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Hockey Notes

Bruins decompress in compressed offseason

By Fluto Shinzawa
July 31, 2011

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Tomorrow, Peter Chiarelli will travel to Ottawa, his hometown. Later in August, the Bruins general manager will travel to Quebec, where he’ll chase down brook trout.

The break has been a long time coming.

“It feels like we just finished,’’ said Chiarelli, approximately six weeks after he had lifted the Stanley Cup on the Rogers Arena ice. “Really, it does.’’

More than a month ago, the players punched their collective shutdown buttons. Some have begun summer workouts.

Those workouts, however, are offset by the mandate to recharge. The reminder, delivered during exit meetings, was to mind the calendar and heed how quickly the summer will pass. That message was delivered with two purposes: for players to get back into workout mode, but also to use the downtime wisely to repair the bodies and brains that absorbed the fiercest of batterings.

“A lot of it is mental,’’ Chiarelli said. “We want to make sure that guys get the proper mental and physical rest. The whole summer is always about recovery and restoration. It’s a reconditioning period. But so much of it is abbreviated.’’

Rest hasn’t been easy to come by for management. During the Cup Final, the Bruins’ amateur scouting staff convened in Toronto for the annual NHL combine. They then held meetings in Boston to assemble the framework of their draft board.

Only nine days after the Game 7 win, the Boston bosses were seated on the Xcel Energy Center floor. After leaving St. Paul with Dougie Hamilton, Alexander Khokhlachev, Anthony Camara, Brian Ferlin, Robby O’Gara, and Lars Volden, the front office had less than a week to prepare for free agency. On July 1, the Bruins signed Montreal castoff Benoit Pouliot, extended Trent Whitfield and Anton Khudobin, and watched Michael Ryder sign a two-year deal with Dallas.

Four days later, once Tomas Kaberle signed with Carolina, the Bruins acquired Joe Corvo from the Hurricanes for a 2012 fourth-round pick.

On July 7, all hands were on deck at Ristuccia Arena for the annual development camp. Then on July 15, the Bruins signed Adam McQuaid to a three-year extension.

As you can see, while the players have been resting and enjoying their days with the Cup, there has been little such respite for their bosses.

Chiarelli has several tasks remaining this summer. The Bruins will re-sign Brad Marchand, most likely to a two-year contract. Chiarelli won’t comment on negotiations, but it’s possible that an agreement hasn’t taken place because of how busy both parties have been. The Bruins have been focused on other chores within their shortened time frame. Wade Arnott, Marchand’s agent, works for Newport Sports Management, the powerhouse that also counts Zach Parise and Drew Doughty among its clients. Parise, a restricted free agent, was scheduled for an arbitration hearing on Wednesday, but agreed Friday to a one-year deal. Doughty could hit a payday similar to Steven Stamkos (another Newport client) with his next deal.

For both the Bruins and Marchand, a two-year contract (annual salary in the $2.25 million range) would be the best fit. Although Marchand chipped in 21 regular-season goals and added 11 more in the playoffs, the winger has just one year of such production on his NHL résumé. If the Bruins opt for a long-term deal, there is risk that Marchand falls off his development curve.

For Marchand, sacrificing term now could translate to a bigger haul with his third contract. If Marchand’s numbers continue to progress during a two-year window, his negotiating power (especially with arbitration rights) becomes far stronger.

The other item is to begin talks with David Krejci. The playmaking center is entering the final season of his three-year, $11.25 million contract. Last year, the Bruins extended Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron during training camp. They will attempt to do the same with Krejci, who will command more than $5 million annually on his next deal.

It’s possible the Bruins could gain some clarity regarding the immediate future of Marc Savard. The 34-year-old is still experiencing headaches. There is no rush to declare Savard’s career over, although indications point that way. The center is signed through 2016-17. However, it’s doubtful Savard will play in 2011-12. There’s a chance that decision could take place before training camp. If and when that happens, Savard will be placed back on long-term injured reserve upon the start of the regular season.

“As a layperson,’’ Chiarelli said, “I’d be very surprised if Marc will be playing this coming year.’’

Despite the prompt turnaround, the Bruins are in good position for 2011-12. The bulk of their roster is returning, with more production expected from Marchand, Tyler Seguin, and Rich Peverley.

But last summer, the Bruins were an angry crew. The focus then, as it was throughout 2010-11, was an about-face from the second-round fizzle against Philadelphia. This summer, the smiles haven’t gone away. Not since 1998 (Detroit) has a champion repeated.

“We want to repeat,’’ Chiarelli said. “That’s something that’s always natural. But we have to overcome this obstacle. And it is an obstacle.’’

SHIFTING GEARS
No Detroit breakdown This fall, we’ll see how the gold-standard organization recovers from a roiling offseason. The Red Wings, praised because of their consistency, were rocked by tremors that might have crumbled another franchise.

Out: elite puck-moving defenseman Brian Rafalski (retired with one year remaining on his contract), possible Hall of Famer Chris Osgood (retired), ageless grinder Kris Draper (retired), and assistant coaches Paul MacLean (Ottawa) and Brad McCrimmon (Lokomotiv Yaroslavl).

In: well-traveled defenseman Ian White, former University of New Hampshire puck-stopper Ty Conklin, stay-at-home D-man Mike Commodore, and assistants Jeff Blashill and Bill Peters.

Rafalski, Osgood, and Draper won a combined 10 rings. Rafalski, effortless under forechecking heat, might have been the NHL’s best seam passer. Osgood was past his prime, but was an important backup because of his experience. There wasn’t much juice left in Draper’s legs, but he compensated with his head and heart.

Amid all that change, nobody is expecting the Wings to stumble. That’s because they have high-end talent in the most important areas: goalie, defense, center, bench, and corner office.

Jimmy Howard, the ex-Maine goalie, was good in the regular season (37-17-5, 2.79 goals-against average, .908 save percentage) and better in the playoffs (7-4, 2.50 GAA, .923 save percentage). Nicklas Lidstrom will be back for at least one more year. Considering how Norris Nick performed in 2010-11 (16-46-62, 23:28 average ice time), the captain could have signed a multiyear extension. Players around the league often cite Pavel Datsyuk among the more respected and feared rivals. Henrik Zetterberg, the No. 2 center, doesn’t have many rivals in the two-way pivot department.

Coach Mike Babcock will be energized with two new assistants. Ken Holland could be the best GM in the business. Babcock sets the tone on the ice. Holland does the same in the front office. Detroit isn’t going anywhere but up.

CASES IN POINT
Not going by the schedule By July 5, 23 players had filed for arbitration. As of Friday, 16 of those cases had been scheduled to be heard. Every one had been settled beforehand. Last summer, only four of the 31 players who filed for arbitration made it to their hearings: Blake Wheeler, Clarke MacArthur, Antti Niemi, and Tim Kennedy. This year, Wheeler filed for arbitration once more, but settled on a two-year deal with Winnipeg prior to his hearing. “In Blake’s case, we were in the same ballpark to start,’’ said agent Matt Keator. “So it was just a matter of hammering out the details, allowing both sides to feel comfortable with each other’s position, and getting a deal done.’’ Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but none of the four players who went to arbitration in 2010 is still with his club from last summer. Atlanta walked away from MacArthur’s reward, making him a free agent. MacArthur signed with Toronto. Chicago also walked away from Niemi, freeing him to sign with San Jose. Buffalo placed Kennedy on waivers. The Bruins traded Wheeler and Mark Stuart to Atlanta for Rich Peverley and Boris Valabik.

ETC.
Bitz is in for bit of a change Here’s hoping good guy Byron Bitz (left) finds a permanent spot on Vancouver’s fourth line. The ex-Bruin signed a one-year, $700,000 deal. Bitz, who hit UFA status after Florida declined to tender the wing, was at the center of one of Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli’s more important trades. On March 3, 2010, Chiarelli traded Bitz, Craig Weller, and a 2010 second-round pick to the Panthers for Dennis Seidenberg and the rights to Matt Bartkowski. Teammates were sad to hear of Bitz’s departure. The good-natured Bitz was among the team’s more popular grunts. But Dennis Wideman was among the first Bruins to learn what was coming in return. “Seidenberg? He’s a really good player,’’ Wideman told some team staffers. Seidenberg was one of the major reasons for the Bruins’ success. Not to be forgotten: how the Bruins acquired the second-round pick that accompanied Bitz and Weller to Florida. Just 364 days earlier, Chiarelli nabbed that pick with Mark Recchi, from Tampa Bay for Matt Lashoff and Martins Karsums. Charlestown’s stickiest fingers would have been proud of such a theft.

Going camping USA Hockey’s annual national junior evaluation camp will start Saturday in Lake Placid, N.Y. The camp is one of the steps used in determining the Yanks’ final roster for the 2012 World Junior Championship. A late invitee is Brian Ferlin, the Bruins’ fourth-round pick in June. Ferlin replaces Brandon Saad, who declined his invitation. The broad-shouldered Ferlin, who will be a freshman at Cornell, didn’t look out of place in the Bruins’ development camp earlier this month. In Lake Placid, Ferlin will be teammates with fellow Black-and-Gold prospect Jared Knight.

Calling the shots On Wednesday, the Sabres introduced Ron Rolston as head coach of the Rochester Americans. The Amerks, Buffalo’s longtime AHL affiliate, had served as Florida’s farm club last year. In Rolston (older brother of former Bruin Brian Rolston), the Sabres landed a seven-year veteran of USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program. Rolston’s former charges include Phil Kessel, Patrick Kane, and James Van Riemsdyk. Rolston will be responsible for developing some of Buffalo’s up-and-coming stars, including first-rounders Zack Kassian and Mark Pysyk. Per its name, the NTDP has served as an important tier for future NHLers. Other alums include 2010-11 NHL rookies Cam Fowler and Kevin Shattenkirk. But it has also been a recruiting ground for future pro coaches. John Hynes (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton) and David Quinn (Lake Erie) are AHL coaches who made stops in Ann Arbor. Rolston is the latest, although he is sure to draw interest at Boston College when Jerry York hangs up his skates. Rolston served as York’s right-hand man for two seasons prior to his Ann Arbor landing.

Loose pucks Because 2011-12 is the final year of the collective bargaining agreement, there is a hard cap in place. That means that all bonuses will be counted toward a team’s number. For clubs approaching the $64.3 million ceiling, it might mean rookies and 35-and-older veterans (the only players eligible for bonuses) might be in question. For teams aiming for the cap floor, such contracts will be helpful in reaching the $48.3 million mark. Consider Colorado and rookie Gabriel Landeskog. Had this been a normal season, Landeskog would have carried a cap number of $925,000, his base salary. Instead, Landeskog will carry a $3.575 million hit, which will help the fiscally conservative Avalanche over the floor . . . Northeastern hired ex-Husky Jim Madigan as its head coach on Wednesday. Madigan replaces Greg Cronin, who joins Easton native Scott Gordon on the Toronto bench as one of Ron Wilson’s assistants. Madigan was greeted by the not-so-shocking news that defenseman Jamie Oleksiak, who completed his freshman year at Northeastern last season, bolted Huntington Ave. in favor of Saginaw of the Ontario Hockey League. Oleksiak, selected 14th overall by Dallas last month, rocketed up the draft boards after a solid first year with the Huskies. It’s becoming almost commonplace for high-end collegians to defect to juniors . . . Last Sunday, Bruins assistant GM Don Sweeney participated in the Ford Ironman Lake Placid. Sweeney finished the event (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run) in 10 hours 47 minutes 50 seconds. “I suffered to get home for the last 10 miles,’’ Sweeney, in an e-mail, said of the run. “But at least salvaged the day in meeting the goal of breaking 11 hours.’’ During the Bruins’ two-day Lake Placid getaway during the first round of the playoffs, Sweeney rented a bike and rode part of the course. Sweeney might be in better shape now than he was as a player . . . The Tour de France, the world’s second-greatest sporting spectacle, concluded last Sunday in Paris. Most heartwarming sight from the Tour: the men (former Globe paperboys?) handing out newspapers to the riders at the tops of mountains prior to descents. The newspapers keep the riders warm during their peak-to-valley plunges. Try that trick with your iPad.

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at fshinzawa@globe.com; material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.

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