Haggerty: Bruins had free-agent foresight

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Haggerty: Bruins had free-agent foresight

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON The Bruins are sitting comfortably at roughly 10 million under the salary cap, and they could have even more space under the cap if Marc Savard (4 million) -- still fighting debilitating concussion symptoms -- decides to retire.

It's an amazing position for a defending Stanley Cup champion, and its a credit to just how strongly Peter Chiarelli, Don Sweeney and Jim Benning have built Boston's hockey club under the watchful eye of Cam Neely.

But it might not have been this way had it not been for the proactive approach employed by Chiarelli before the start of last season.

Chiarelli came under a bit of criticism for pulling the trigger on lucrative extensions for Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara while the team was still over in Europe. But both deals look positively shrewd in the swollen landscape of todays free-agent market.

Bergeron will start his new three-year, 15 million deal in 2011-12. He would have commanded up to another million per season if hed been allowed to hit the market this summer.

Chara signed for seven years at a 6.9 million cap hit,which would have topped the average annual value of any other freeagent this summer. But who knows whatsome team desperate to make a splash might have offered the 6-foot-9blueliner, especially after Chara had led the Bruins' charge to the Cup?

Chiarelli isnt gloating over the wise strategy in retaining his key players, but he wont deny that the Bs are happy to have their stars locked up.

Were obviously pleased, Chiarelli said. I dont look back at it that way. Im happy we signed them at the time and I think they both got quite good money. They deserve it. Markets change and you make your decisions. Hopefully youre proactive with them. Thats why were here today with the roster we have.

Bergeron, 25, always wanted to remain in Boston, of course, and it's likely he and the B's would have reached agreement prior to his becoming a free agent. But seeing 27 million get shoveled at new Sabres forward Ville Leino, and Tim Connolly getting a shade under 5 million a year from the Toronto Maple Leafs after the 30-year-old shrank his way out of Buffalo, were both pretty eye-opening.

Bergeron scored 22 goals, finished fourth in the Selke Trophy voting, and was one of Bostons best players in the postseason. His value would have slotted in just below prime free agent Brad Richards, who recently signed a deal that will pay him an average of 6.6 million over the next nine years with the New York Rangers.

While Bergeron doesnt have the 90-point seasons or Conn Smythe Trophy on his resume, as Richards does, he's younger and still has room to grow offensively after focusing so much of his efforts on the nuances of the game in the face-off circle and in the defensive zone.

Similarly, Tomas Fleischmann came in at just under Bergerons 5 million per year for a four-year average of 4.5 million with the Florida Panthers. And Erik Cole was able to secure the exact same deal with the Montreal Canadiens after several decent seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes.

Bergeron is much better than Fleischmann, Cole and Leino at this point in their respective careers, but the Bs center is in their contractual neighborhood due to the foresight of Chiarellis plan before this season.

Chara's a bit tougher to gauge because hes a one-of-a-kind player with a unique size and skill set, but theres little doubt that the 33-year-old former Norris Trophy winner would have been the class of the free-agent market, with many suitors ready to woo him away from Boston. Charas leadership has evolved greatly from the moment he first arrived in Boston on a talent-deprived roster, and his offensive and defensive skill set remains in the elite category. He would have commanded much more than the 10-year, 40 million contract given to Christian Ehrhoff, or the five-year, 33 million wet kiss the Columbus Blue Jackets planted on James Wisniewski.

Chara and Bergeron both would have ended up back in Boston at the end of the day, but it would have cost the Bs an additional 1-2 million of salary cap space per season to secure their rights had they waited.

It may not seem like much, but that means another quality depth player or two that the Bruins can add to the mix the kind of funds that amounted to Benoit Pouliot or Joe Corvo this season.

Those are the kinds of decisions that allowed the Bruins to position themselves in Stanley Cup contention, and those are the kinds of fiscal choices that leave Boston on the cusp of a five-year run with talented core group of players.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Pastrnak, Marchand and Vatrano represent Bruins at World Championship

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Pastrnak, Marchand and Vatrano represent Bruins at World Championship

The Bruins have three players headed to the IIHF Hockey World Championship, which begin this weekend in Russia.

Brad Marchand was invited to play for Team Canada early on in the process, coming off his 37-goal season for the Bruins. Last week the Czech Republic added 19-year-old right wing David Pastrnak to their squad with plans to skate on a line with the Montreal Canadiens' Tomas Plekanec.

And Frank Vatrano -- who scored a total of 44 goals between Boston and Providence in this, his first full professional season -- was added to the Team USA roster this week. Vatrano, 22, confirmed it on his own Twitter account on Tuesday night prior to hopping on a flight bound for Russia:

Torey Krug played for Team USA last season, but was unavailable this time around after undergoing right shoulder surgery just a couple of weeks ago that will have him sidelined until late October. 

Vatrano is one of four Massachusetts players on this year's version of Team USA. The others are Canadiens goaltender Mike Condon, Hurricanes defenseman Noah Hanifin and Devils D-man David Warsofsky.

Both Marchand and Pastrnak previously suited up for their countries in the World Junior championships, and Vatrano played in the U.S. National Team Development Program prior to playing college hockey at the University of Massachusetts. Vatrano also previously represented the U.S. at the 2012 IIHF Under-18 Men's World Championship in Brno and Znojmo, Czech Republic, where he helped Team USA claim the gold medal.

The IIHF Men's World Championships will start Friday and run until May 22 in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia. It features featuring many of the NHL players that aren’t participating in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Haggerty: Anticipate ‘great deal of player movement’

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Haggerty: Anticipate ‘great deal of player movement’

Ahead of the expansion draft, teams may look to get something in return for players they’d otherwise lose for nothing.

May 4, 2016: If expansion hits, which Pens goalie is protected?

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May 4, 2016: If expansion hits, which Pens goalie is protected?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while giving a warm May the Fourth Be With You to everybody out there.

*Mike Francesa has declared sports radio war on former New York Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro, and it’s getting ugly folks.

 

*A humbled Bruce Boudreau, who really didn’t need to be humbled given what a nice man he is, will have a long line of NHL suitors interested in his services.

 

*The Northeastern University hockey team has gone to some extremes with their pregame wrestling matches.

 

*Pro Hockey Talk asks the question: if there’s an expansion draft, which goaltender should the Penguins protect given what’s going on in their playoff series?

 

*A really nice gesture within the PHT morning skate with Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper going to bat for a Lightning beat reporter that finds himself out of a job.

 

*Max Domi had a very memorable rookie season even if it didn’t end with any serious consideration for the Calder Trophy.

 

*The Nashville Predators got a little better this week with the decision to kick Mike Ribeiro up into the press box.

 

*For something completely different: these Han Solo uniform jerseys for the Durham Bulls’ Star Wars Night are the freakin’ truth.