By Joe Haggerty
VANCOUVER In their search for that final piece of defense depth, which is needed to round out a close-to-capacity Bruins roster, general manager Peter Chiarelli isnt ruling anything out.
That became obvious Wednesday at the Pacific Coliseum, when "The Sheriff" returned to town.
Shane Hnidy, a clubhouse leader during his year-and-a-half with the Bruins, practiced with the team, allowing Chiarelli and coach Claude Julien to get a first-hand look at how the 35-year-old defenseman is recovering from a rotator cuff injury suffered during thefall.
Chiarelli confirmed to CSNNE.com that the Bruins are still searching for potential forward and defensemen candidates to fill out the club's depth heading into the playoffs, either via trade or free-agent signings. Hnidy joined the Minnesota Wild after the Bruins chose not to re-sign him after the 2008-09 season, and is again a free agent.
Well have a look at him over the next couple of days, see how he is and make a decision then, said Chiarelli, who estimated Hnidy could be a month away while still working his way back from the shoulder injury. Hes a guy were familiar with and hes been in here before. He suffered an injury at the end of camp with Phoenix, and hes been rehabbing all year.
He reached out a couple of times to us and we decided it was time to take a look at him. Were still looking at little trade things along those depth lines at defenseman and forward, and this is another one of our options.
Hnidy took part in spirited 2-on-2 skating drills up and down the ice, and said afterward rejoining the Bruins would be the perfect fit.
Hnidy was coming off his best NHL season with the Wild in 2009-10, but the blueliner banged up his shoulder tumbling into the boards while trying out with the Phoenix Coyotes during training camp in September.
Julien is clearly a Hnidy fan, and hoped the Bs could get a few months of the Hnidy that cemented a role in Boston over the course of 1 12 seasons and finished with 17 points (4 goals, 13 assists) in 108 games. He wasnt going to wow anybody with his offensive skills or offensive abilities, but Hnidy is the exact kind of player that any good Stanley Cup level team has room for. There's also the whole matter of 37 games of Stanley Cup playoff experience on Hnidy's resume, which could help in an extended run for the Cup.
Hes familiar with us and the coaching staff, and were all familiar with him. Hes always been a team guy, said Julien. We know what he brings on the ice, and we know what he brings off the ice. If things work out then we have no problem making him an addition because hes been a good team player.
With the Bruins feeling that Steve Kampfer has encountered a bit of the rookie wall in his first season outside of NCAA hockey, and with Johnny Boychuk battling with consistency, adding another defenseman to the mix seems like a natural move forthe B's.
Boston also seems like the place for Hnidy, though there are plenty of other teams in the market for a veteran defenseman capable of playing gritty, tough hockey in a bottom-six pairing.
It was definitely an easy transition to come in here. Its such an incredible group of guys both the ones that Ive played with and the new guys that have come in here, said Hnidy. This is a team thats obviously at the top of my list. Theres no question.
When I left Boston I felt like there was a part of me that I left there. Right from when I first got traded there in January 2008 it was an easy fit for me, and it really felt right.
Hnidy is obviously an attractive option given his unique knowledge with the personnel, coaches and systems employed by the Bruins, but theres an even bigger part of the defensemens game. A no-nonsense guy from Manitoba, Hnidy had that rare ability to call out anybody in the dressing room when the time called for it during his time in Boston.
Many around the team pointed to Hnidys absence last season as one of the hurdles that had to be overcome in terms of leadership and locker-room voice, and hed clearly add a little toughness and intensity to this years playoff run if hes healthy enough to play.
Rather than the crazy trade theories tossed out there concerning the Bs Matt Hunwick anyone? signing a veteran like Hnidy with some Boston track record should be an attractive option for the Bruins. The minimal cost in terms of cap hit and assets surrendered make it something of a no-brainer if everything else is equal.
Im here. Thats the first step. I know its up to me and I know what Ive got to do, said Hnidy. I know theres going to be some work involved, but that isnt something Ive shied away from. Thats what my whole career has been about.
If its solely up to hard work and determination, then it would be only a matter of time before Hnidy is added to the Boston mix.