In game of tag, Welker still not 'it'

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In game of tag, Welker still not 'it'

The Patriots have until Monday at 4 p.m. to apply the franchise tag to Wes Welker, whichwould keep the wideout offthe free-agent market.Thatthe deadline draws closer and all isquiet could be a good sign. Silence often precedes progress. The Patriots and Welker's agent, David Dunn, havetried since last fallto get Welker a deal that works for both sides, but it's not clear how busy they've been in recent days. Dunn hasn't responded to calls to any of his phones, nor to e-mails, texts or carrier pigeon. The Patriots? Ummm, no. Welker, who turns 31 in May, signed a five-year, 18 million deal with the team in 2007. Since he's been here, he's made 554 catches for 6,105 yards and 31 touchdowns. He had one receiving touchdown before he came to New England. He's been to four Pro Bowls, battled back from a blown ACL in mere months and has been a worthy successor to Troy Brown as the Patriot most who most fully embodies what the franchise has been about since Bill Belichick arrived. In August, Larry Fitzgerald, 28,of the Cardinals signed an eight-year, 128.5 million contract with 50 million guaranteed. The age difference and the role difference between Welker and Fitzgerald is certainly worth noting - Welker's a slot receiver; Fitzgerald is an outside receiver and home-run threat - but the production similarities are worth noting as well. No receiver has been more productive than Welker over the past five years and the Patriots have gotten him at a very low cost relative to that production. It's Dunn's job to make sure Welker gets paid near the top of the receiver food chain and he's well within his rights to expect the Patriots to shell out a little more on top of that for services already rendered. The Patriots love Welker the player and the person. They want him around long-term, but it's unfathomable to think he'll be getting a deal which has a total value that even approaches Fitzgerald's 50 million guaranteed. With the franchise tag set at 9.4 million this year, a four-year, 32 million deal with 18-20 million guaranteed seems fair for Welker. He'd be making 8 million a year and would have a good chance of realizing all the money in the deal. In the end, he will have made 50 million over nine seasons if you roll in the first contract with the Patriots. The first players to get tagged this offseason came Thursday -DeSean Jackson of the Eagles and Raider Tyvon Branch. We're expecting a few more on Friday and the trickle of tagged players to continue until the deadline. We'll see if Welker is in the trickle.

Bruins tap Maine-bound goalie Swayman in fourth round

Bruins tap Maine-bound goalie Swayman in fourth round

CHICAGO – It was thought the Bruins might swing for the fences with Boston University goalie Jake Oettinger, particularly if they traded down in the first round, but they ended up filling their goalie quota on Saturday in the fourth round of the NHL Draft at the United Center. The B’s selected University of Maine-bound Jeremy Swayman with the 111th pick in the draft after an impressive run for the Alaska native at Sioux Falls as a junior hockey player.

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The 6-foot-2, 183-pound Swayman posted a 2.90 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage in 32 games for a poor Sioux City junior team, but distinguished himself with his size, athleticism and competitiveness as the rare goalie prospect to come out of the great state of Alaska. Swayman was eating breakfast in his Alaskan home while watching himself get drafted by the Bruins. Needless to say, he was pumped as he readies for his first season in Hockey East.

“I’ve been working my whole life for this and just to kind of have the notion of, your work has paid off in a small area of time or a small trinket, it’s very worth all of the hard times and tough times, and kind of working at everything for it. It’s kind of a token back and just an incredible opportunity for sure,” said Swayman, who said he models his game after Braden Holtby while also envying Tuukka Rask’s flexibility. “I would describe myself as a challenge goalie. So, a competitive goalie just kind of fighting through traffic at all times. Being able to see the puck from anywhere on the ice, whether there is a screen in front or a point shot and, of course, a point blank shot. Again, I trust my ability on my skates. I have good feet. I can stay up longer than most goalies in situations where they would have to slide. So, I can stay up and cover more net on a backdoor pass, per say. I also like to cut down the angle a lot.”

Bruins assistant GM Scott Bradley admitted that Swayman wasn’t the first choice of everybody at the B’s draft table, but said the scouts were confident making him the pick after another goalie was taken off the board before him. There were three goalies taken in the fourth round, including Prince Albert netminder Ian Scott taken one pick before the B’s selection, so it’s difficult to tell which other goalie Boston had their eyes on.

Clearly, the hope now is that Swayman follows in a proud tradition of stud Black Bears goalies that include Ben Bishop, Jimmy Howard, Scott Darling, Mike Dunham and Garth Snow, and that the B’s have drafted a new goalie of the future with Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre in the AHL.

“He’s a goalie that [Bruins goalie coach] Bob Essensa had really liked, and had scouted him. Most of our staff was on board with the goalie. We targeted another goalie, but he just went before our pick,” said Bruins assistant GM Scott Bradley. “We heard good things from [the University of Maine] staff there, and we did our due diligence on him. We’re happy with him.”

It remains to be seen how Swayman develops in college, but the B’s hope it’s a steady, ascending development like that of McIntyre after they drafted him prior to his starring run at North Dakota. 
 

Bruins go for some skill with Studnicka pick in second round

Bruins go for some skill with Studnicka pick in second round

CHICAGO – The Bruins aimed for one of their “skill” picks in the second round when they nabbed Oshawa Generals center Jack Studnicka with the 53rd selection in the NHL Draft Saturday at the United Center.

Studnicka, 18, took a jump with scouts this season while scoring 18 goals and 52 points in 64 games for the Generals and dominated the Memorial Cup playoffs with five goals and 15 points in ten games. Couple that with three goals in three games at the World Under-18’s, and the 6-foot-1, 180-pounder is the kind of forward prospect that Boston was happy to add to their draft class as a center or a possible right wing.

“He had a very good Under-18’s and he’s very skilled. He’s a late bloomer too. He came around and had a good second half and a strong playoff where he was a point-per-game player in the OHL playoffs,” said Bruins assistant GM Scott Bradley, who oversaw this weekend’s draft after the departure of head scout Keith Gretzky. “We addressed a need there because we think we can play both wing and center, and that he’s got room to develop. He’s close to 6-foot-2 but the frame is light, so we look forward to working with him and seeing what we develop there.”

Studnicka was happy to be selected by the Bruins on the second day of the draft and said he models his game after Toronto Maple Leafs center Tyler Bozak while closely watching the Leafs games as a good Ontario boy should.

“I think I’m a two-way centerman that’s trusted in all three zones of the ice, but at the same time, I can contribute to the offense when I have to. I am a reliable center that can put up numbers. Being in Oshawa I got to a lot of Leafs games, and Tyler Bozak was a really reliable centerman, a good face-off guy and he’s very versatile while some nights playing power play and some nights playing penalty kill.”

Interestingly enough Studnicka was coached by Torey Krug’s dad, Kyle, when he played for the Detroit Belle Tire Minor Midgets and the Krug paterfamilias gave his stamp of approval on the B’s pick.

“Very cerebral,” said Kyle Krug to CSN while also mentioning that Studnicka’s dad played at the University of Maine. “Tremendous compete level. Really good skill. Good feet. Terrific work ethic off and on the ice. Great teammate.”

Clearly, Studnicka sounds like a Bruins-type prospect with the reliability, smarts and skillful upside, and the B’s can only hope he develops into a true Studnicka on the ice over the next couple of years while working his way to the NHL.