third line center Chris Kelly. The ultra-dependable working mans pivot enters the offseason unsigned after the player and team agreed to set aside contract talks late in the regular season.

Kellys camp and the Bruins both had opening discussions right around the time fourth line enforcer Shawn Thornton signed his contract extension with the team in late February. While the team and one of their longtime fourth line leaders quickly found some common ground, Kelly didnt want the talks to become distracting as the team concentrated on finishing strong before entering the playoffs.

As it turns out none of that mattered very much, but Kellys heart was in the right place, as it normally is.

They were talking a bit and we stopped obviously. I thought it was the best thing for me and for the team, so we could focus on playing. As much you dont want to let contract stuff become a distraction while its going on, it is always in the back of your head, said Kelly. Hopefully my agent and Peter Chiarelli will talk and get something done. Ive made it clear I like it here and Im not just telling you that. I really do like it here.

Some guys just say that, but everything about Boston has been a pleasant surprise. From the team, the coaching staff, the management all the way down to the city. I didnt know anything about the city after coming here last year, but my wife and I and my family have really grown to love it here.

Now that its over, Kelly becomes perhaps the most difficult call for Chiarelli among his unsigned incumbent players. Tuukka Rask and Benoit Pouliot are restricted free agents, and that would point toward both players coming back with the Bruins. Of the two, Rask is a dead-lock definite that could be in line for a multi-year contract extension as the heir apparent to Tim Thomas.

Defensively-challenged Joe Corvo wont be back, and both Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell could be moving on after the Bs fourth line was pretty badly outplayed by the Washington Capitals fourth line of Joel Ward, Keith Aucoin and Mike Knuble during the playoffs.

But Kelly left his indelible mark as a team leader and needed dressing room voice, and also managed to enjoy a career year by hitting the 20 goals scored mark for the first time. The Bruins were 18-0-0 this season when Kelly scored a goal during the year, and he also finished tied for third in the NHL with Zdeno Chara with a plus-33.

For a 31-year-old two-way center that had been traded to Boston for a second round pick just a season earlier, Kelly reached new individual heights with the Bruins and enters free agency poised to earn the best player contract of his pro hockey career.

The center must weigh doing whats right financially for his family with his desire to remain in Boston as a third line center behind Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. Thats heady stuff for a player thats earned everything he will get this summer, and can now choose the exact path he wants to walk down.

Kelly is not really much of an optimist by nature, but he is hoping things do work out with the Black and Gold.

I seem to be the kind of guy thats glass half-full rather than half-empty, dont I? Im hoping that we get something done, said Kelly. I will always weigh every option and possibility. Thats my job as a player and as a guy with a young family. Thats my responsibility. But if we can get something done here then Id like to stay here.

I know being on a good, winning hockey team is an important thing for me and it always has been.

The biggest question: will another good, winning hockey team recognize how much Kelly brings to the table on and off the ice and send him an offer over 3 million per season that the Bruins shouldnt prudently match within their salary structure?

Perhaps Kelly is that valuable to his former team in Ottawa with a host of young players that could benefit from his leadership with Daniel Alfredsson possibly moving on to retirement.

It might happen and if it does Kelly might just be moving on next season no matter how much he loved and enjoyed his time in Black and Gold. But that would appear a long way off now either way with negotiations not expected to heat up until after the Stanley Cup Finals in June.

Backes: Bruins were ‘wounded’ after ugly Detroit loss

Backes: Bruins were ‘wounded’ after ugly Detroit loss

BRIGHTON, Mass – It certainly sounded like there were some things that made the Wednesday night loss in Detroit a little different for the Bruins.

The Bruins media corps conducted postgame interviews in the hallway rather than in the visiting dressing room after what must have been a combustible atmosphere immediately following the shootout defeat. 

There was also evidence of anger in the visitor’s dressing room at Joe Louis Arena, according to reports, with a door off its hinges when the media was able to get a look inside the dressing room area.

David Backes confirmed something was different about the loss after blowing a pair of three-goal leads, and failing to follow up their dreadful no-show vs. the Islanders with a winning performance against another bad team in Detroit. The B’s forward said the plane ride home from Detroit was solemn and quiet, and that it was clear the Bruins team was “wounded” after a crushing loss.

“Both [losses] can be great lessons if we learn from it, and neither was very enjoyable. That was probably the quietest I think our guys were all year on that plane ride home from Detroit,” said Backes. “To me, that’s a great sign that it hit us in the heart, and it hit us where it really mattered. We’re thinking about how we can turn the tide and thinking about we can be victorious the next time out.

“We had the lead, and in a lot of instances you’re expecting, as you should, to come out of there with two points. We’re at the time in the season where wins need to be garnered and taken home.

“There were a lot of aspects where we should have grabbed the game back. When you feel like you’ve had a lot of opportunities to take the game and you don’t do it, it’s not a good feeling. I was reflecting on that during a very quiet team plane ride back from Detroit, and it seemed pretty clear that the whole team was feeling wounded. I think it’s a good sign that guys were feeling that way, and that means they’re going to do everything in their power to not have that feeling again.”

The words are encouraging from a 32-year-old natural leader in Backes, who has seen good times and bad as captain of the St. Louis Blues in his 10-year NHL career. But the proof is ultimately on the ice where the Bruins have games against the Blackhawks and Penguins coming up and face some very stiff tests coming off a couple of losses against the worst teams in the East that exposed Black and Gold fragility at this point in the season. 


After knee injury, Beleskey set to return for Bruins vs. Blackhawks

After knee injury, Beleskey set to return for Bruins vs. Blackhawks

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins, looking for a spark after terrible, back-to-back losses to the New York Islanders and Detroit Red Wings, are hoping the return of Matt Beleskey from a knee injury can help provide the inspiration. 

The blue-collar left winger has missed the past 23 games with a torn MCL in his right knee suffered in early December against the Buffalo Sabres, but now he’s easing back into the lineup on the fourth line in Friday night’s showdown with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Beleskey was skating with Dominic Moore and Austin Czarnik on the fourth line at morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena and should be expected to throw a few hard hits and play with some intensity in his return.

“I’m ready to go and excited to get back out there,” said Beleskey, who has been skating with the team for roughly a week after giving the knee sufficient time to heal. “I’ve just got to keep it simple and do what I do well: Be hard on pucks, take the body and just try and find your groove. You don’t want to expect too much in your first game back, but you just want to be able to contribute.

“’I’ve been saving [the pent-up energy] for a while, so I’m ready to get back out there and hopefully provide a spark for us.”

The Beleskey return also provides the player with a bit of a reset button after a slow start to the season that saw him with two goals and five points along with a minus-6 rating in 24 games played for the Black and Gold prior to his injury. Here are the projected line combos and D-pairs against the Blackhawks based on morning skate today: