Kelly, Campbell close to re-signing with Bruins

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Kelly, Campbell close to re-signing with Bruins

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.

Haggerty: Bruins playing it pretty safe at the NHL Draft

Haggerty: Bruins playing it pretty safe at the NHL Draft

CHICAGO – As opening nights go at the NHL Draft, Friday night was a bit of a ho-hum affair for the Boston Bruins at the United Center home of the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Bruins went the safe route by drafting a smooth, defensive-minded defenseman with the 18th overall pick when they selected Finnish product Urho Vaakenainen, and in doing so left more dynamic forwards like Kristian Vesalainen and Kailer Yamamoto still on the draft board for other teams to claim as their own. It was a bit of a curious choice given how many defensemen the Bruins already have in the prospect pipeline, but the lack of strength in the draft class seemed to lead teams to carve their own paths looking for players.

MORE: Bruins select defenseman Urho Vaakanainen with No. 18 pick

The 6-foot-1, 188-pounder clearly has miles to go offensively despite his smooth skating and solid passing skills, but there’s also a consideration that the teenager has been playing in the men’s league in Finland for the last couple of seasons. It makes things a little more difficult to project for the Finn D-man, but the Bruins believe there is some upside to his offensive game given the skills, the hockey IQ and the considerable confidence that the player has in his own game.

“His gap control and skating ability are really good. He’s obviously played in the Finnish Elite League at a very young age for one and a half years now and he’s played on the big stage at the world juniors. We feel like there’s a lot of upside for a 200-foot player that gets back on pucks, and then can transition them back out. Being able to cover ice is an important part of the game, and it continues to evolve in that direction,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney, who indicated Vaakenainen will play in North America in 2018-19 after fulfilling his contractual obligations in Finland. “We tracked what he did on offense at the junior league level prior to him jumping to the elite league, and it lines up pretty well with other elite players that made the jump to that level.

“It’s a valid question and whether he gets put into those [offensive] situations this year is what we’re excited about with his [Finnish] team moving forward.”

While Vaakenainen sounded surprised the Bruins selected him after only a single meeting at the NHL scouting combine, Sweeney said that Boston’s head scout in Finland has enough history with the family to vouch for the kid’s makeup.

So while it’s far from a sexy pick and the Bruins could have tried to hit a home run with an 18th overall selection in a mediocre draft, the B’s will also get some time before anybody is ready to label the Finnish blueliner a boom or a bust.

The rest of the draft night didn’t add up to much for the B’s, however. They made the selection of Vaakenainen after strongly considering dropping down in the first round, and in doing so lost one of the better trade chips in the form of their 2017 first round pick. There were discussions with Minnesota about Marco Scandella and a few trade feelers to other clubs that might listen on a D-man, but the Bruins now have to hit the reset button on trade discussions for left-shot defensemen or top-6 left wings.

Perhaps Scandella’s $4 million per season salary was an issue for the Bruins, or maybe the Bruins didn’t want to give up their first round pick for a 27-year-old D-man coming off a so-so season with the Wild. Either way, there wasn’t enough momentum for the Bruins to get a trade done with a bevy of defensemen rumored to be available if the offer is good enough.

“I was on the record saying that we’d be offering our first round pick for target-specific players, and we did do that,” said Sweeney. “I don’t blame teams for not necessarily wanting to go through with it, so we went ahead with a player we wanted with our own pick. We continue to build what we think is a good group of guys moving forward.

“There are a couple of areas we’d like to address and get better. We’re trying to help our team currently. Certainly Brandon [Carlo] jumped into our lineup and we hope Charlie [McAvoy] will carry over what he did, and we have other players that will push. We have six returning defensemen we feel good about and we’ll certainly push from underneath, but it’s an area we’ll continue to address. We have some forwards that we also hope will come online, but we’ll never stop exploring and trying to improve our club.”

So let’s sum it all up after a week of additions and subtractions from the Original Six organization: The Bruins added a decidedly vanilla defenseman in the first round of the NHL Draft that might be a simple stay-at-home guy, and they weren’t able to muster any kind of deals for a D-man or winger to enhance the NHL roster. On the other hand, they didn’t give up much over the week as well and they didn’t do much at all to harm a solid roster that looked like they were finally on the right track pushing into the playoffs last season.

The Bruins could be in store for an action-packed Day Two of the draft on Saturday full of promising prospects and bountiful trades, but it sure feels like the 2017 NHL Draft in Chicago isn’t going to be a very memorable one for the Black and Gold. 

Bruins select defenseman Urho Vaakanainen with No. 18 pick

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Bruins select defenseman Urho Vaakanainen with No. 18 pick

CHICAGO – Well, the Bruins are certainly opening themselves up for a little second-guessing.

The B’s were trying to move their first-round pick, but ultimately made the selection in Finnish D-man Urho Vaakenainen, who is described by scouts as a classic stay-at-home defenseman type without much offensive upside.

MORE - Report: Bruins among several teams interested in Wild's Scandella

The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Vaakenainen had a goal in six games for Team Finland at a disappointing World Junior tournament, and didn’t post anything eye-catching while playing for JYP of SM-Liiga where he appeared in 41 games, tallying two goals and four assists along with a plus/minus rating of plus-five. He spent the 2015-16 season with Blues of SM-Liiga, scoring a goal and five assists in 25 games.

Some scouting reports cast him as strictly a stay-at-home D-man with limited offensive skills while other scouting reports give him a little more credit for his two-way game and smooth puck-moving abilities without any big holes in his game.

“Has an uncanny ability to get his stick in shooting and passing lanes. Just don’t expect offense,” said Sportsnet anchor and prospect aficionado Jeff Marek leading up to the draft in one of his mock drafts. “He won’t be out there late in a game to tie it up, but you’ll love him out there protecting a lead.”

Vaakenainen said he was surprised to be taken by the Bruins given that he had just one conversation with them at the NHL Scouting Combine, and hadn’t really talked to any Bruins scouts throughout the hockey season. On the plus side, Vaakenainen said he models his game after Nashville defenseman Roman Josi and prides himself on his skating, his passing and shooting and his ability to play the two-way game.

“I think I’m a great skater…good with the puck,” said Vaakenainen. “I have a great first pass. I’m a complete package and a two-way defenseman, steady guy. My expectation was to go in the first round. I wasn’t expecting to go Boston, but the first round was my expectation. I met them at the combine, but that was it. That was the only meeting in person.”

Clearly, it remains to be seen how a young, raw prospect like Vaakenainen develops over time and there were plenty of mock drafts and scouting services that him getting selected in the first round. Still, once in a while it wouldn’t kill the Bruins to go with a player holding larger upside like Finnish power forward Kristian Vesalainen or dynamic, undersized winger Kailer Yamamoto.