Source: Bruins kicking the tires on D-man Kris Russell


Source: Bruins kicking the tires on D-man Kris Russell

The Bruins are kicking the tires on 29-year-old free agent defenseman Kris Russell as they continue to look for offseason solutions on the blue line, according to a league source. Russell is the biggest name still left on the free agent market for defensemen after the Florida Panthers signed Jason Demers to a five-year, $21.25 million contract earlier in the day on Saturday.

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney didn’t rule out a free agent like Russell when speaking with the media on Friday following the first go-round of free agency, and the expectation is that the B’s will dangle either David Krejci or Ryan Spooner to get some defensemen help over the next few weeks.

“We’ve been in discussions with their agents and some of the players that did sign. So we just didn’t fit the right fit or haven’t found the right fit for those players at this point in time,” said Sweeney, when announcing the David Backes contract on Friday. “Feeling good about John-Michael Liles coming back and joining that group and providing some balance as I talk about having sort of guys that are able to defend and be hard but also having guys that can transition, get up and down the ice, get back on pucks and move pucks.

“Obviously we have to have Colin Miller take a step and emerge and Joe Morrow in the same vain. You know, Robbie O’Gara, Matt Grzelcyk, Brandon Carlo … Chris Casto is another player. He’s now played three years; he can really skate. So these guys should be, at some point in time, have sort of a whiff of the barn door here to say hey, is there an opportunity here.”

There were some reports on Friday that the 5-foot-10, 170-pound Russell had agreed to a contract with the Maple Leafs, but those reports turned out to be premature. One source told that Russell’s camp turned down a four-year, $17 million plus offer from Toronto, and was looking for something richer than that in the secondary D-men market.

The Leafs went in another direction by signing Roman Polak to a short term, smaller money deal, so Russell is still left unsigned on the open market. Russell may have envisioned a contract offer in the neighborhood of a six-year, $30 million deal with D-men at a premium, but that kind of offer isn't in the cards for the nine year NHL veteran. 

With many teams settling on their rosters or still waiting for a couple of D-men to break free on the trade market, Russell may not want to wait too long to sign coming off four goals and 19 points in 62 games with the Flames and Stars last season. The gritty, tough Russell has been a top-4 defenseman for each of the last three seasons mostly with the Flames, and enjoyed his best season in 2014-15 when he posted four goals and 34 points along with a plus-18 in 79 games for a Calgary team en route to the playoffs.

Without a contract in the next couple of days, Russell begins to take on the look of Cody Franson last summer, who was supposed to be a big ticket free agent D-man but instead waited for months to sign a reduced contract with the Buffalo Sabres. 

The Bruins should be cautious with the solid, but unspectacular Russell, who is marginally better than the D-men they already have while still representing an upgrade to Boston’s back end. The aforementioned four year, $17 million deal would represent an overpay for the Black and Gold, who must be very careful with the next move they make to upgrade their back end. 

Joe Haggerty can be followed on Twitter: @HacksWithHaggs

Talking Points: Krejci, DeBrusk answer the bell in Bruins' win over Panhters

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Talking Points: Krejci, DeBrusk answer the bell in Bruins' win over Panhters

Here are my talking points from tonight's 4-2 Bruins win in South Florida . . .

GOLD STAR: David Krejci didn’t have a single point during the five-game losing streak. But on Saturday night he stepped up and, lo and behold, the Bruins took home two points. It was Krejci helped kick-start the transition game for Jake DeBrusk’s goal in the first period, and then scored one of his own in the second on a strike from the top of the faceoff circle. Krejci finished with a goal and two points and a plus-2 rating in 16:20 of ice time. He also had five shot attempts and won 9-of-14 faceoffs in a game where the second line providence plenty of offense and pressure. Bruce Cassidy slipped Charlie Coyle up to second-line right wing with Krejci and DeBrusk at the outset of the game, and it seemed to work well for the Black and Gold.

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BLACK EYE: Jonathan Huberdeau is having a very good season for the Panthers, but he wasn’t able to bring out his “A” game for Florida against the Bruins. Huberdeau didn’t get a single shot on net in the 21:25 of ice time that he played. He finished with three giveaways and a minus-1 against the Bruins. He was part of the line set to contain the Krejci line, but instead allowed them to march right up the ice on DeBrusk’s first period scoring play. Huberdeau was also on ice in the third, when Florida coach Joel Quenneville pulled the goalie with more than two minutes to go, only for David Pastrnak to quickly notch an empty-netter that sealed the game. Not a good night for a very good player.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins weathered the storm in the third when the Panthers came hard after them and carved out a couple of goals to cut the lead to 3-2. Considering that the Bruins blew a 4-0 third period lead against the Panthers at home just a month ago, there was certainly some nervous, anxious moments, with the Bruins looking like they’d blow a three-goal lead in the third period this time. But the B’s stiffened after Jaro Halak gave up a soft goal on a Keith Yandle point shot to make it a one-goal game. They didn’t allow Florida to take advantage of any other breakdowns. Instead the B’s hung in there, patiently waiting until the Florida net opened up the winning scoring chance for them.

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HONORABLE MENTION: Jake DeBrusk was at the heart of some of the criticism from Bruce Cassidy after the loss in Tampa when the second and third lines weren’t getting much of anything done. DeBrusk was also one of the players that responded in a big way this weekend by scoring the game’s first goal, a pretty nifty dangle through Florida defenders before beating Sergei Bobrovsky in tight close to the net. DeBrusk also fed David Krejci for his second period goal, finishing with five shot attempts and a couple blocked shots in 15:38 of ice time while posting a plus-2 rating. Perhaps just as important, DeBrusk was winning 50/50 battles for the puck and playing a competitive brand of hockey rather than doing fly-bys in a lot of areas while hunting the puck. If DeBrusk played with the same kind of speed, skill and tenacity on more nights, he’d be a difference-maker for the Bruins more often.

BY THE NUMBERS: 28 – The number of goals for David Pastrnak after collecting two scores against the Panthers, and putting himself in a position where he’s easily going to have 30 goals before the Christmas break.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “I thought we did a really good job. Every line played well. We moved some guys around, but right up and down the lineup all 12 forwards, 6 [defensemen] and Jaroslav Halak were all really good.” –Bruce Cassidy to NESN when asked his assessment of the win that snapped the longest B’s losing streak (five games) since he took over as head coach.  

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Highlights: B's snap losing skid vs. Panthers

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Highlights: B's snap losing skid vs. Panthers

FINAL SCORE: Bruins 4, Panthers 2

IN BRIEF: Oh not, not this again? After the Bruins’ epic third-period collapse in their last meeting with Florida, they nearly repeated themselves after going up 3-0 after two periods. Keith Yandle’s goal with 11 minutes left made it 3-2, Boston fought off the Panthers long enough for David Pastrnak to get an empty-netter that sealed it. And so, after coach Bruce Cassidy called out their attention to details earlier in the week, the Bruins snapped their losing skid with a solid all-around effort.


BRUINS RECORD: 21-7-6 (48 points, 1st in Atlantic Division)






vs. Los Angeles, Tuesday, 7 p.m., NESN

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