Hockey Notes

Recchi has plenty to occupy his time

By Kevin Paul Dupont
July 24, 2011

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A partial review of Mark Recchi’s summer to-do list:

■Return to Kamloops, British Columbia, for vacation and a day touring the town with the Stanley Cup.

■Begin workouts in a couple of weeks or, hey, whenever. No rush, really.

■Get back home to Pittsburgh for another day or two with the Cup (seniority has its privileges).

■Golf, golf, and, OK, a little more golf. Young Cameron Recchi is turning into a pretty good player.

■Look for a starting position in a new career with an NHL club.

Item No. 5 makes official what the 43-year-old Recchi said in the months leading up to the Bruins winning the Stanley Cup last month. It’s a wrap, folks. The plucky right winger is leaving the player’s life behind and wants to begin work soon in a player personnel role with an NHL team.

“That’s what I’d really like to do,’’ said Recchi, just prior to heading to Kamloops, where he is part-owner of the Blazers in the Western Hockey League. “You see a lot of guys moving into that player development role now, working with kids, building relationships with the younger guys from the time they are drafted and so on . . . I think I’d really enjoy that.’’

Here in the Hub of Hockey, ex-defenseman Don Sweeney has cultivated that role as part of his duties in the Boston front office the last few years. In Pittsburgh, ex-Bruins forwards Tom Fitzgerald and the recently hired Bill Guerin have taken on similar tasks with the Penguins. Agent Rick Curran is now exploring the same kind of opportunities for Recchi, who in June won the Stanley Cup for a third time after entering the league with the Penguins in 1988-89.

So, the final line on Recchi, playoffs included: 638 goals, 1,042 assists, 1,680 points. All that remains is his open-net, blindfolded forehand sweep into the Hall of Fame upon the conclusion of the standard three-year cooling-down period.

“Let me tell you, I enjoyed all of it, right to the end,’’ said Recchi, asked if the day-to-day grind and physical wear and tear made finalizing his retirement decision easier. “I never got to that point where I thought, ‘Ah, this isn’t for me anymore.’ Even the summer workouts, I enjoyed all of that, too. But, hey, it’s been a great run, and now it’s just time - it’s the right time to do it. I mean, to win the Stanley Cup, that’s what I came back for, and there’s only been a few of us . . . you know, guys like Ray [Bourque] and Lanny [McDonald], who got to leave on those terms. So, yeah, I’m good with it.’’

But he’ll miss it. He will miss the training, the practicing, the playing, and the friendships on the ice and in the dressing room. In Boston, he’ll leave behind the alternate captain’s ‘A’ and his dogged presence around the net.

Recchi averaged right around 45 points in his two full seasons with the Bruins. Not prolific, especially for a guy who three times scored more than 100 points a season. But right to the end, Recchi remained one of the league’s top practitioners of finding every way possible to be around the cage for scoring opportunities. When he hooks on with a club in a player development role, you can bet tutoring forwards on positioning, leverage, and top-of-the-crease tenacity will be high on his priority list. Few better than Recchi in that nose-for-the-net department.

Meanwhile, the NHL Players Association remains ever in need of a few good men. If called, Recchi says he would listen.

“I want to see [the PA] strong again, and go in the right direction,’’ said Recchi, who was among those in the rank and file who were appalled over the scurrilous dismissal of Paul Kelly, the union’s executive director who fell victim two years ago to a coup within his office and among many dim-witted players. “If I got a call, sure, I’d entertain it, see if I could help out. It’s been interesting what’s gone on there the last couple of years . . . heck, the last seven years.’’

During Recchi’s playing time, he lived through one players’ strike (often forgotten in league lore), a pair of lockouts, the implementation of a salary cap, and enough PA leadership tomfoolery, miscues, and misdealings to leave him with the kind of institutional memory that would be invaluable.

For now, Recchi remains optimistic that there will be not be a third lockout when the collective bargaining agreement expires in 14 months.

“Both sides would be crazy to get to that point,’’ he said. “I am convinced that there is a solution there; it’s just a matter of finding it. I think both sides have to keep in mind that it took a long time to recover from the last lockout. And now, unlike then, they’ve got a basis of an agreement that they can work from.’’

Familiar faces on the market A lot of unrestricted free agents, many of them older and with expired and pricey contracts, remain on the market, including ex-Bruins Sergei Samsonov, Nick Boynton, and Paul Mara. Of those three, only Samsonov ($2.8 million cap hit last season between Carolina and Florida) was in the higher-compensation range.

Once again, general managers have resisted the temptation to toss offer sheets to restricted free agents. Lightning star Steven Stamkos, with a league-leading 96 goals over the last two seasons, finalized a five-year extension in Tampa that will pay him a total $37.5 million- exactly the amount that a then-29-year-old Zdeno Chara accepted when he hitched on with the Bruins as a UFA in July 2006.

Rumors flying around the league in recent weeks suggested that a couple of GMs were contemplating a huge offer sheet to the 21-year-old Stamkos. But in the end, only the sound of crickets. The deal he accepted, if offered by another club, would have left the Bolts in a position of having to match the money or allow him to leave for a package of four first-round draft picks (the maximum compensation per the CBA).

If those GMs were truly out there, did they balk at the money and/or compensation? Or did they simply opt not to violate the wink-wink, nudge-nudge gentlemen’s agreement that mysteriously has GMs unwilling to raid their competitors’ rosters. If it’s the latter, then these 30 teams are not truly competitors and it is not truly an open market. All of which spells collusion, a hard practice to prove, but one that the Major League Baseball Players Association, then led by Donald Fehr, once proved existed. Now that Fehr runs the NHLPA, could it be time to forge a similar case in hockey? Possibly. Especially with that Sept. 2012 expiration date on the current agreement.

Bruins mull summer bash The Blackhawks just wrapped up their annual convention at a downtown Chicago hotel. Thousands of fans have flocked to the gig since it was instituted shortly after president and CEO John McDonough’s arrival from the Cubs. Bruins executives have toyed with the idea of a similar midsummer Black-and-Gold affair for the last couple of years, and senior vice president Amy Latimer said last week that it’s a possibility for the summer of 2012. Slam dunk, based on Bruins fever throughout April, May, and into June. They might need a giant cruise ship docked for 2-3 days in Boston Harbor to accommodate the head-over-heels masses.

Surprise hire by Lamoriello Lou Lamoriello’s selection last week of Peter DeBoer as his new coach in New Jersey wasn’t a shocker, but it was a surprise in that DeBoer’s three seasons with the Panthers (103-107-36) didn’t yield a playoff berth. DeBoer also had no direct tie to the Devils or the Canadiens, the franchise Lamoriello often has looked to for playing and coaching talent. No surprise that Michel Therrien was considered by many to be the favored candidate. The list of Devils coaches since Pat Burns led them to the Cup in 2003: Larry Robinson, Lamoriello, Claude Julien, Lamoriello, Brent Sutter, Jacques Lemaire, John MacLean, and Lemaire.

Not a position of strength Restricted free agent Brad Marchand remains without a new deal with the Bruins. He is without arbitration rights, which gives him less leverage in the financial taffy pull. Tampa Bay’s Teddy Purcell, a playoff force similar to Marchand, had arbitration rights and settled on a new restricted free agent deal last week that will pay him an average $2.36 million over the next two years. That’s a realistic figure for Marchand. Or possibly a three-year deal for around $9 million total.

Job is secured Onetime Bruins goalie prospect Mike Bales is another former Black-and-Golder to catch on with the Penguins. Bales, who turns 40 Aug. 6, signed on as the Flightless Birds’ goalie development coach. Chosen 105th overall in the 1990 draft by the Bruins, Bales had only cups of coffee with the Bruins and Senators prior to heading to Europe 10 years ago. Bail-’em-out Bales, also formerly of Ohio State, spent last season playing in Germany with the Straubing Tigers.

Bargain blue liner Manitoba favorite son Shane Hnidy, one of Boston’s reserve blue liners during the Cup run, asked the Winnipeg Jets if they needed help on their backline. “I’m not sure there’s room,’’ rookie GM Kevin Cheveldayoff told him. Could be a mistake. Hnidy would only command the league minimum salary ($600,000), and reliable backliners can help prevent the kind of protracted losing streaks that led Atlanta owners to sell the Thrashers to Winnipeg interests.

Maximizing his chances In case you missed it, ex-Boston backliner Sean O’Donnell signed on with the Blackhawks as a free agent, having spent last season with the Flyers. “Uh-O’’ is 39 years old and said he wanted to go to a club with a strong chance at winning a Cup, possibly offering him a Mark Recchi-like exit into the golden years. He won a Cup with the Ducks in 2007. Cap hit for the Hawks: $850,000.

Loose pucks With Steven Stamkos now aboard, the Lightning have slightly more than $20 million in cap hits committed to Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, and Stamkos for next season. As GM Steve Yzerman noted, the Bolts now “don’t have the luxury’’ of paying third-liners $2 million-$3 million a year. Some kids will get a shot at roster spots in camp. It could also mean they look to dish power forward Ryan Malone and his $4.5 million cap hit . . . Two solid guys who didn’t land a job this summer in the coach’s merry-go-round: Craig MacTavish and Ken Hitchcock. Good bet both will have jobs on or before Jan. 1. Rumors have had MacTavish catching on with Vancouver as its minor league coach in Chicago. Vancouver GM Mike Gillis and MacTavish were Boston teammates at the start of the 1980s . . . Chris Osgood retired from the Red Wings last week, leaving behind a debate as to whether he is Hall of Fame worthy. He finished with 401 victories, 319 with the Winged Wheels. Only nine other goalies reached the 400-win plateau, which is where the pro-Osgood side can stake its strongest HOF claim. I’ll go with the Bernie Federko standard. Federko’s in there, so on career-for-career comparison, Ozzie gets the nod . . . Great news for NBC/Versus viewers last week with word that both Mike Emrick and Dave Strader have signed on for full-time play-by-play duty. Note to NBC execs: time to do the same with analysts Mike Milbury and Andy Brickley, both of whom have their abundant talents muted by good-times-nothing-but-good-times NESN. Kathryn Tappen hopped on a rescue boat to the safe harbor of the NHL Network, where she will be a perky addition to the all-male puckster panels . . . Ex-Bruin Blake Wheeler, who will be $5.1 million richer over the next two years with the new deal agent Matt Keator negotiated with Winnipeg, told the local Free Press that he neither rooted for nor against his old club during Boston’s Cup run. The fact that the Bruins ended up winning? “You just have to take it with a grain of salt and move on,’’ said Wheels . . . A Newark Star-Ledger story noted that DeBoer said he met with Brent Sutter over the summer and the Flames coach offered him an assistant’s position. But, added DeBoer, “Maybe that was on his second beer.’’ I’ve been around the Sutter clan in the summer up there in Viking, Alberta, and I am willing to bet that DeBoer was just a few ounces under on his estimate.

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.

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