By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins InsiderFollow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON The Bruins made their big move on the first day of free agency and it was a pretty far cry from the 18 million contract bomb dropped by the Florida Panthers on multiple players in a frenzied day of spending.Instead the Bruins waved goodbye to Michael Ryder as he signed a two-year deal with the Dallas Stars, and the Bs inked former Montreal Canadiens winger Benoit Pouliot to a one-year deal along with resigning goaltender Anton Khudobin and center Trent Whitfield to two-year deals. The Pouliot deal will pay the 6-foot-3, 199-pound winger 1.1 million for his year of service while Khudobin will have a one-way deal with the Bruins in the second year of his contract with Boston.Clearly the Pouliot deal is the biggest impact for the Boston hockey club at the conclusion of the first day of NHL free agency, but it was a relatively small deal in the grand scheme of things during a frenzied day of wild signings and mad spending. Pouliot was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2005 NHL Draft with a "potential" tag that's traveled around with him from the Minnesota Wild to the Montreal Canadiens before his arrival in Boston. It also caused NESN's Jack Edwards to rip into Pouliot during Game 3 of the playoff season as he famously called the 24-year-old "one of the biggest disappointments in the NHL" after a particularly brutal exchange between Montreal and Boston. Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli admitted that Pouliot has underachieved a bit in his first two NHL stops, but also believes that Boston's strong leadership can help push the winger's development in Black and Gold.In many ways the size and offensive skills would seem to scream out a Blake Wheeler-type in the making with the Bruins, but Boston is clearly hoping that he can bring a little more production with him. Scoring a few goals and utilizing his big NHL body will be prime orders of business next season for Pouliot. "Pouliot is maybe someone whos underachieved but has a real good skill package and size package and...you know he has to be pushed. I think we have a strong group that can push him and I told Benoit Pouliot that," said Chiarelli. "So you know theres, hes only, I think hes 25 at the start of the seasonand hes still relatively young. So we hope that he could buy into what were selling. I like his size, I like his skating, I like his shot." Pouliot has averaged 15 goals per season over the last two years, and had a pretty solid half-season as a top-six forward for the Habs after his trade away from the Wild. But Pouliot never truly found a home playing for Jacques Martin last season and found himself a healthy scratch after a cheap head shot on that Johnny Boychuk in the first round of the playoffs. The Boychuk hit combined with the David Krejci brawl during one of the final regular season meetings between Boston and Montreal reveal some bad blood with Pouliot -- but it's nothing that hockey players can't get over quickly when they're suddenly wearing the same laundry. "I think you could maybe name five players, at least, on each team in the Northeast Division that might have been disliked by our players, but Id say most of them would fit into a team when they come to Boston," said Chiarelli, who added that Pouliot can play either wing position with the versatility that Boston really likes in their forwards. "Its a different dynamic when they come over and are in your locker room. So you know, the due diligence we did on Benoit is that hes well-liked, and you know, among other things, thats what I can tell you. And for that reason, I feel hell fit in well with our team."Pouliot referenced his time playing as a top-six forward for the Habs during the 2009-10 season as the high water mark of his NHL career to date, and believes that he can fulfull some of his promise if he's given consistent linemates along with a chance to hone his offense. He'll have to do much better than 15 goals scored if he's hoping to catch on with one of Boston's top forward combos, however. "I can do more. This year was a tough year in Montreal. I'mnot saying that I didnt really get the chance that I should have, but sometimes you want to be on the top two lines. You want to be a power player, especially when youre playing well," said Pouliot. "At times I was playing well and sometimes its the coachs decision. You cant really do anything about it, you just have to keep playing. Its just a thing about being consistent every night, being good, playing good, in practice and in games. Its just a thing about, my game...the game is fine. But its just being able to compete every night and every time you step on the ice."On the defensive side of things, Chiarelli continues to hold conversations with Tomas Kaberle along with several other free agent defenseman -- a group of players that could include names like Anton Babchuk, Cam Barker, Ian White and other second tier blueliners still looking for NHL work. It would appear the Kaberle conversation will be ongoing as they look to spark a little interest as the biggest free agent name still on the defensemen board. Many other veteran blueliners with Kaberle's resume have commanded four or five year deals on the market over the last week, but the Bruins appear hesitant to go there with the 33-year-old blueliner. "Well, one of the risks that were aware of is, when you get in the open market -- as much as you talk about having last crack -- sometimes it doesnt happen. Thats been discussed between myself and Tomas agent," said Chiarelli. "So if it doesnt happen then thats a risk that I was prepared to take but well see where it goes."
By Joe Haggerty