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.

Chara: 'A great honor' to be nominated for Masterton Trophy

Chara: 'A great honor' to be nominated for Masterton Trophy

It takes only the highest levels of perseverance and dedication to the game to log over 1,300 NHL games and to play past your 40th birthday. Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara has both of those qualities in overflowing amounts as the fourth oldest player in the league behind Florida Panthers forward Jaromir Jagr, Arizona Coyotes forward Shane Doan and Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cullen. Chara is also the second longest tenured captain in the league behind Doan, who has been the captain of the Coyotes since 2003.

For all those reasons and more, Chara has been voted by the Boston Chapter of the PWHA (Professional Hockey Writers Association) as the Bruins nominee for the Masterton Trophy given to the player that best exemplifies “the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.”

The Bruins captain has also been the embodiment of good sportsmanship in his 11 years as captain of the Black and Gold while leading teams with his steady, hard-working hand through both epic highs and lows. Chara is always at the forefront of the Bruins charitable efforts and has shown his dedication to the game by nearly always participating for his Slovakian homeland whether it’s world championships, the Olympics or the World Cup as the setting for the International tournament.

It all comes back to Chara’s love for the game, his dedication to setting an example as a professional and his enjoyment of the hard work required to play in the NHL for 18 plus seasons.

“From my first day in the NHL until today it is an absolute thrill to play in the league,” said Chara. “It’s a great honor to be nominated. I always take a lot of pride in doing my job as a professional, and doing it right. Doing all of my work on and off the ice. I’ve always felt really humble about being a part of this league and this game. It’s a game that gives you so much in life, and helps you become a better person and a better hockey player each day.

“I’m just enjoying my time with team and my teammates, and cherish the memories of winning. I just try to work every day on my game and improve. I enjoy every day whether I was 20 years old or 40 years old. I love the game, and I love everything about it.”

Chara had missed only 41 games for the Bruins in his first 10 seasons with the team in a remarkable show of durability and toughness while playing the role a physical defensive stopper. He's never shied away from the big hits, the big players or the big ice time totals. The veteran D-man is having a banner season as a 40-year-old that started out by leading Team Europe to the World Cup Final against Team Canada, and it’s continued with his season-long mentoring job helping develop 20-year-old rookie defenseman Brandon Carlo.

Chara has changed a bit from his Norris Trophy days while adjusting his game to reduced levels of physicality and out-and-out dominance, but the ability to still call on both of those qualities at 40 years old is unique for an intimidating 6-foot-9 force out on the ice. Equally impressive is his standing as a No. 1 defenseman at this point in his 18-plus year career while constantly dedicated to improving himself, and learning, both on and off ice. Perhaps Chara’s most underrated quality is his ability to move the puck and chip in offensively, a set of skills that will see him pass the 600-point milestone this season after a career built in part on a big slap shot from the point.

It’s also a great example of Chara remaking himself into more of a puck-mover and power play point producer when he was projected to be a good defense/limited offense shutdown defenseman all those years ago working his way through the Islanders’ ranks.

Chara continues to be a strong lead-by-example personality within the Bruins dressing room, one who demands hard work and total dedication to both the game and the team concept when it comes to his Boston teammates.

Cassidy quells goaltender controversy: 'Tuukka's our No. 1 goalie'

Cassidy quells goaltender controversy: 'Tuukka's our No. 1 goalie'

BRIGHTON, Mass. – While the sequence of events over the past couple of days could understandably lead one to wonder who will start between the pipes for the Bruins on Tuesday night vs. Nashville, interim coach Bruce Cassidy tried to quell any hint of a goalie controversy.

The vote of confidence was certainly needed after Anton Khudobin’s fifth consecutive win halted the B's four-game losing streak with a huge 2-1 victory over the Islanders on Saturday night in the wake of Rask’s absence while tending to a short-term lower body issue.  

“[Rask] had a good practice today. I spoke with him. We’ll see how he wakes up tomorrow and we’ll make our decision. He’s our No. 1 goalie, so there’s no way we can skirt our way around that issue. He’s our No. 1 and his health is very important. When he’s physically ready to go and he tells me that, then we’ll make that decision,” said Cassidy. “He’s a guy that’s played a lot of hockey this year...and he’s not a 240-pound goaltender that can handle all of the games, all of the workload every year. We know that. I’m not going to put limitations on him, but we probably overused him at the start of the year. At this time of year, it gets tougher and tougher with any player that’s been overplayed.

“That’s why we have two goaltender, and [Anton Khudobin] has really stepped up in that last stretch and done what’s asked of him. He’s fixed that area of our game. It’s nice to have a guy that’s your No. 2 that can win you hockey games and play well. It’s a great problem to have, to be honest with you. But Tuukka is our No. 1. But Tuukka is our No. 1. He’s our guy.”

Rask declared himself fit to play after going through a full Monday practice with no issues, but said he’s still waiting to hear the final word on whether he’ll play on Tuesday night vs. the Predators. The Bruins franchise goalie also said he isn’t worried about any recurrence of the lower body injury that “popped up” in the Tampa Bay loss Thursday night, which really doesn’t bring any clarity to the entire situation.

“It was a good day back on the ice. I feel good. We’ll see what the decision is [for the Nashville game], but I feel good today,” said Rask, who is 8-8 with a .892 save percentage and a 2.91 goals-against average since the All-Star break, compared to Khudobin’s 2-0-0 with a .920 save percentage and 1.98 goals-against average. “You need to put the best lineup out as possible, and I wasn’t in any shape to play. So, there are no easy decisions this time of year, but I’ve played a lot of hockey and injuries happen. We talked to the training staff and managers and came to a decision that [Khudobin] was going to play the game, and that’s it.

“It’s obviously tough from a personal standpoint, but it’s never about one guy or two guys. It’s a team game and I feel confident that we’re going to get the job done as long as we play the way we did. It was great to see.”

Clearly, it looks like Rask is going to play vs. Nashville and that’s the safe, easy decision when it comes to a No. 1 goalie getting paid $7 million a season and perhaps it all works out with a fired up Finnish netminder after sitting out Saturday night. But nobody is going to be faulted if they wonder what’s going to wrong with Rask ahead of the next gigantic game Boston will have to play with the Stanley Cup playoffs on the line.