Boychuk 'really wanted to stay' in Boston

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Boychuk 'really wanted to stay' in Boston

BOSTON -- Johnny Boychuk will be in Boston for a long time to come as the Bruins continue to lock up the defense corps that led to the Stanley Cup championship.

Boychuk, an impending free agent, signed a three-year deal with the Bruins that will take him through the 2014-15 season and earn him an average annual value of 3.36 million in salary. That slots him behind only Zdeno Chara in terms of contract value and pays him the going rate for a top-four defenseman in todays NHL.

Boychuk will make 3.1, 3.4 and 3.6 million over the three years of the deal and will provide him with partial no-trade clause protection over the early portion of the contract. The no-trade takes the form of NHL cities where Boychuk would prefer to land if a trade did arise. The deal came about largely because Boychuk loves playing in Boston, and wanted to remain with the Bruins.

Its the exact same thing that played out the last time Boychuk was an unrestricted free agent two years ago. Talks between the two sides began roughly a month ago and developed rapidly once both sides realize they had a common goal.

Johnny really wanted to stay here. I think thats the overriding theme. Hes obviously been a good performer for us, said Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli while announcing the signing. Hes a big, strong physical D. Ive had discussions with all our potential free agents and this is the deal thats come out of it so far.

Hes a Bruin-type of player: punishing and physical but he can also score with his shot. He chose not to test the market which is nice for us.

Chiarelli fairly projects a few things in his defensemans favor when discussing the new deal: Boychuks age (hes 28 years old) and the deliberate improvement in his game at a defenseman position where many late bloomers truly develop in the NHL as they enter their thirty something years. Above and beyond all that Boychuk would have commanded more money had he dipped his toes into unrestricted free agency.

The grass isnt always greener. He probably could have got more as a free agent. But hes also still young, said Chiarelli. In the old days youd have his rights until he was a 31 or 32-year-old player before he could go to market, so hes still a young player. Hes still learning. Hes an enthusiastic player.

Niklas Kronwall is a player that Boychuk could aspire to develop into as he continues improving in his own game and banks more power play time, but hell be getting paid in the neighborhood of former Bs defenseman Brad Stuart. Thats a fair comparable to Boychuk, and somebody that provides more toughness and defensive grit than Stuart does in Motown. Boychuk also stands in the NHLs top 10 in plusminus with a plus-23 and is pacing to match or surpass his career highs in goals scored and points.

Hes done all that while riding shotgun with Zdeno Chara and facing down the best forwards the rest of the NHL can thrown at them.

Johnny hasnt been on the power play much this year so his numbers are down. But he plays a solid 20 minutes, a heavy 20 minutes in high match-up roles, said Chiarelli. Im not really worried about what his numbers are. Hell score some timely goals for us.

When a team like the Bruins has some difficulty developing their own defenseman within the organization, its incumbent upon them to lock up the blueliners they do have. Thats exactly what the Bs have done with Boychuk, who will be running the music in the Bs dressing room for a long time to come.

Gronkowski healthy enough to participate during Patriots OTA practice

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Gronkowski healthy enough to participate during Patriots OTA practice

There's one where he makes a one-handed catch and celebrates with his arms outstretched as he glides into the end zone. There's another where he leaves his feet to go up and over safety Devin McCourty to come down with a pass. 

Judging by some of the pictures that have surfaced on Patriots.com of Rob Gronkowski participating in an OTA practice earlier this week, the All-Pro tight end seems to be feeling pretty good. 

Gronkowski is returning to action after undergoing season-ending back surgery last year so there was some question as to just how prepared he'd be to participate in practices this spring and summer. 

Again, judging by the photos, the answer is he's ready to ready to run routes on air and make contested catches against defenders.

Reporters will have an opportunity to watch the team practice on Thursday, the first workout open to members of the media, which will allow us to judge Gronkowski's mobility and his level of participation.

Another takeaway from the photos on the team website is that Gronkowski was not required to wear a non-contact jersey during the session. Contact is not allowed during this phase of the offseason training program, but players returning from injury (and quarterbacks) will still wear red jerseys to inform their teammates they're not to be touched. For instance, Jonathan Freeny, who was placed on season-ending injured reserve about a month into last season, donned a red non-contact jersey in one image.