Boston Bruins Pre-Season: Part Uno

Warm ups at the Boston Bruins Black and Gold intra-squad game in Providence, R.I. at the Dunkin' Donuts Center. (via Eric Converse)

Warm ups at the Boston Bruins Black and Gold intra-squad game in Providence, R.I. at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. (via Eric Converse)

By Eric Converse

With a few exhibition games already under our belts and the first round of roster cuts announced from Boston Bruins General Manager Peter (Chi-Chi-Chi) Chiarelli, now is a good time than ever to review what’s been going on.

Training camp started off with relatively few surprises and nothing was significantly remarkable to me until the unfortunate injury to coveted first round pick David Pastrnak, on a hit by defenseman Matt Bartkowski. Hardcore Bruins fans were so close to seeing Pastrnak debut in a Bruins jersey in the Black and Gold game in Providence, Rhode Island, but alas it was not meant to be.

As suggested by Bleacher Report columnist Al Daniel, the Pastrnak injury demonstrates that he’s not physically ready for the NHL. Everyone knew this, deep down in their hockey loving hearts, but he still came in to the training camp as the possible wild card that could surprise everyone by making the team as the young phenom to inject some life in to a roster that feels like a step back from last season.

With Pastrnak gone, fans (and most likely the management team) were forced to focus more of their attention on more realistic short term solutions for this season.

Defense

So far, potential Torey Krug replacement David Warsofky looks very comfortable moving the puck out of his own zone, utilizing both his hands for the quick pass, or carrying the puck out with his speed. Although he has these Krug-like attributes, he has not been nearly as visible in the offensive zone. He moves the puck well, but has less threatening shot. He continues to improve his game with each passing season, cutting down on turnovers. Warsofsky would benefit from one or possibly two more seasons in the minors to round out his game before attempting to take on a full time NHL role.

Defenseman Zach Trotman looks excellent so far in camp. He’s had some concussion issues in the past, but they appear to be behind him. He’s added to his already steady stay at home style, to include a more physical approach, and displayed a more powerful and accurate shot than previous seasons during the Bruins-Capitals exhibition game. He certainly appears to be coming in to his own and could make more spot starts in Boston this year. If he continues on his current path, he could be an NHL regular in no time.

It's interesting to watch players like Bergeron and Krejci faceoff against eachother or Bergeron skate against Chara in the intra-squad game. (Via Ed Derouin)

It’s interesting to watch players like Bergeron and Krejci faceoff against eachother or Bergeron skate against Chara in the intra-squad game. (Via Ed Derouin)

Adam McQuaid showed some rust in the intra-squad game, mis-firing passes and mis-judging the speed transition plays in the neutral zone getting beat at his own blue line. With each subsequent game, he’s appeared more comfortable and ready to be 100% by the season opener. Dennis Seidenberg jumped right back in with far fewer visible rust issues. Both will be vital to the D core this year. Dougie Hamilton continues to progress and incorporate more of a physical aspect to his game.

Until the aggressive 3rd period goal against the Capitals on Wednesday night, Zdeno Chara appeared average (for Chara), maybe even lethargic at times. This could be a good thing, as the on-going theme for Mr. Chara this season is limiting his minutes, and putting him in a position to succeed in April, May, and June 2015. Let’s not start the season full guns a-blazing Chara style and burn out by the time games get important.

Johnny Boychuk has entered camp in top form and was firing on all cylinders in the intra-squad game. He’s been under the microscope of the media for much of the summer as rumors continue to permeate about him potentially being traded to make cap space to sign Krug and Smith.

According to Facebook Bruins Insider “Bruins Quebec”, defenseman Joe Morrow, a strong regular in Providence, was kicked out of practice early on the 23rd, and that Julien later commented: “I just got tired of looking at him.” His dip in form is surprising as he is a valued prospect and top end defensive prospect in Providence. One has to wonder if his issues during this camp stem from the fact that he knows that the Boston defense core is significantly deep. Breen, Arnesson, and Casto will be playing in Providence this season after getting a bit more of a look by the Bruins brass. Breen, with his size, will be fun to watch in Providence this season.

The ConverseHockey Bruins Defensemen Depth Chart!! (It’s actually more like a list)

1.) 33 ZDENO CHARA “C” 6′ 9″
2.) 44 DENNIS SEIDENBERG 6′ 1″ 210
3.) 55 JOHNNY BOYCHUK 6′ 2″ 225
4.) 27 DOUGIE HAMILTON 6′ 5″ 212
5.) 86 KEVAN MILLER 6′ 2″ 210
6.) 54 ADAM MCQUAID 6′ 5″ 209
7.) 43 MATT BARTKOWSKI 6′ 1″ 196
8.) 62 ZACH TROTMAN 6′ 3″ 219
9.) 79 DAVID WARSOFSKY 5′ 9″ 170
10.) 45 JOE MORROW 6′ 1″ 204
11.) 42 CHRIS BREEN 6′ 7″ 224
12.) 49 LINUS ARNESSON 6′ 1″ 188
13.) 65 CHRIS CASTO 6′ 1″ 200

14.) 47 TOREY KRUG 5′ 9″ 180 UNSIGNED

Without Krug in the line up, the primary puck moving role moves to Hamilton, who has a two-way style aspect about him. He’s not as quick in the transition game as Krug, which the B’s sorely need to increase their overall team speed. Krug would be greatly missed for his ability to set up the power play, especially with assistant coach Geoff Ward, who coached the power play, leaving the team over the summer as well. Although I have Trotman higher on the depth chart than Warsofsky, the B’s are clearly considering Warsofsky’s offensive minded style of play to compensate for the loss of Krug.

More to come on the forwards and goaltenders.

Follow Me On Twitter: @ConverseHockey

NHL Hockey Fights Dying Slow Death

Hockey executives are slowly manipulating the rules to organically remove fighting from the game rather than banning it immediately.

 

This is the 2nd half to “AHL Getting It Right With Rule Changes” Click here for the 1st half

A fight between Shawn Thornton and Wade Brookbank. (Photo Credit: Dan4th of flickr)

A fight between Shawn Thornton and Wade Brookbank. (Photo Credit: Dan4th of flickr)

By Eric Converse

With the American Hockey League implementing a new rule limiting players to a single fight per game, the role of fighting naturally becomes a more prominent talking point again during this long summer off-season. This rule change for the NHL executives to monitor and potentially implement at the major league level is just another in a string of minor alterations that eventually will end fighting in the game.

Many hockey fans love the fighting or at least just accept it as a part of the game. Every person in a hockey arena is up out of their seat during a fight rooting for the hometown guy, myself included.

People outside of hockey often correlate fighting to the stereotypical dumb hockey player with teeth missing or to scenes witnessed in the movie Slap Shot. Some of these people even ask the question: “Why doesn’t the NHL ban fighting immediately? It’s barbaric and if two people did the same thing in the stands, they would be arrested and face charges.” There are a variety of responses to this question.

First off, hockey has always been a part of the North American version of the game. Literally. The very first modern hockey game played on March 3rd, 1875 at Victoria Skating Rink in Montreal, Quebec, Canada ended with a fight between some players and spectators. As the game continued to develop in to what it is now, at no time did fighting ever get banned at the professional level.

Second, there is a segment of the hardcore fanbase that love fights in hockey games, so much so, that they would stop following the game all together if fights were out right banned. Fighting actually helped promote hockey in newer southern US markets. One southern minor league team even put up billboards that said, “The only difference between hockey and war, is that war has rules.” With the game slowly growing it’s audience in the US, losing a portion of fans now would be a blow to the sport.

Lastly, many credit fighting with limiting other more serious violence in the game, such as heavy slashing and dangerous body checking. “Let the players police themselves!” Fighters keep opponents in check and protect superstars, such as Marty McSorley protecting Wayne Gretzky, and most recently Steve Downie attempting to protect Sidney Crosby.

Furthermore, it is argued that players initiating and engaging in fights following the unwritten “code” is safer than players seeking revenge with unclean hits.

While there is certainly an element of truth to these arguments above to justify fighting in the game, hockey will eventually evolve in to a sport where it’s no longer a necessary part of the game. As stated above, banning fights today would rock the hockey world boat significantly and it could lead to backlash in the current fanbase, but if hockey culture slowly changes over the next 10 to 20 years, the league could implement the ban with far less retaliation.

This change is already happening.

… and has been for some time now.

For years, out of control bench clearing brawls ruled the day:

To clean up the league’s image, all of this entirely stopped in 1987 when the NHL enacted very strict rules against players leaving the bench to join a fight on the ice. Line brawls still occurred on the ice, but have become less frequent as the NHL implemented “3rd man in” rules to keep fights more contained between just 2 opponents. Lastly, the “instigator rule” was designed to make fights a bit more spontaneous rather than planned.

More recently, with increasing legal issues regarding concussions and other long term head injuries of retired players, the league is being proactive with current players and making the game safer to protect owners from further future lawsuits. In 2013, the NHL implemented new rules that force every new player entering the league to wear a visor on their helmets, to obviously protect themselves from high sticks and pucks to the eyes. The league also implemented a rule that bans two fighters from removing their helmets before throwing punches, to protect players in incidences such as this:

All of these rule changes have contributed to a significant drop in fights per game in the last 15 years, but if things continue, this is just the beginning.

With the rules as they are now in the NHL, nearly all the players in the league by 2025 will be forced to wear visors and will be forced to wear their helmets during a fight. In an environment like that, far fewer players will want to cut their hands open on an opponent visor to land a perfect uppercut on their jaw.

If the AHL rule that limits players to 1 fight per game ever reaches the NHL, it would expedite this culture change and greatly diminish the role of the enforcer. Players like John Scott would have to pick and choose their battles far more wisely now as to not “waste” their fight too early in the game or else risk needing to fight again, then leaving their team’s bench short handed the rest of the game. In the long run, this rule would alter how teams draft players and construct teams, making the traditional enforcer obsolete. At that point, why waste a roster spot on a player whose primary skill is to fight once per game and then be a useless waste sitting on the bench?

By no means should the NHL ever crack down on physicality. No one wants figure skating ice hockey. Hard clean body checks and wild open ice hip checks are an exciting and huge strategic part of hockey that actually can swing momentum in games. Unfortunately, fighting has actually made big hits far less frequent, as explained by USA Today‘s Kevin Allen, with every big clean check leading to a needless retaliation fight.

Skill and clean physicality would become the name of the game and it would be up to referees and the NHL’s governing body to mandate stiff penalties to those playing dirty and trying to take advantage of the “fighterless NHL,” just like all other major sports leagues in the world. (Stiff penalties on diving and embellishment too)

Maybe by then, the people that want to keep fighting in the game right now, will realize they’ve been putting hockey down for all these years. After all, they’re essentially saying that the sport of hockey is simply not good enough on it’s own merits without the gimmick of fighting. They could not be more wrong. It only holds the game back and limits it to being considered a borderline major sport in many parts of the world.

There is so much more to the game of hockey that makes it an amazing sport and you know it.

Follow and talk to me on twitter! @ConverseHockey

AHL Getting It Right With Rule Changes

A fight between Shawn Thornton and Wade Brookbank. (Photo Credit: Dan4th of flickr)

A fight between Shawn Thornton and Wade Brookbank. (Photo Credit: Dan4th of flickr)

By Eric Converse

American Hockey League President and CEO David Andrews announced new rule changes in July in response to some of hockey’s underlying issues. These rule changes include new fighting penalties, a lengthened overtime, and a new protocol for when players get their helmets knocked off during their shift. These changes are both helpful to the eventual growth of the sport and necessary due to some of the recent legal issues facing the National Hockey League.

The New Overtime Rules

As it stands now in the NHL, overtime is 5 minutes long, 4 on 4 play, and if it remains tied after the OT, it goes to a 3 round shootout. The AHL previously had a very similar format, except it had a 5 round shootout. About 15% of the 1,230 regular season NHL games end in these shootouts, which some critics believe is too often. Although many agree that shootouts are better than games ending in ties, it is better to end more games in a way that is more team oriented.

Next season, the AHL will feature a lengthened 7 minute overtime, with the first 4 minutes played 4 on 4, then shifting to 3 on 3 play following the first whistle with under 3 minutes to play in the period. Also, teams will switch ends of the ice, forcing them to make the far more difficult long line changes, which could lead to more defensive breakdowns. Lastly, the entire ice surface will be dry scraped before the overtime even begins.

These changes strike a careful balance of increasing the likelihood of ending games in overtime without adding too much playing time to the extra period, in an already lengthy regular season schedule. Making the entire overtime 3 on 3 would likely be considered as bad as a shootout, and making the overtime 10 minutes long would likely be fought by the players union if it was proposed at the NHL level.

It will be interesting to see how these changes play out next season in the minors.

The New Helmet Rule

It’s been nearly 2 decades since Craig MacTavish, the last NHL player to not wear a helmet, retired from the game. Old time hockey fans lamented the loss of seeing their favorite players skate around helmet-less. In recent years, fans would get an occasional glimpse of the past when a player would lose his helmet due to a check or some other unexpected play, then skate the rest of his shift out the old-fashioned way.

The AHL president says “NO MOAR!” Starting this season, if a player has his helmet knocked off, he must either put the helmet back on immediately (and properly) or immediately return to the bench for a line change. (Getting a new helmet from the bench would likely be impractical.)

Despite this being another kick in the groin to nostalgic fans, it is a move that makes sense for the league considering the current legal climate sports leagues are navigating right now with former players filing lawsuits for prolonged concussion symptoms. The most recent lawsuit in hockey was filed by former Boston and Providence Bruins player Jon Rohloff on the NHL for players “knowing that they might get injured and dinged, but they did not sign up for brain damage.”

These kinds of rule changes are now necessary to demonstrate the league is doing the best it can to put the players in the safest environment possible, for ice hockey. This is a natural segue to…

The New Fighting Game Misconduct

The last rule change is significant as it only allows a player to fight once in a single game. If a player fights a 2nd time, they receive an automatic game misconduct penalty and is sent to the dressing room for the rest of the night.

Minor league hockey is notorious for its significant emphasis on fighting compared to the NHL, especially in the last couple of decades, with young players dropping the gloves to make a name for themselves in their respective organizations. Some players who realize they do not have enough skill to reach the NHL turn to taking on the enforcer role as a way to reach “the show.”

There are two other major elements at play here regarding the NHL’s approach to fighting: the sport’s popularity and youth participation.

For years, a majority involved in hockey credit fighting with limiting unnecessary stick work by opponents, limiting injuries to the star skilled players by protecting them with an enforcer (I.e. Wayne Grezky- Marty McSorley), and contributing to the popularity of the game in the US, especially in southern markets.

TO BE CONTINUED

FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER: @ ConverseHockey

Ryan Spooner Ready For NHL

Bruins prosepct Ryan Spooner is poised to play for Boston full time next season. (Photo credit: Meowwcat)

Bruins prospect Ryan Spooner is poised to play for Boston full-time next season. (Photo credit: Meowwcat)

By Eric Converse

As Jarome Iginla takes his talents to the mile high city, some fans are in panic mode seeing their team take a significant offensive downgrade. Meanwhile, Bruins management appear content in their current situation. Bruins general manager, Peter Chiarelli, announced to the media that he is “really comfortable” with Loui Eriksson moving up from the 3rd line to 1st line wing.

As of now, this is the most likely solution going in to opening night. However, separating Carl Soderberg from Eriksson on the third line will eliminate a pairing that had growing chemistry in the playoffs last spring and will create an opening for Providence Bruins forwards to get promoted to the big club. Providence Bruins 1st line center, Ryan Spooner, is poised to take this spot.

Spooner, the Bruins 2010 2nd round draft pick, has plied his trade in Providence for the last two seasons. His offensive vision, soft hands, skating speed, and tricky footwork while carrying the puck are his greatest assets. His ability to find teammates with his slick passing makes him a regular offensive threat every night.

Right now, Spooner’s shot is not quite as consistent or dangerous as his passing, as he tends to rely on finding the open space to dangle on defense and goalies to score. Defensively, Spooner is prone to lapses in coverage. Due to his size, he can be out-muscled to the puck, especially in the corners.

As many remember, Spooner already has had some time with Boston in the pre-season and regular season. He had a very impressive stretch of games already, registering 11 assists with the big club, only a preview of his true potential.

In the Bruins current position, Spooner is the ideal candidate for a full-time promotion at the start of the regular season. By this point in his career, it will be a disappointment if he is assigned to Providence by the end of training camp. If he plays at his best, he’ll earn a spot in Boston.

Although he is a natural center, Spooner could benefit from being placed on the 3rd line as a winger, along side Carl Soderberg and Chris Kelly. On the wing his defensive coverage and face-off weaknesses will be far less exposed. He could ease into center duties and further sharpen his face-off skills by learning from the best.

There are some rumors that Gregory Campbell will be traded in a package deal by the end of the summer, which could also open up the 4th line center spot to Spooner. With that kind of trade, it would be in Chiarelli’s best interest to slide Daniel Paille up to the 3rd line, as he would be the only remaining “Merlot Line” player. Spooner could center an entirely new 4th line that includes other young talent such as Alexander Khokhlachev, Justin Florek, Matt Fraser, and possibly even David Pastrnak, to name a few.

Regardless, if Spooner can make the team this fall at any forward position, he will add much needed speed and offensive creativity to the forward core. He can add depth to the Bruins power play, with his puck-moving abilities. Now is the time for Spooner to prove himself that he is NHL ready on a full-time basis.

Lucic-Krejci-Eriksson
Marchand-Bergeron-Smith
Kelly-Soderberg-Spooner
Paille-Campbell-Florek/Fraser/Robins

This line up keeps the 4th line as more of a traditional physical grinding energy line.

OR

Lucic-Krejci-Eriksson
Marchand-Bergeron-Smith
Paille-Soderberg-Kelly
Florek/Robins-Spooner-Fraser/Khokhlachev

This line up converts the 4th line in to more of an offensively oriented line, which, would negate the loss of Iginla’s contributions to the line up if they are successful.

Follow me on twitter @ConverseHockey

NHL Free Agent Signings SO FAR

graphic-design-contract

A lot of this happened today.

NHL Free Agent Signings as of 10:00 pm July 8th, 2014

* Signifies player re-signed with the same team.

Anaheim Ducks
Clayton Stoner D 4 years, $13 million
Jason LaBarbera G 1 Year, $750,000 K

Arizona Coyotes
Joe Vitale C 3 years, $3.35 million
Devan Dubnyk G 1 year, $800k
Joe Vitale C 3 Year, $3.35 Million
Alexandrew Bolduc F 1 year, 2 way contract
Andrew Campbell D 1 year, 2 way contract
Mike McKenna G 1 year, 2 way contract
Dylan Reese D 1 year, 2 way contract

Boston Bruins
Jeremy Smith G, 1 year, two way contract

Buffalo Sabres
Brian Gionta RW 3 years, $12.7 million
Matt Moulson F 5 years, $25 million
Cody McCormack C 3 years, $1.5 million
Marcus Foligno LW 2 years, $3.75 million*
Andrej Meszaros D 1 year, $4 million
Tyson Strachan D 1 year, 2 way deal

Calgary Flames
Mason Raymond LW 3 years, $9.5 million
Jonas Hiller G 2 years, $9 million
Deryk Engelland D 3 years, $8.7 million
Sena Acolatse D 1 year, two way contract
Paul Byron F 1 Year, $600K*

Carolina Hurricane
Brad Malone F 2 years, $1.3 million
Jiri Tlusty LW 1 year, $2.95 million*
Drew MacIntyre G 1 Year, 2 way contract
Greg Nemisz F 1 Year, 2 way contract*
Jay McClement 1 year, $1 million
Zach Boychuk F 1 year, 2 way contract*
Jared Staal F 1 year, 2 way contract*
Michal Jordan D 1 year, 2 way contract*
Ben Holmstrom F 1 year, 2 way contract

Chicago Blackhawks
Peter Regin C 1 year, $650k*
Brad Richards F 1 year, $2 million
Cody Bass F AHL Contract
Pierre-Cedric Labrie F AHL Contract

Colorado Avalanche
Jarome Iginla F 3 years, $16 million
Bruno Gervais D 1 year, $650k
Jesse Winchester F 2 year contract, $1.8 Million
Zach Redmond D 2 year contract 2 year, $1.5 Million
Ben Street F 2 year, 2 way contract
Bruno Gervais D 1 year, 2 way contract

Columbus Blue Jackets
Brian Gibbons C 1 year, 2 way deal
David Savard D 2 year, $2.6 million*
Corey Tropp F 2 year, $1.25 million*
Corey Goloubef D 1 year, 2 way contract*
Sean Collins F 1 year, 2 way contract*

Dallas Stars
Ales Hemsky RW 3 years, $12 million
Patrick Eaves F 1 year, $650K
Anders Lindback G 1 year, $925K
Vernon Fiddler F 2 Years, $1 million year one, $1.5 million year two*

Detroit Red Wings
Kyle Quincey D 2 year, $8.5 Million*

Edmonton Oilers
Benoit Pouliot W 5 years, $20 million
Mark Fayne D 4 years Oilers
Keith Aulie D 1 year, $800k
Luke Gazdic LW 2 Year, about 750K*
Jeff Petry D 1 year, $3.075 Million*

Florida Panthers
Jussi Jokinen LW 4 years, $16 million
Dave Bolland C 5 years, $27.5 million
Al Montoya G 2 years, $2.1 million
Shawn Thornton F 2 years, $2.4 million
Willie Mitchell D 2 years, $8.5 million
Derek MacKenzie C 3 years, $3.9 million

Los Angeles Kings
Adam Cracknell RW 1 Year two way AHL contract
David Van der Gulik LW 1 Year two way AHL contract

Minnesota Wild
Thomas Vanek F 3 years, $19.5 million
Stu Bickel D 1 Year, 2 way Contract
Brett Sutter F 2 Year, 2 way contract
Joel Rechlicz RW 1 year, 2 way deal

Montreal Canadiens
Manny Malhotra C 1 year, $850k
Tom Gilbert D 2 years, $5.6 million
Mike Weaver D 1 year, $1.75 million*
Jiri Sekac F 2 years, amount undisclosed as of this writing
Joey MacDonald G 1 Year, 2 Way Contract

Nashville Predators
Olli Jokinen F 1 year, $2.5 million
Joe Piskula D 1 year, 2 way contract*
Anton Volchenkov D 1 year, $1 Million
Anthony Bitetto D 1 year, 2 way deal*

New Jersey Devils
Mike Cammalleri W 5 years, $25 million
Marty Havlat F 1 year, $1.5 million
Steve Bernier RW 1 year, $600k
Scott Clemmensen G 1 Year, 2 Way Contract
Stephen Gionta F 2 years, $850K*
Steve Bernier F 1 year, $600,000*

New York Islanders
Chad Johnson G 2 years, $2.6 million
T.J. Brennan D 1 year, amount undisclosed as of this writing
Harry Zolnierczyk D 1 year 2 way deal, $600K
David Leggio G 1 Year 2 way deal
Jack Skille RW 1 Year 2 way deal
Chris Mueller AHL Contract
Cory Conacher F 1 Year, NHL Deal, Terms Undisclosed

New York Rangers
Dan Boyle D 2 years, $9 million
Tanner Glass F 3 years, $4.35 million
Dominic Moore F 2 years, $3 million*
Mike Kostka D 1 year, $650k
Cedric Desjardins G AHL Contract
Matt Hunwick D 1 year, $600K
Steven Kampfer D Terms not disclosed
Nikolai Kulemin F 4 years, $16.75 million
Mikhail Grabovski F 4 years, $20 million
Nick Tarnasky F AHL Contract/Not Disclosed

Ottawa Senators
Milan Michalek LW 3 years, $12 million*
Carter Camper F 1 year, 2 way contract
Michael Sdao D 2 year, 2 way contract*
David Dziurzynski F 2 year, 2 way deal*
Aaron Johnson D 1 year, 2 way deal
David Legwand C 2 year, $6 million
Alex Grant D 1 year, 2 way deal*

Philadelphia Flyers
Rob Zepp G 1 year, $600k
Ray Emery G 1 year, $1 million*
Nick Shultz D 1 year, $1.25 million
Andrew Gordon F 1 year, 2 way contract
Jason Akeson F 1 year, 2 way contract*
Zach Stortini F 1 year, 2 way contract
Chris VandeVelde C 1 year, 2 way contract*

Pittsburgh Penguins
Christian Ehrhoff D 1 year, $4 million
Thomas Greiss G 1 year, $1 million
Blake Comeau RW 1 year, $700k
Marcel Goc F 1 year, $1.2 million*
Nick Drazenovic F 1 Year two way contract, $550K*
Taylor Chorney D 1 Year two way contract, $550K
Zach Sill F 1 year, 2 way deal*

San Jose Sharks
Taylor Fedun D 1 year, $600k
John Scott F 1 year, $700K
Tommy Wingels 3 year, $7.4 million*
James Sheppard 1 year, $1.3 million*

St. Louis Blues
Jori Lehtera C 2 years, $5.5 million*
Paul Stastny C 4 years, $28 million
Patrick Cannone F 1 year, 2 way contract*
John McCarthy F 1 year, 2 way contract
Sebastian Wannstrom F 1 year, 2 way contract*

Tampa Bay Lightning
Anton Stralman D 5 years, $22.5 million
Brian Boyle F 3 years, $6 million
Evgeni Nabokov G 1 year, $1.55 million
Mike Blunden RW 1 year, 2 way contract
Mike Angelidis F 1 year, 2 way contract*
Evgeni Nabokov G 1 Year, $1.55 million
Brian Boyle F 3 Year, $2 million
Andrej Sustr D 1 year, $874,125*
Matthew Corrente D 1 year, 2 way contract
Cody Kunyk F 1 year, 2 way contract*

Toronto Maple Leafs
Stephane Robidas D 3 years, $9 milliont
Leo Komarov C 4 years, $8.85 million*
Troy Bodie F 1 year, 2 way contract*
Mike Santorelli F 1 year, $1.5 million

Vancouver Canucks
Ryan Miller G 3 years, $18 million
Radim Vrbata RW 2 year, $10 million
Zack Kassian F 2 year, $3.5 million*
Yannick Weber D 1 year, $850,000*
Joe Cannata G 1 year, 2 way contract*
Peter Andersson D 1 year, 2 way contract*
Chris Tanev D 1 year, $1.88 million*

Washington Capitals
Justin Peters G 2 years, $1.9 million
Brooks Orpik D 5 years, $27.5 million
Matt Niskanen D 7 years, $40.25 million
Michael Latta C 2 Years, 1.15 Million*
Jon Landry D 1 Year 2 way Contract
Mike Moore D 1 Year 2 way Contract
Chris Conner F 1 year, 2 way Contract
Kris Newbury F 1 year, 2 way contract
Tim Kennedy F 1 year, 2 way contract

Winnipeg Jets
Mathieu Perreault C 3 years, $9 million
Chris Thornburn RW 3 years, $3.6 million*
Michael Hutchinson G 2 years, $1.15 million*

All information was researched through Twitter, NHL.com, Sportsnet, TSN, and NHL Network

More breakdown on each team’s roster moves to come!

Follow me on twitter @ConverseHockey !!!!

Boston Bruins: Iginla In Doubt

Veteran Jarome Iginla appears to be testing the market before making a final decision on where to sign. (Photo by Lisa Gansky)

Veteran Jarome Iginla appears to be testing the market before making a final decision on where to sign. (Photo by Lisa Gansky)

By Eric Converse

As the days pass and no word of a brand spankin’ new contract comes out of the Bruins camp for veteran forward Jarome Iginla, more doubts are creeping in on whether he will actually return to the B’s next season. Iginla, who at one time was labeled by many as a guy born to be a Bruin—for his hard-nosed scoring style—does not feel the same.

Even if he does re-sign with Boston, he’s clearly a veteran hockey mercenary looking for the best financial deal possible from a select number of contending teams. You certainly can’t blame the guy. With the NHL draft this week, many general managers will be lining up with their suitcases full of money to pry him away from Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli.

Based on the tweets by Boston Globe Bruins insider Fluto Shinzawa and other rumors floating around, the Bruins likely have their best shot at re-signing Iginla before the start of the draft this Friday. The Bruins significant cap issues also created a significant gap between what the Bruins can realistically afford and what Iginla and his agent are likely looking for. Today, things only got worse.

So, what if Iginla does not come back? The Bruins certainly lose a steady scorer (30 goals, 61 points last season). His 5 goals (7 points) in the playoffs weren’t too shabby either. His numbers COULD dip this year for the soon-to-be 37 year old. He’ll only get slower, too. He already looked tired and a step behind his opponents in last year’s playoffs.

The Bruins need to utilize the free agent market, despite reports suggesting otherwise, to realistically keep themselves as an elite contender for the cup. Promoted players from Providence such as Ryan Spooner and Justin Florek, a healthy Loui Eriksson, the more experienced Carl Soderberg and Reilly Smith, and extra production chipping in throughout the rest of the line up is not a realistic way to replace Iginla’s production. Everything would have to go right in order for that to work out.

If Iginla signs elsewhere another affordable, solid scorer must be signed via free agency . Here are a few players who are currently available (and very affordable) the B’s could consider:

  • Long time New York Islander winger Matt Moulson is a decent scoring veteran, with 30+ goal scoring seasons in 2011, 2012, and the equivalent of 30+ goals in the shortened 2013 season. He is not flashy or overly physical, and has limited playoff experience, but would provide needed scoring help if the B’s sign him for $2 to $3 million per season.
  • Western Conference mainstay Devin Setoguchi is a speedy scoring winger who is very much in the Bruins price range with an asking price of around $3 million per season. Although he is prone to inconsistency and his overall body of work is less impressive than Matt Moulson’s, his skating prowess could add some much needed speed to a line up that looked slow/lethargic during the Habs series.
  • Right winger Radim Vrbata is another affordable option the B’s could sign for $2 to $3 million per season as well. Overall he’s had less offensive production than both Moulson and Setoguchi, but could add much needed attacking speed. This seems the least likely of the options though, as he struggles with the physical game and is wildly inconsistent.

There are other more skilled, productive wingers with playoff experience available in free agency, but will not be able to sign here unless Peter Chiarelli magically can sign them to a lower priced contract than they are priced out to be on the open market. Trading picks for a player who has the caliber to score 50+ points per season is near impossible, unless you start trading away valued prospects. Trading players such as Chris Kelly, Johnny Boychuk, Greg Campbell, and/or Adam McQuaid with some combination of picks and prospects is a possibility, but in the end Jarome Iginla is definitely their best option right now for the right price.

Niklas Svedberg Signs 1-Way $600,000 Contract

Svedberg appears to be a shoe-in for the backup goaltender to Tuukka Rask, barring a major collapse at training camp with his new one-way contract. There are definitely some questions about Svedberg’s inconsistencies as described in my critical post about him on this site: “Boston Bruins: Niklas Svedberg Is Not The Answer.”

Although the critiques of his game still stand, following the announcement that the Bruins were imposed with $4.75 million worth of salary cap penalties, the solution for signing a veteran goaltender is no longer realistic. Svedberg’s $600,000 salary is an excellent move for the cap. Having an inexperienced backup goaltender is just going to be a necessary evil for the B’s. This move also hands the starting role reigns to star prospect Malcolm Subban for the P-Bruins.

If Rask can stay healthy and his game does not go to hell, Svedberg definitely has enough upside to overcome his recent issues to play well in a few games per month. Some of his lackadaisical play last season in Providence could have been a product of getting sick of being in the minors. If that was the case, his promotion to the world class Boston Bruins should cure him of that.

When Svedberg is on his game, he is playing big in goal utilizing a very structured and economical butterfly style. Hopefully Boston fans will see him at his best.

Goaltender Niklas Svedberg and I during a skate at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence, RI.

Goaltender Niklas Svedberg and I during a skate at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, RI.

 

Follow me on twitter @ConverseHockey

Boston Bruins Budget Puzzle

graphic-design-contractBy Eric Converse

The upcoming NHL draft in Philadelphia on June 27th and 28th, along with the opening of free agency on July 1st should be circled on the calendars of all die-hard Boston Bruins fans. The B’s are tight against the salary cap due to a number of over priced contracts along with the recently reported $4.75 million bonus overage penalties by http://www.capgeek.com.

As of right now with the estimated salary cap ceiling being set at $71,100,000 , the Bruins have $8,397,500 of cap space to resign Jarome Iginla, Reilly Smith, Torey Krug, a replacement for Shawn Thornton, a back up goalie, and depth utility players for the probable playoff run next spring.

This predicament only worsens by next spring when David Krejci, Carl Soderberg, and Dougie Hamilton’s contracts expire. Soderberg and Hamilton will both definitely seeing raises and Krejci’s value could fluctuate depending on his performance next year. His salary is more than likely to go up as he will likely return next season to make up for his shoddy playoff performance.

Without trading any of their current players and trying to resign everyone would put the B’s over the salary cap.

Boston’s current roster is as follows:

Boston Bruins Roster as of June 19th, 2014. (Courtesy of CapGeek.com)

Boston Bruins Roster as of June 19th, 2014. (Courtesy of CapGeek.com)

So, Peter Chiarelli has his work cut out for him. He’s given himself a challenge by signing so many players to contracts that are a bit higher than they are actually worth, along with giving many players no movement clauses.

Many writers have focused the B’s on trying to move third line veteran Chris Kelly, despite his strong penalty killing abilities, which were sorely missed during the Montreal series. Moving his $3 million salary from the team would provide the B’s significant financial flexibility. In the case that he waives the no trade clause, Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon is seeking veteran forward talent to compliment his plethora of recent high draft pick talent. Kelly could be a good fit there.

Loui Eriksson most definitely had a disappointing first season in Boston. His injuries most definitely played a factor, along with trying to adjust to new line-mates later in the season. The hope is that he has a healthy and big turn around season next year by putting up numbers reminiscent of his prime years in Dallas. If not, his $4,250,000 cap hit will begin to look like a huge drag in the line up, despite his defensive contributions.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports that the only two defense-men who cannot be touched are Zdeno Chara and Dougie Hamilton, leaving the rest of the core available for trade, in order to sign enough forward talent. Veteran Dennis Seidenberg should be added to that list, along with cap friendly Kevan Miller, who will only get better with experience. Torey Krug should only be kept if he can be resigned for $1.5 million or less. Boychuk is a formidable defense-man, but at his current contract of $3,366,667 per year, moving him off the books would provide further financial flexibility they need.

Upon further review of this current salary cap predicament, it is near impossible for Boston to have a “1B” type of back up to Tuukka Rask, unless, in the unlikely event, someone agrees to a discount contract.

THE PLAN

In the coming weeks, the Bruins most definitely must move either Chris Kelly, Johnny Boychuk, or possibly both players to other teams for draft picks or prospects as a salary dump. In the case that the Bruins can only move one of those players, fourth liner Gregory Campbell could see himself being traded or possibly bought out, due to his team worst face-off percentage, lack of production on a team in need of even more well rounded scoring, and widely reported awful corsi and fenwick statistics.

Ryan Spooner could center a new look fourth line that focuses on offense and speed, that the Merlot line was no longer capable of doing last season. Paille’s numbers would certainly increase with Spoons creativity in the offensive zone.

Reilly Smith and Justin Florek will sign respective deals to fill out most of the right wing. As of now the B’s are expected to resign Jarome Iginla. Hopefully the Bruins can get him to sign for less than his $6 million per year cap hit he had placed on the team last year, due to his decreasing value that should come with age.

Torey Krug may or may not be resigned depending on what happens with Boychuk and the other signings. Krug in no way should be considered a “must sign.” A contract with him should be dependent on how other parts of the roster fall in to place.

Lastly, the Bruins will need to sign practically anyone they select for the back up goalie role to around $1 million or less, which will be a necessary evil for this team.

Below is a very possible line-up scenario based off of the plan above:

One fairly possible iteration of the 2014-15 Boston Bruins roster. (Courtesy of CapGeek.com)

One fairly possible iteration of the 2014-15 Boston Bruins roster. (Courtesy of CapGeek.com)

Providence Bruins forward Bobby Robins could provide a part time enforcer role to add the occasional toughness when needed and provide him the much needed NHL experience to further his development. Matt Fraser, Alexander Khokhlachev, and various other Providence prospects could fill in as well.

Of course, if talks go south between Boston and Iginla, that could significantly alter how Chiarelli approaches the entire roster from both a financial and line up perspective. As of now, talks are positive and on-going. This plan also keeps Brad Marchand on the team, going with the belief that Chiarelli was not bluffing to the media about not shopping him around the league. Despite Milan Lucic’s bloated $6 million, it’s highly unlikely he’s going anywhere.

Piecing this line-up and financial puzzle together is tricky and it’s up to Chiarelli to get this done in order to keep this hot run by the Bruins going.

Follow me on twitter @ConverseHockey