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As we turn the page on the calendar to September, we find ourselves exactly one month away from the opener for Boston’s ’09-’10 season, when Alex the Great and the Capitals visit the Garden to kick off what will be a year loaded with very high expectations for the Black and Gold.
After a spring that saw the Bruins make plenty of playoff noise, the summer has been relatively quiet for the hometown team. Almost too quiet. While the offseason highlight would arguably have to be the re-signing of young centerman David Krejci to a budget-friendly, 3-year, $11.25 million deal, a bigger deal still remains in the balance for the team’s other young restricted free agent, Phil Kessel.
Coming off a season where he posted a team-leading 36 goals, Kessel still sits unsigned just days from the start of training camp. Kessel, who is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, would not be ready to join the team in camp anyway, but the salary cap number that Boston will be tagged with if and when they do re-sign the young winger looms large. If that cap hit doesn’t fit under the league’s $56.8 million limit, GM Peter Chiarelli will be looking at another roster shake up to be made before the opener on October 1.
Other changes you’ll see to the Bruins roster from the summer months include the departure of defensemen Shane Hnidy to Minnesota and Steve Montador to Buffalo, while veteran blue-liner Aaron Ward also flew the coop, via a surprise trade to Carolina. The Bruins also decided not to offer contracts to veterans Stephane Yelle, who also hooked on with the ‘Canes, goalie Manny Fernandez, who remains unsigned, and winger P.J. Axelsson, the longest tenured Bruin. P.J. will head to his native Sweden to play for Frolunda this season.
While the summer didn’t feature any prominent free agent signings, the B’s will welcome a few new faces to the mix that should fill in as role players for the team. Former Canadien Steve Begin, who signed a one-year deal with the B’s, will aim to fill the fourth line center void left by the departure of Yelle. Also, Derek Morris, the 10-year journeyman blue liner, will join the fifth team of his career, signing with Boston for a hefty 1-year, $3.3 million deal.
On top of Begin and Morris, look for some of the younger players in the system to develop and contribute more to the big club. That player development will start with rookie and full squad training camp, starting in just days from now. Rookie camp will kick off in Kitchener, Ontario on Saturday, September 5th, while big boy camp officially gets rolling September 12th. Young names to look at include the newly re-signed Matt Hunwick and Byron Bitz, along with the reigning AHL Defenseman of the Year, Johnny Boychuk, and goalie phenom Tuukka Rask, who will fill the backup role on the big squad this season, behind Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas
So while baseball reaches its final stretch run and football kicks off its regular season, it won’t be long before the zambonis will be gassed up, the skates will be laced up, and the fans will be fired up, for the return of Bruins hockey is just one mere month away.
Tags: Bruins, Byron Bitz, David Krejci, Derek Morris, Johnny Boychuk, Manny Fernandez, Matt Hunwick, NHL, P.J. Axelsson, Peter Chiarelli, Phil Kessel, Shane Hnidy, Stephane Yelle, Steve Bégin, Steve Montador, Tuukka Rask