By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins InsiderFollow @hackswithhaggs
ST. PAUL, Minn. The Bruins were focused on the future while drafting six players at the Xcel Energy Center this weekend, but theres also a present that needs to be taken care of.
The weekend began with a discussion between Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli and Tomas Kaberles agent, Rick Curran, about a potential future for the 33-year-old defenseman on a team that he never really seemed to settle in with. Kaberle shared the lead with Dennis Seidenberg for top scoring Bs defensemen during the playoffs, but also saw his ice time minutes dwindle as the playoffs went on.
Chiarelli didnt deny that a full training camp and season would probably allow the former Maple Leafs defenseman a greater chance at fitting in with the Bruins way of doing things, but the GM also didnt sound like locking down Kaberle was a foregone conclusion.
I think if Kaberle returning is the case, I think he would," Chiarelli said. "You know he played in Toronto for a while, got used to what was going on there. Im not saying it was good or bad, just different from where we were. We were at a higher level, we simply were. I think it took him some time.
It was pretty clear that higher level of expectations and pressure wasnt something that Kaberle was prepared for, and his conditioning wasnt allowing him to play 20 minutes of ice time per night in a more pressurized environment. Add that to the fact that there are three or four other unrestricted free agent defensemen out there potentially for the taking, and it seems the Bruins wont be in a rush to ink Kaberle if they decide to go that route at all.
Given that an injury prone Andrei Markov managed to secure himself a three-year, 17.25 million contract as a 33-year-old while only playing 52 games for the Montreal Canadiens over the last seasons it would seem that the market is going to be a little on the high end for a Kaberle player in that same category.
Chiarelli thought the Markov contract was actually a bit shorter term than he expected, and that has to be the minimum term Kaberle is looking for in his likely final big contract as an NHL player. Perhaps the Bruins are willing to spend that kind of money because they invested a pair of first round picks (one literal first-rounder and a former first round pick in Joe Colborne) and a 2012 second round pick for Kaberle but that seems very doubtful given the likely price tag of 3-4 years around the 4 million that the defenseman was making with the Maple Leafs.
Thats a huge investment for a player that wasnt trusted to play more than 14 minutes in the final two rounds of the playoffs, and ended up as something of a power play specialist on a bottom defensemen pairing with Adam McQuaid.
There are three or four defensemen like Kaberle," Chiarelli said. "Those defensemen are valuable types of defensemen. They skate through the traps, passing through traps, all of that type of stuff. I dont know what value they would be.
Historically, theyve been in and around where Tomas Kaberle is now and above. So that would suggest that theyd be above that.
Among those other unrestricted free agent names are guys like Anton Babchuk, Joni Pitkanen, Kevin BieksaSami Salo and James Wisniewski that could be on the market for the Bruins come July 1 with plenty of salary cap room to chase after whichever blue-liner would make the best blue line fit. That doesnt even account for young defensemen like Steve Kampfer and Matt Bartkowski that are fighting for playing time moving forward as younger, more affordable, physically tougher alternatives to a player like Kaberle softened by the years in Toronto.
It really doesnt make a great deal of sense to lock things in with Kaberle before the Bruins see how the landscape plays out for the rest of the free agent defensemen crop this summer.
Bruins first round pick Dougie Hamilton was said to be taken aback by a question from the New York Islanders during the interview process where they asked the brilliant student if he saw himself playing in the NHL in two years or finding a cure for cancer. The question stunned the brilliant 18-year-old as if he would ever have to choose between playing hockey or the strong academic record hed put up over the years, and the notion amused Peter Chiarelli that a brilliant student couldnt also be a very good hockey player.
Well, New York Islanders GM Garth Snow is a brilliant GM, said Chiarelli with a completely straight face.
Third round pick Anthony Camara is a fighter and gritty junior player that made a name for himself with his fearless style of taking on any possible fight opponents. When asked where that fearless came from, the 17-year-old Toronto native had a pretty surprising answer.
I would say probably my sister would beat on me when I was a little kid, he said before breaking out into laughter. It got me tougher. Congratulations to Eric Tosi, Matt Chmura, Kelly Mohr and all of the other hard-working interns and game day staff people on the Boston Bruins PR staff for winning the highly-respected Dillman Award given to the NHL's top PR staff in the league each and every year. The B's do a lot of good work in that area, and have truly lifted that department up over the last four years. The award is a well-deserved honor.