BOSTON – Time ran out last weekend on Chris Kelly returning to the lineup after breaking his leg back in November, so the 35-year-old center might very well have played his final game as a member of the Boston Bruins.
If so it wasn’t a glamorous six seasons with the Black and Gold, but Kelly was a true Bruin in the toughness, intelligence, effort and selflessness categories while serving as a key veteran leader on the roster.
Kelly had returned to practice with the Bruins in the final weeks of the regular season after a long, grueling rehab following the nasty injury, and was hoping the B’s could stay alive long enough in the playoffs for him to at least attempt to play.
“I think we were getting close. The whole time we were kind of right behind that healing process, and we pushed it as far as we could,” said Kelly. “I was starting to feel really good on the ice the last week or so. It was always the goal to get back playing, and it’s unfortunate that we weren’t able to achieve that.”
Kelly’s pricey contract extension is coming to a close with the Bruins on July 1, and he knows he won’t be making anything close to $3 million a season on his next deal. He also isn’t sure he’ll be sticking around in Boston, but either way has enjoyed an accomplished run with the Black and Gold no matter what the future holds for him.
“There are changes every year, regardless of if you win or you don’t. That’s just hockey. I love being a Bruin. We’ll see what happens. I have no idea what’s going to transpire the next little bit, but regardless I’d love to stay here,” said Kelly, who had two goals and two points along with a plus-3 rating in 11 games for Boston this past season before his season-ending injury against the Dallas Stars. “If that’s not the case, this place has been unbelievable to me and my family. I’ve been able to win a Cup, go to the Finals, win a President’s Trophy, and then not only on-ice experiences, but off-ice experiences, living in one of the best cities in the world and getting to experience that. It’s been extremely fun.”
Now Kelly will finish his injury rehab on his own this spring, and hope the Bruins, or somebody else, thinks enough of him to make an NHL contract offer despite his age, his situation coming off a major injury and whatever his potential asking price might be. There may even be a spot for Kelly in Boston as a bottom-6 forward/leader in the dressing room with solid intangibles if he’s willing to accept say a one year deal worth less than $1 million.
But Kelly and Boston finding a way to extend their marriage is far from a given with the Bruins turning to youth these days just as much as anybody else around the league.