On the first day of unrestricted free agency in the NHL, the Bruins worked the telephones and explored their options along with all 29 clubs, but their first move wasn't to sign one of those available players.
Instead, Boston went the trade route, picking up 28-year-old left wing Brad Isbister from the Edmonton Oilers for a fourth-round pick in the 2006 draft.
The big forward, who is 6 feet 4 inches and 231 pounds, played for the Oilers the last two NHL seasons. During the lockout, he played 11 games with Innsbruck in Austria and had 11 points and 41 penalty minutes.
''I'm excited about it," said Isbister, reached by telephone at his home in Calgary. ''It was a little surprising but quickly followed by excitement."
Isbister said he knows Bruins captain Joe Thornton from playing with Team Canada in the World Championships and World Junior Tournament. He's looking forward to meeting his new teammates, whoever they may be.
''When I got traded to Long Island, I didn't know a single person on the team but it's part of the job and you get to meet new people and play with new players, so that's part of the excitement," he said.
Isbister, who played for the Islanders for three-plus seasons, had his best offensive year there with 22 goals and 20 assists in 1999-2000. His final year with Edmonton produced just 10 goals and 8 assists in 51 games in 2003-04, and he was hampered by neck, back, and ankle injuries.
A 'no' on Joe
Despite rumors to the contrary, Bruins general manager Mike O'Connell said the club is by no means trying to trade Thornton to Detroit, Florida, or anywhere else, although there is another trade discussion in the works. ''I've had no discussions about trading Joe," said O'Connell. ''Our intention is to try to build around Joe and [Sergei Samsonov], too." For the moment, he said, the focus is on pursuing unrestricted free agents. ''We did a lot of work," he said. ''At the start of the day, we got Isbister done so that was a good thing for us. He's a big body who I think can play on our top two lines." . . . A Canadian website (www.rds.ca) reported that the Bruins are one of three teams (along with Pittsburgh and Atlanta) that have made an offer to free agent Mike Modano.
Tom Laidlaw, agent for former Bruins defenseman Bryan Berard, said he spoke yesterday with O'Connell about the possibility of the former Mount St. Charles star returning for a second tour of duty on Causeway Streeet.
''I know Bryan loved his time there," said Laidlaw, reached by phone at his office in New York, less than 24 hours after Berard was cut loose by Chicago. ''When he left, that was a business decision on Boston's part. He understood that; no hard feelings whatsoever."
Berard, 28, played the 2002-03 season with the Bruins, his stay ending when they opted not to pay his arbitration award figure of $2.510 million for the next season. He remained out of work until Oct. 31, 2003, the Blackhawks finally hiring him for approximately $2.2 million.
Although Berard contributed 47 points in 58 games in the balance of '03-04, the Hawks opted not to qualify his contract for the upcoming season. He was due $2.28 million for '05-06, a figure that represented a 24 percent rollback on his previously bargained figure of $3 million.
The No. 1 pick in the '95 draft, Berard missed the 2000-01 season after sustaining a devastating eye injury with the Maple Leafs. He eventually signed as a free agent with the Rangers in the fall of '01, after reaching a settlement with the carrier that paid him millions in disability insurance.
In his one year with the Bruins, Berard totaled 38 points in 80 games.
Whether the Bruins pursue Berard will depend on how the free agent market shakes out, and that includes Sergei Gonchar, who finished the '03-04 season in Black and Gold as the top-scoring blue liner (58 points in 71 games).
Laidlaw said he pitched O'Connell another client, Jim McKenzie, the 35-year-old tough guy/left winger who began his career 15 years ago with the Hartford Whalers.