Bruins

Bruins sign Zdeno Chara to a one-year, team-friendly extension

Bruins sign Zdeno Chara to a one-year, team-friendly extension

Zdeno Chara continues to get the Tim Wakefield treatment by the Boston Bruins, which means a string of one-year deals in perpetuity until the 42-year-old B’s captain decides to hang it up one of these days.

The Bruins announced on Saturday morning that they have signed the 42-year-old Chara to a one-year extension for next season worth $2 million in base salary along with another $1.75 million in reachable incentives.

Chara is in his 21st NHL season and 13th with Boston, and has appeared in 55 games this season while posting four goals and seven assists along with a plus-16 rating as a shutdown defenseman for the Black and Gold. While Chara is still effective as a shutdown D-man and is arguably still the best penalty killer going in the NHL, it’s also clear this season that age is beginning to slow him down a little bit at 42 years old. The 20:59 of ice time per game for Chara this season is the lowest of his career as the Bruins have focused on reducing his workload, and adding more to the plate of 21-year-old workhorse defenseman Charlie McAvoy.  

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The $2 million contract is excellent value for an aging, still-effective player in Chara that’s still a legit top-4 NHL defenseman at the NHL level, even if his Norris Trophy days and bigger offensive producer days are also now in the rearview mirror. The $2 million deal also gives the Bruins plenty of salary cap flexibility in helping them sign both McAvoy and Brandon Carlo, a couple of young RFA’s that are due for big raises on their second contracts this summer.  The lowered salary and cap hit for Chara more than makes up for any reductions to Chara’s game as he continues to play into his mid-40’s with a goal of lacing them up until at least the age of 45 years old. Besides, one can’t really put a price tag on the leadership, work ethic, toughness and intimidation level that Chara brings to the table as a 6-foot-9 defenseman that’s seen and done just about everything at the NHL level over the last two decades. It will be interesting to see if both Chara and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady can reach those career mile-posts for themselves as they largely put off any big effects to their games from Father Time.

The 42-year-old defenseman has led the Bruins to a postseason berth in nine of his 12 completed seasons with the team, including a Stanley Cup Championship in 2010-11. He ranks sixth in franchise history in games played (948), and fourth in points by a defenseman (452) behind Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (1,506), Bobby Orr (888), and Dit Clapper (474).

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Bruins place veteran David Backes on waivers for AHL assignment

Bruins place veteran David Backes on waivers for AHL assignment

The Bruins made a minor shockwave Wednesday when they placed Brett Ritchie on waivers in the wake of an embarrassing loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Now a much bigger move with more seismic shockwaves has arrived, as the Bruins have also placed David Backes on waivers for the purpose of sending him down to the AHL affiliate Providence Bruins for assignment.

It’s a move that’s been a possibility since the summer, as the 35-year-old Backes holds a $6 million cap hit and is nowhere close to the player the Bruins expected to get when they signed him to a free agent contract three years ago.

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Backes has not been present at the Bruins practice facility for the last couple of days and had a curiously-termed a maintenance day Thursday even though he's barely played over the last few weeks. 

Instead Backes has just one goal and three points in 16 games along with a minus-2 rating this season while averaging just 8:35 of ice time, and he’s understandably been a bit hesitant to play an overly physical game after he suffered another concussion earlier this season.

Bruce Cassidy referenced this along with Kevan Miller's injury to Kevan Miller as developments that have adversely impacted Boston’s ability to play the rugged, physical game that many expect the team to employ on a regular basis. 

“We’ve tried to change our roster – that’s [general manager Don Sweeney] and I both – we’ve had discussions on who we’ve drafted,” said Cassidy, explaining the team’s mindset at building their roster with a mix of skill and toughness. “You draft skill guys like [Anders] Bjork, [Danton] Heinen, [Jake] DeBrusk and you can put [Pastrnak] in that mix too because he’s that type of a skill player and that’s the direction we’ve tried to go while keeping – obviously [Zdeno] Chara is more than tough – the Kevan Millers of the world. [He] happens to be injured and that’s a tough one. Connor Clifton is a guy that gives us some bite sometimes [but] he’s injured.

“We’ve tried to keep certain guys in the lineup. Chris Wagner is a physical player, [David] Backes had some of that in him, but he gets concussions a little bit and now we’re talking about what level is he going to be able to go for his personal health? I think we’ve tried to balance it. But if it’s out there [that there was a lack of response], people have a right to say it.”

Backes had just seven goals and 20 points in 70 games last season for the Bruins, and was a healthy scratch in the final three games of the Stanley Cup Final against his former St. Louis Blues team last June.

The move will remove roughly $1 million of his overall $6 million cap hit from the Bruins books once Backes has been dropped to Providence, and that will free the B’s up to make any number of roster moves ahead of the NHL trade deadline next month.

It’s expected that Backes is going to clear through waivers without being claimed and there’s a very distinct possibility that he’ll be bought out of the final year of a contract that really didn’t work out for the Bruins since his arrival in Boston. 

Bruins respond to latest challenge and 'take first step to getting back to who they are'

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Bruins respond to latest challenge and 'take first step to getting back to who they are'

BOSTON – The Bruins players heard the words from a disapproving media, from an embarrassed fan base and from an angry management, and they responded in tangible fashion in their very next chance to get on the ice.

There may never be a frank admittance that the Bruins were way too soft in their response to Tuukka Rask getting butt-ended in the side of the head and knocked out of Tuesday night’s loss in Columbus, but they were aware that everybody around them was in almost uniform agreement that what they did in response simply wasn’t enough. The Bruins harnessed those negative feelings and whatever deep-seeded regret they may have been harboring, and they took it out on the Pittsburgh Penguins in a 4-1 win at TD Garden on Thursday night.

It’s never going to be the Pier Six brawl special that it was back with the group that won the Stanley Cup in 2011, and it certainly isn’t going to be the dirty, mean and nasty stuff that the 1970’s Bruins pulled off during the wonderfully dark ages of the sport. But it was clear the Bruins wanted to get back to being a hard team to play against after really losing their way over the last few months, and evidence abounded that they were getting back to their game.

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“I thought it was a great effort by everyone. We competed hard, supported each other well and I thought Jaro [Halak] made some excellent saves. So it felt like up and down our lineup everybody contributed, and it was a great effort,” said Patrice Bergeron. “We always want to be [a hard team to play against]. We weren’t really happy with our last two efforts, and you’re facing a team that’s playing good hockey [in Pittsburgh]. I thought we responded to the challenge well, but we have to carry that momentum on.

“It’s about getting better as a team. There are going to be stretches where you need to work harder to get the result. So we keep working on it and keep getting better, but the way we competed and the mindset up and down the lineup was great to see.”

A hit from behind on Chris Wagner in the corner drew every member of the Bruins in response early in the game, and Evgeni Malkin was tossed around in the corner by Zdeno Chara after a fairly innocent poke at Jaroslav Halak early in the game as well. Later it was Torey Krug responding to a cross-check to the back of Matt Grzelcyk in front of the Bruins bench, and Krug and Patric Hornqvist throwing down for a legit hockey fight after serving matching roughing penalties for their initial fracas.

Chris Wagner was only credited with one hit, which was unintentionally humorous as he was throwing his body around with heavy physical play throughout the game, and clearly heeded the call from the Bruins coaching that some of their physical players needed to draw the team into fire a little more often than they had been doing.

Combine all that with rock solid goaltending from Jaroslav Halak, strong special teams play and secondary scoring to go along with Perfection Line excellence, and the Bruins finally again resembled the team that pushed out to such a big lead earlier in the season. Certainly they were again a difficult team to play against rather than the pushovers that showed up in Columbus a few nights ago, and that was the topic of the day from the coaching staff ahead of the game.

“We had a different meeting on some things we needed to do better as a group. It wasn’t necessarily a challenge, it was a reset on supporting one another all over the ice. You hope [that] if you do that to get pucks back, it’ll bleed into anything else that transpires — the physical play and everything else that goes with it,” said Bruce Cassidy. “I thought that part was good. We addressed the group about a little bit of our mentality. We feel we’re winners in that locker room, but you have to prepare to win, you have to compete to win and go through the process of winning. I thought today was a good first step to getting back to who we are.”

The good news for the Bruins is that throughout this identity crisis, malaise or cruise control session they have been mired in for the last couple of months, they are still eight points ahead of the Lightning and 11 points ahead of the Maple Leafs in the Atlantic Division. Thursday night’s win over a strong Penguins team was a reminder of how good the Bruins can be when they are playing the right way and actually inject some urgency, effort and attitude into their game.

Now the Bruins need to follow up on the win over the Penguins, finish up strong in their final two games ahead of the bye week and NHL All-Star break, and then hit the ground running with these kinds of energized efforts in the second half of the season starting at the end of January. They can’t allow last night’s formula to slip away again, or they would be in danger of embracing the same season-long malaise that ended up dooming the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of last year’s playoffs.

“It’s not about going out there and trying to run them out of the rink. Looking at our roster, we don’t have that kind of group anymore," said Torey Krug. "But we talked about sticking together and competing harder and sacrificing a little more. That doesn’t mean putting a guy through the glass, but it means going into the corner and having the willingness to get hit, or to hit somebody else, in order to come out of there with the puck. I think that desperation was lost there for a few games, so hopefully this is a step in the right direction and we can kind of grasp that concept again. It’s been part of our DNA for years, so as long as we can get back to that [we’ll be good].”

The Bruins lost their way for a while, but it didn’t end up costing them anything to this point provided the wakeup call in Columbus continues to serve as a reminder that the Bruins can be great if they actually want to work for it, and for each other.

Haggerty: Torey Krug steps up as Bruins leader in win