Bruins

NHL Notes: Stempniak among many NHL vets waiting for job

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NHL Notes: Stempniak among many NHL vets waiting for job

For pretty much all NHL players, the dream is to win a Stanley Cup and have a long, healthy career where you can provide for your family doing something that you love. The last part is really the dream for everybody in the world, but for hockey the real payday for the lifelong commitment to hockey is when a player reaches unrestricted free agency.

So that’s a period many hockey players also daydream about when they can sign a contract that will set them and their family up for the rest of their lives. This summer that UFA dream turned partial nightmare when the offers never materialized after the July 1 open of free agency came and went with top tier players like Matt Beleskey finding teams like the Bruins before the music stopped.  

Cody Franson became the poster boy for the summer of free agent discontent when he waited until September to sign a contract, and had to settle for a two-year, $6.65 million deal with the Buffalo Sabres. Initially it was expected that the 29-year-old Franson would be one of the premiere D-men on the market, and would finally command that five- or six-year deal after putting up solid seasons for some dreadful Maple Leafs teams.

Instead he was the wrong guy at the wrong time this summer when a market correction dashed the hopes of so many hockey players, and put a premium on young, controllable players over higher-priced veterans.  

“That’s the league . . . we have a lot of young kids coming up and pushing the other older guys out of the league that are still good players. So it’s a good competition. It means that the league is going to get better and better that way,” said Jonas Gustavsson, who is currently the lone PTO player in Bruins training camp. “Once again it comes back to the mentality of just being better and better every day.

“Otherwise one of the young guys is going to take your spot. [The competition] is just something that I enjoy, and it’s a lot of fun. That really gets me going, and that’s why you want to come here, get better and show that you can still play and belong in this league.”

But at least Franson got paid, and received a guaranteed contract for the next couple of seasons. Other established veterans like Daniel Paille, Gustavsson, Douglas Murray, Derek Roy, Tomas Fleischmann, Brad Boyes and Andrej Meszaros are among the 47 whopping players that have signed Professional Try-Out Agreements (PTOs) with NHL teams just to get a look at main training camp over the next few weeks.

Lee Stempniak is one of those players that’s still mulling his options at this point, and has been skating for the last two weeks at the Bruins captain’s practices while donning an NHLPA jersey and a pair of borrowed New York Islanders gloves. The 32-year-old finished with 15 goals and 28 points in 71 games last season for the New York Rangers and Winnipeg Jets, and Stempniak has certainly looked like he’s got something left in the tank while scrimmaging with the Bruins.

It certainly hasn’t been the perfect summer for Stempniak with the unknown in front of him, and a young family with twin baby daughters that have settled on Boston’s South End as their home in the offseason. Stempniak’s girls are healthy and happy now after being born six weeks premature a couple of seasons ago, so the former Dartmouth College standout has a firm grasp on the moments that are truly stress-worthy in life.

But it’s still a bit frustrating knowing that he’s still got hockey left to give at 32 years old, but the current NHL CBA is designed to value younger, cheaper talent over older veterans trying to hang on at the back end of their careers.

“I’m just trying to find the right fit, and make sure I’m ready to go on [Sept.] 17 at the start of training camp . . . wherever that is going to be,” said Stempniak, who had six goals and 10 points in 18 games for the Jets after last year’s trade deadline. “I felt like I had a strong finish in Winnipeg at the end of last year, and I know I can still help a lot of teams.

“As crazy as it sounds it’s been the same summer: working out and making sure I’m ready. My approach hasn’t changed at all from past years. I know a few of the guys [on the Bruins] just from being around here in the summer, and I was lucky they let me come out to skate. It’s been a good skate out here, and it’s allowed me to get up to speed.”

Would it be nice if the Bruins told Stempniak to just keep showing once camp opens on Thursday?

“That would be nice,” said a smiling Stempniak. “It would certainly be convenient. I’ve been a free agent three times, and once I signed at the end of August, once I signed at the end of July and this year it’s late again. So I’ve been through it before, and I’ve sort of done everything I can do on my end. I thought I played well, had a good run in Winnipeg and that’s all I can do.

“I can sleep at night knowing I did all I can do, and that it’s out of my hands at this point. The thing that’s hard for me is that I have twin 18-month old girls, so in terms of moving it’s not just loading up a couple of bags and moving out. It’s a little more challenging logistics-wise when you’re moving a whole family. That’s what makes it harder more than anything.”

One seasoned hockey observer had another theory as to why so many of the veterans have gone unsigned this summer.

“I think a lot of it is actually about the considerable turnover at the GM position over the last couple of years,” said one league source. “There’s a lot of younger GM’s that want to bring their own guys up to be on the roster, and the old boys network that would recycle the same old players is kind of going away a bit.”

Whatever the case, Stempniak was still looking for a contract at the start of this week, and his agent had spoken with a handful of teams. Perhaps a PTO with the Bruins is still in the cards after Stempniak spent so much time skating with the B’s players over the last few weeks. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a respected, steady pro that proved last season he’s still capable of potting 15 goals, or that he was summer workout partners at Boyle’s Gym with Bruins Director of Player Development Jay Pandolfo while both were still NHL players.

Another positive sign: Stempniak’s Rangers hockey bag was tossed in the back of the Bruins equipment van with other Bruins players destined for the start of training camp at TD Garden after captain’s practice on Tuesday.

Bruins GM Don Sweeney indicated last week that it might take a couple of injuries, or some players heading back to their respective teams after rookie camp, for room to open up for a PTO on the B’s main training camp roster.

“That may change, though, as I’ve talked to different players and representatives over the last couple of weeks,” said Sweeney. “We have a healthy number of guys coming in, so that dictates it just a little bit. There could be injuries, and there could be non-graduation as we call it from rookie camp to main camp that may affect that. I’ve been in touch with several players.”

Will Stempniak get a shot to compete in Bruins training camp, and show one of the 30 NHL teams, who can sign him at any time during the tryout period, that he can still help a team win some hockey games? Stay tuned with training camp and the preseason dead ahead for the Bruins, and for the rest of the NHL as well.

 
ROY STILL MAKING A DIFFERENCE ALL THESE YEARS LATER

It was great seeing Travis Roy at the Boston Bruins 12th Annual Golf Tournament earlier this week where he received a check from the Bruins Foundation for $50,000 on the 20th anniversary of his tragic accident that left the BU player paralyzed from the neck down after crashing into the boards 11 seconds into his collegiate career.

Roy is still inspiring as a motivational speaker all these years later, and has raised more than $6 million with the Travis Roy Foundation to aid research funding, and one-on-one support for those with spinal cord injuries. Roy chit-chatted with Zdeno Chara for a few minutes before accepting the check from the Bruins, and was the center of attention from the entire Bruins organization before relaying his hopeful message to the media.

“It’s nice to be here and these are fun events, but at the end of the day this money is going to a great cause,” said Roy. “I’m really proud of the work that the Travis Roy Foundation does. It’s interesting. The first five or six years after the accident there was a lot of attention on my story, and I hadn’t really felt like I’d earned it. I basically had a freak injury, and it was unfortunate.

“To date the foundation has raised over $6 million, and we’ve funded a number of cutting edge research labs around the country. We’ve helped over 1,000 individuals with wheelchairs, voice-activated computers and simple home modifications. Now I feel like the attention on my life and the foundation is a little more warranted, and I feel better about it . . . which is nice. I’m proud of the work we’ve done, and I’m just proud of the community. I tell people that I live in Boston, and I just feel like everybody is always rooting for me. It’s been a long road with a lot of highs and lows. But there’s been a heck of a lot more highs than I ever thought, and a lot fewer lows than I ever would have expected.”

The money donated to Roy on Monday will help sponsor “A Night for Travis Roy” at Boston University on Oct. 20 at Agganis Arena where Roy and his foundation will be recognized for their important work.

For more information about Travis Roy and his helpful foundation with a wealth of great sports-related events, check out www.travisroyfoundation.org
 

ONE TIMERS

*Congrats to playmaking center David Krejci on his new baby daughter Elina born at the beginning of August, and the newly married Brad Marchand after tying the knot with a Rhode Island girl earlier in September. It would appear that even the youngest and wildest of the Bruins during the Stanley Cup year are finally fully turning into normal, boring adults like the rest of us.
 

*Interesting that a UMass Boston hockey player in 6-foot-5 forward Peter McIntyre has been skating with the Bruins over the last few weeks during captain’s practice, and has been wearing a Bruins sweater throughout the workouts. A B’s source told CSNNE.com that McIntyre is trying to hook on with a pro organization, and it would appear by his presence that the Black and Gold brass are giving the local guy a very long look.
 

*Good luck to Simon Gagne in retirement after a 14-year career in the NHL that concluded last season with the Boston Bruins. Gagne was a classy guy through and through, and it was pretty clear how much he loved his dad, who passed away last season in the sad event that pulled him away from the Bruins midseason. Gagne was playing a fourth-line role for the Bruins during his short stint, and said his dad called him one night after the game because he’d noticed that his son had five registered hits on the score sheet. Gagne’s dad had called to joke with him about his new role as a hitting machine with the Boston Bruins after a career spent scoring beautiful goals. That sounds like a pretty proud father to me. Bon Voyage in retirement, Simon.


Remember, keep shooting the puck at the net and good things are bound to happen.

David Pastrnak on injury: "Could I have avoided it? I wish [I had]"

David Pastrnak on injury: "Could I have avoided it? I wish [I had]"

BRIGHTON, Mass. – David Pastrnak had a mile-wide smile on his face at the thought of getting back on the ice with his teammates and playing games after missing the last five weeks with a left thumb injury. The 22-year-old is excited to knock the rust off and get back to the midseason form that had him post 31 goals and 66 points in 56 games, and saw him on a pace for 50 goals and 100 points prior to falling on his left hand back in early February.

“It’s a lot of fun being back on the ice with the guys. It’s been a few weeks [out of the lineup] so you kind of recognize that these guys are your friends and family, so it’s obviously feeling really good to be back,” said Pastrnak, who joked that he might not have been hurt a few years ago had he fallen on his left hand when he was 160 pounds instead of the 190 pounds he’s weighing in at these days. “Obviously these things happen in life and you just try to take advantage of it as a person and a player.

“Last year I was fortunate enough to be healthy all year, so it was really tough the first few weeks [after the thumb injury]. It feels good now. I’m taking shots and one-timers with no pain, so I’m happy to be moving forward.”

MORE FROM JOE HAGGERTY

But the young Bruins star also voiced tones of accountability and perhaps even remorse as he recounted the late Sunday night fall that led to the off-ice injury and the 16 games and counting that he’s missed as a result of it. The hope is that Pastrnak might even be able to play on Tuesday night against the Islanders while wearing a protective splint on his left hand, and he will be manning the right wing with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand when that does happen.

“Obviously I let the guys down a bit. It’s a tough time. It’s not an injury that happened on the ice, so I took full responsibility for that. That’s what hurt me most. Could I have avoided it? I wish [that I had]. But obviously things happen. The fact that I could let somebody down, I definitely hate that. The first couple of weeks were tough.”

Now Pastrnak has roughly three weeks to get ready for the postseason and get back into top scoring form, and that’s the most important thing for both the player and the team now that he’s over the injury hump and ready to return. 

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Brad Marchand trolls Torey Krug in St. Patrick's Day themed Instagram post

Brad Marchand trolls Torey Krug in St. Patrick's Day themed Instagram post

It's been abundantly clear this season that, when healthy, the Boston Bruins have great chemistry. And it's easy to see why. This bunch of guys just seems to connect, and there's no better example of this than Brad Marchand and Torey Krug.

For the better part of the last few weeks, Marchand and Krug have been involved in a social media "feud" with one another. The posts have mostly made fun of one another for their stature or likeability, and they even tried to drag Patrice Bergeron into it at one point. And now, the battle has escalated yet again.

On St. Patrick's Day, Marchand took the time to post this hilarious image of Krug on Instagram.

Keep in mind, this is the same Instagram that Marchand launched with poking fun at Krug on his mind. His second post featured a well-captioned picture of Krug and did a lot to continue the "feud," which has largely been the two players making fun of each other's smaller statures. And obviously, this holiday-themed leprechaun post is continuing that theme.

As the season goes on, it will be interesting to see what heights these two go to in order to troll one another. Right now, they're both putting out some quality entertainment off the ice and on the ice (though Krug is still recovering from a concussion).

The Bruins suit up on Tuesday against the New York Islanders. Last time out, the Bruins snapped a three-game losing streak in their 2-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

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