Bruins

Kovalchuk goes to Kings with 3-year deal

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Kovalchuk goes to Kings with 3-year deal

DALLAS – The Bruins missed out in their hunt for big-ticket, free-agent winger Ilya Kovalchuk after he’s signed a three-year, $18-plus million deal with the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings appeared to be the front-runner for the 35-year-old Russian sniper’s services as talks escalated with LA, Boston, Vegas and San Jose the past few weeks, and, in the end, they were the team willing to meet the Russian’s asking price.

Kovalchuk’s agent, JP Barry, had zeroed in on Patrick Marleau as a comparable asking price after he signed a three-year, $18.75 million deal with the Maple Leafs prior to this season. That’s exactly what Kovalchuk got from the Kings. It's a contract rich term and dollars for an admittedly talented player, who hasn’t laced up the skates in the NHL the past five years.

So, it’s understandable that the Bruins opted not to overextend for a gifted, aging player who enters the NHL with a lot of question marks to be answered. There are a lot of factors that make Kovalchuk less than comparable to Marleau. It’s been five seasons since Kovalchuk played in the NHL and the Russian winger bolted out on his last contract with the New Jersey Devils prior to jumping to the KHL. 

The more comparable low-end-of-the-range player to Kovalchuk in terms of circumstance is Alexander Radulov, who signed a one-year, $5.25 million contract with the Montreal Canadiens after returning from Russia following his time with the Nashville Predators. He signed his big deal with the Dallas Stars after posting 18 goals and 54 points with the Habs in the 2016-17 season.

Clearly, Kovalchuk deserves a little more than Radulov based on his past accomplishments in the NHL, so splitting the high/low difference would have left an offer in the two-year, $13-14 million range that would have been fair to both sides. Instead, the Kings gave Kovalchuk exactly what they wanted and it’s up to the Bruins to start over, whether that means stepping up talks with Rick Nash, making a pitch for a UFA forward James van Riemsdyk or getting involved with discussions when/if Jeff Skinner, Elias Lindholm or Wayne Simmonds become available in trade talks.

Either way, it’s the Bruins going to different options than what they were hoping for as they clearly thought the game-breaking Kovalchuk could be a very good fit heading into next season.

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Bergeron (back spasms) makes first on-ice appearance at Bruins camp

Bergeron (back spasms) makes first on-ice appearance at Bruins camp

BRIGHTON, Mass – A welcome sight for the Bruins finally arrived Friday morning as Patrice Bergeron hopped on the ice for the first time in training camp. Bergeron had been out with back spasms suffered in the days leading up to the opening of camp as he worked his way back from groin surgery. He's just started getting back onto the ice the past couple of days testing out a back that he admits still feels “a little stiff.”

Bergeron left the ice when practice with the team got going, and he continued to be absent from the camp sessions along with Jakub Lauko (undisclosed), Sean Kuraly (lower body) and Ryan Fitzgerald (lower body).

Still, the fact Bergeron, 33, is slowly ramping things up is a good sign as the Bruins center still points toward the Oct. 3 season opener as the ultimate day when he really needs to be back to 100 percent.

“It felt great to be back on the ice and just slowly ramping it up. It’s always good to be touching the ice for sure,” said Bergeron, who said his preference continues to be getting into a preseason game if possible. “The goal is to be ready for game one. Hopefully, we get an exhibition game in at the end, but we’re going to play it by ear at that point. We’re not going to push for it, so we’ll see how it goes. The timeline hasn’t changed.

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“Time is on our side and that’s not always the case during the season. So we’re trying to use that to our advantage.”

Bergeron’s absence certainly left a void on the ice given his importance to the team, but these camp sessions with the reunited team after the China trip are when the importance steps up a bit. Given some of the injury issues Bergeron has suffered in camp the past few seasons, it’s a wise move to bring him along slowly.

Provided he can get on the ice for a full practice in the next week or so, there’s really no danger of No. 37 not being ready for when the Bruins open against the Capitals in DC Oct. 3 and that’s really the only timetable that matters.  

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Bruins' young guns firing right now in camp, but can they keep it up?

Bruins' young guns firing right now in camp, but can they keep it up?

BRIGHTON – It’s obviously still early in Bruins training camp and the two separate groups haven’t even practiced together yet thanks to the week-plus trip to China, but a theme is most definitely developing for the Black and Gold.

Similar to training camp a year ago, the youthful wave of Bruins prospects are taking their preseason by storm in the very best way possible. A third-round pick just a couple of months ago, 18-year-old Jakub Lauko has two goals in as many games and has shown that he may indeed be a first round talent that was snagged a couple of rounds later.

“I’m never nervous, so I think it’s a good thing for me that I’m never nervous,” said Lauko, after suiting up for his first NHL preseason game for the Bruins. “So, yeah, [it was] just fun.”

There's a bevy of B’s young guns out there having “fun” right now.  

Former BU center Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson is one of a trio of young prospects vying for the third line center spot in Boston, and the Swedish pivot currently leads all Bruins players in preseason scoring with three points in two games. JFK has shown the strong two-way abilities that he’s always been touted for, and his passing skill has been on display in setting up fellow youngsters like Jake DeBrusk and Ryan Donato around the net. Speaking of Donato and DeBrusk, each of those young wingers earmarked for the NHL roster has a couple of counts in two preseason appearances as well.

Zach Senyshyn may have come into camp slightly under the radar after a so-so debut season in Providence last season, but he deposited a couple of goals in Tuesday night’s preseason win over the Capitals in Washington.

Trent Frederic scored a goal in the first preseason game against the Calgary Flames in China, and has teamed with David Backes for a big, strong and physical crash and bang line to this point in the preseason as well. Jack Studnicka, Cameron Hughes and Axel Andersson have all cracked the score sheet as well, and big winger Peter Cehlarik had two assists during the two China games vs. Calgary as well.

So in a camp where a couple of young players could come away with NHL jobs if their preseason performances are up to snuff, the Black and Gold young guns have been that and then some to this point.

That’s great news for a Bruins team that’s become accustomed to young players breaking through over the last few years, but the bad news for all these talented youngsters is that it’s going to get tougher from here on out. With the China contingent and the Boston-bound B’s crew set to be reunited at the end of this week, the training camp competitiveness is about to ramp up a few notches. There’s also the simple fact that things get quicker, more physical and more intense as the preseason goes along, and the veteran players began to really fight for their spots.

It’s the natural rhythm of training camp, and it’s about to become a little more eye-opening for a kiddie corps that’s been great thus far in B’s camp.

“Every year players coming into training camp and whether you’re a third-year player, second-year player, there’s always competition and there’s always somebody pushing from underneath [the NHL level], or pushing on a [camp tryout],” said Sacco. “Every team has young players that are hoping to push through and leave their mark to get their opportunity to play in the NHL.

“Once you see more players with NHL experience start getting into the lineups, it becomes a little bit more of a challenge for those young players to maintain that level that they had early on in the preseason. The ones that do, then you quite frankly start looking at them more and giving them a longer look.”

That will be the million dollar question for each of these young guys. There are plenty of cautionary tales of guys that flashed early in Bruins training camps in the past, but then couldn’t maintain that performance once the lineups got a little closer to NHL ready toward the end of the preseason. But there are also players, like Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak, on the current roster that just kept producing and performing as young talents that played their way into Boston’s NHL plans earlier than anybody could have projected when they were first drafted.

Maybe, just maybe, there’s another one of those guys in this Bruins training camp with so many of them off to a strong and promising start. 

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