Chara and Chiarelli discuss the captain's new contract

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Chara and Chiarelli discuss the captain's new contract

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

PRAGUE -- Zdeno Chara wanted contract negotiations done by the time the regular season started. It came down to the wire, but he got his wish.

The blueliner agreed to a 7-year, 45.5 million extension on the morning of Boston's season opener. This contract and the extension of Patrice Bergeron are huge in terms of the Bruins locking down their future.

Boston's captain was never worried.

"I was very confident, positive about getting this deal done before the season.''

"As soon as I arrived in Boston with general manager Peter Chiarelli, that was my goal; to establish this team and become contenders, and obviously I want to be a big part of it,'' Chara said. "It's a very solid organization. I'm very proud to be a Bruin. I feel very comfortable around the whole team and coaching staff, management and players.

"My first priority and goal was to stay in Boston,'' he repeated. "I'm very thankful to the Jacobs family, Peter, team president Cam Neely and all the players.''

Chiarelli was happy to return the compliment. He said Saturday the organization was merely executing the obvious.

"It was obviously very important for both parties," said Chiarelli. "From our perspective, Chara and Bergeron are two very important pieces of our team, very important individuals. There's uncertainty as the season progresses as far as trying to retain these types of players as they get closer to the free market. You never know what's going to happen.''

This uncertainty, coupled with the yearn to keep Chara in Black and Gold, created an atmosphere of fair play in the negotiations.

"It's an extreme showing of good faith from both sides to get it done now,'' Chiarelli said. "It's a typical thing; when both sides want something, it usually happens. We had made enough progress, had enough significant discussions. At the end, both sides gave a little to get it done.''

Gently bending wills isn't much trouble when an organization thinks so highly of its prize. And the Bruins only see potential in the already successful 33-year old.

"He's probably the hardest-working person I've seen on and off the ice. He leads by example,'' Chiarelli said. "He's still growing as a player and he'll probably play beyond this next contract. It's our pleasure to extend him and we're happy to have him for many more years.''

There was one minor snag. But it actually didn't have anything to do with Chara himself.

Blame 27-year old Ilya Kovalchuk.

The league put it's foot down on "lifetime" deals this offseason by rejecting the proposed 17-year, 102 million contract agreed upon by Kovalchuk and the Devils. The NHL's worry that player and team would so blatantly try to circumvent the salary cap spurned an amendment to the collective bargaining agreement to halt such deals.

Chiarelli admitted that it wasn't something the Bruins could ignore.

"Certainly it was something that we looked at,'' he said. "When you go into the longer term you have to see how that ruling will impact your negotiations. But this is a seven-year deal, it's a long time and we're happy to have Zee for that long.''

Since Chara's extension will take him through his 40th birthday he has a cap hit of 6.917 million in the first six years. He will receive 4 million in the last season.

Chara acknowledged the Kovalchuk impact . It just didn't faze him at all.

"Obviously, his situation was a little extreme, maybe put the negotiations on hold for a little bit,'' Chara said. "But I just knew that we would get this done and I would be a Bruin.''

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

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Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

BRIGHTON, Mass. – It certainly doesn’t feel like it will go on forever this way for the Bruins, but at this point it’s essentially a case of musical left wings on the David Krejci line as it’s been for much of this season. 

Ryan Spooner has spent the majority of the season adjusting to playing the wing with Krejci, and has been just okay trying to play away from his natural center spot while using his speed and playmaking on the wing. But the speedy Spooner also spent his share of time lately on the fourth line after getting off to a slow offensive start this season with three goals and eight points along with a minus-1 rating in 23 games. 

The bouncing between the second and fourth line has undoubtedly been frustrating for the 24-year-old getting pushed off his natural position after posting 49 points in his first full year as a third line center. But Spooner has continued to toe the company line, work on keeping his confidence high for a productive offensive season and do what he needs to in an effort to get off a fourth line.

That’s opened the door for hard-nosed former Providence College standout Tim Schaller to get some top-6 forward time on the Krejci line as well, but he’s just posted a single assist in the last three games while working hard to keep up offensively with David Krejci and David Backes. The 6-foot-2, 219-pound Schaller has the grittiness to do the dirty work for that line in the corners and in front of the net, and he can certainly skate well enough for a big, energy forward. 

“To think this was going to happen, I would say ‘no’,” said Schaller when asked if he could have predicted at the start of the season that he’d be getting a look from the B’s in a top-6 role. “I’ve been able to play with whoever and whenever my whole career. I wouldn’t want to say it’s one of those things that I had expected, but I’m always ready for it. 

“We’ve been working pretty well together. I don’t know that we’ve had too many great [offensive] opportunities to capitalize on, but Backes and Krejci are good enough players that they’ll come. They’re good enough to bury on those chances, so the goals will come. I’m always going to play the same way no matter who I’m with. Those guys might have the puck on their sticks a little longer than other linemates of mine, but that will just create more space and opportunities.”

So Spooner and Schaller bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table as the B’s coaching staff searches for the right fit alongside Krejci and Backes, and Julien sounds like a coach that’s going to keep swinging back and forth between the two players. He certainly did that with Spooner during the third period in Philly, which led to an immediate goal for Krejci in the third period comeback, and toward the end of the Carolina win with the B's desperate for offense. 

Julien also didn’t rule out Matt Beleskey getting another look there as well with the Bruins having a tough time finding anybody to consistently fill Loui Eriksson’s role from last season.

“At times I don’t think that offense has been producing much because maybe it’s lacking a little bit of speed at that time, so you put Spooner back up there. But sometimes you feel like that line isn’t winning enough battles or spending enough time in the offensive zone, so you put Schaller back in there because he’s going to play a little grittier. So we’re looking there,” said Julien. “We’d love to be able to find somebody to be a consistent player there. We’ve had Matt Beleskey there and that line never really did anything. 

“[Beleskey] has been much better on the [third] line and he’s been getting more chances, so I’ve been trying to put the best scenario together, I guess. Sometimes it’s the situation and sometimes it’s the matchup [against the other team] as well. So there are different reasons for that. I’ve just got to make it work. If it’s working with [Schaller] on that night then you stick with it, and if you don’t think you’re getting enough then you move [Spooner] there and see if you can a little spark with some speed. It doesn’t mean Beleskey won’t go back there. That’s what we have right now.”

So it’s clear Julien, and the B’s coaching staff, have simply tried to find something that will work on a consistent basis with a couple of key offensive players on Boston’s second most important forward line. The one wild card in all of this: the impending return of Frank Vatrano, who has been skating for nearly two weeks as he works toward a return from foot surgery.

Vatrano was initially penciled in as the left winger alongside Krejci to start NHL camp this fall, and the Bruins were hoping he was going to build on the eight goals he scored in Boston last season in a limited role.

Vatrano could be ready to play within the next couple of weeks, and should be back in the B’s lineup prior to the early January timetable originally offered at the time of his surgery. So perhaps the 22-year-old Vatrano can end this season-long carousel of Bruins left wingers getting paraded on and off the Krejci line, and finally give the B’s greater options at left wing. 

But the Czech playmaking center could use some stability also as he looks to find the highest level of his game in a challenging year for the Black and Gold, and do it while the Bruins find the right kind of talent to skate alongside him. 

Blidh plans to bring some energy to Bruins after call-up

Blidh plans to bring some energy to Bruins after call-up

BRIGHTON, Mass. – Anton Blidh plans on keeping things pretty straightforward on his first call-up to the NHL. 

The former sixth-round pick of the Bruins has earned his stripes at the AHL level with Providence over the last couple of seasons, and comes to Boston as a gritty, energy forward capable of stirring things up in otherwise sleepy games. There’s also a bit of offensive upside for a fourth line-type player with five goals and nine points with 22 penalty minutes and a plus-eight rating in 19 games for the P-Bruins this season. 

It remains to be seen if the Blidh call-up means that the Bruins intend to scratch a player or that somebody is questionable for Saturday afternoon’s game in Buffalo, but Patrice Bergeron did miss Friday’s practice without any real defined reason for his absence. The 21-year-old Swede said he plans to play to his strengths if he gets into the lineup for the Black and Gold, and that could mean getting under the skin of his Sabres opponents. 

“It’s my first time called up, so I’m happy,” said Blidh, who was asked what he'll bring if he gets into the lineup. “I’ll just play simple and play my own game: be hard on the puck and play with some energy. I worked hard [in Providence] and then I got some confidence. I’m not a goal-scorer, but I scored a couple of goals and got some confidence.”

Claude Julien hasn’t been able to catch up Blidh’s work since the season got started, but was pleased by the youngster’s progress in training camp, where he earned notice for his feisty, physical play on a line with Noel Acciari. 

“They said he’s playing well, so they brought him up. We’ll get to see him, hopefully tomorrow,” said Julien. “I didn’t hear a ton of fine details aside from him being a guy that was certainly playing with a lot of energy. I didn’t mind him in training camp either. He works really hard and competes hard, and we could use that.”

That would certainly be the case after watching the Bruins go through the motions for long stretches Thursday night against Carolina before essentially stealing a game that they didn’t deserve to win.