By Joe Haggerty
WILMINGTON Its been a long road of perseverance and patience for Rich Peverley, but its all paid off in the end.
The 29-year-old picture of versatility has worked his way up as an undrafted free agent out of St. Lawrence University, and seemed a long way from yesterdays announcement when he potted 30 goals for the South Carolina Stingrays during the 2004-05 hockey season fresh out of college.
For 99 percent of hockey players toiling in the coast league as undrafted hockey commodities with no draft ties to an NHL organization, thats usually as far as it goes.
For 30 percent of those players that move on to the AHL and get within a single step of their NHL dream, thats the end of the line in a road less traveled by elite hockey prospects.
Its something in the neighborhood of 5-10 percent of players if even that much that manage to go from being East Coast Hockey League roster filler to the NHL hockey pinnacle, and it usually takes one thing beyond anything else to get there: the unsinkable belief that you belong.
The shifty forward needed to gain strength and learn how to play with the right amount of grime in his game, but he always believed hed made it.
Peverley did all of that while working his way up from the bottom, and going from minor league Stingray to Stanley Cup champion.
While a player that skipped the minor league experience altogether like Blake Wheeler through no fault of his own never really learned how to will himself to success or develop parts of his game beyond the shiny skill set -- Peverley needed to learn how survive in some rough-and-tumble places before knocking the NHL door down with the Predators and Thrashers.
So it was a pretty sweet day for Peverley on Tuesday as he inked a three-year deal with the Bruins for 9.75 million that will keep him for the foreseeable future. A hockey source indicated that Peverley will get 3 million next season, and 3.75 million in both2012-13 and 2013-14 for the B's. The Bs inked Peverley before restricted free agents like David Krejci and Tuukka Rask, and Peter Chiarelli said it was the culmination of several weeks worth of negotiating.
The competition level within the dressing room is so high pushing for minutes and for spots in the lineup, said Peverley. Hockey is something I really take seriously, and its a game that I love. Im a big sports nut to begin with, so Ive felt very lucky to be here since getting traded to the Bruins last spring.
Other places Ive played havent really even been sports towns like Boston is, so I truly appreciate it here. This is the place I wanted to be. There are some great people here and I wanted to be a part of it.
Chiarelli remembers Peverley as far back as his college hockey days, but he permanently plopped on the Bs radar after exceeding 20 goals and 50 points for the Thrashers while continuing to get his nose dirty. The offensive performance combined with his fearless style he doesnt win every puck battle, but hell engage regardless makes him a player Chiarelli has always noticed.
He's a player we've always coveted and we were fortunate to get him last year," Chiarelli said. "He's just one of the guys we thought could fit into our top seven or top six. Maybe we've waited a little bit longer in signing some guys that are potential UFAs, but we just decided to move forward with Rich. He's got speed, a good shot, he's still relatively young in the grander scheme and he's just a guy we wanted to have in our mixfor the next four years.
Peverley doesn't quite have the Tim Thomas story, but he's really worked his way up. He signed as an unrestricted free agent that was never drafted and worked his way through the Coast (East Coast Hockey League). I admire thatI admire that in him. I think I said that when we acquired him. I know he likes the town, he likes the organization. He mentioned that his wife likes it in Boston also so that played a part in him signing.
While Peverley honed his craft with the Predators and Thrashers before nearly washing out of the NHL after Nashville cut ties with him, he arrived in Boston as the Swiss Army Knife forwards. He came with a price tag as the Bruins had to give up Mark Stuart and Wheeler to acquire him, but his teammates know they never capture the Cup without his contributions.
Its easier to tick off what Peverley cant do than his varied skills: He has great skating wheels, can finish with an accurate shot and quick release, can make the extra pass, kill penalties, provide a viable alternative on the power play and give quality face-off coverage along with a pretty healthy amount of grit. Hes fond a solid home as the replacement for Mark Recchi along the right wing, and the two-goal performance against the Tampa Bay Lightning seems like the tip of the iceberg for Peverley.
He deserves it, he was a huge part of us winning and he really worked hart for it," Patrice Bergeron said. "Its unbelievable that now hes getting recognized all of a sudden. I always thought he was a great player when we played against them in Atlanta. Hes a hard worker, hes tough on draws, able to play in at every position and every line and always fit in.
Theres no guarantee Peverley will skate with Bergeron and Brad Marchand for the rest of the season, but hes already proven early on that their trio combined could vie for top line status with the Black and Gold.
Given Peverleys solid makeup and varied skills, he should be in the mix for that kind of role for the rest of his soon-to-be-long career lending his speed, shot and experienced savvy to the Bruins.