The first on-ice session will take place Friday at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington, and the Bruins will have only four days of practice before their first exhibition game against the Montreal Canadiens on Sept. 23 at Bell Centre in Montreal.
It was those pesky Habs who ended the Bruins’ season in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs last spring. The Bruins had a long summer to digest why their season ended sooner than they’d hoped and now they’re ready to right the wrong.
“Absolutely,” Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask said. “You always get that bad taste in your mouth when you finish your season like we did last year and you want to change that ending. It’s been a long summer for us, longer than we’re used to in past years and I think our hunger has been growing during the summer and everybody looks ready to go. We’re really excited about the new season.”
As training camp begins, here are 10 things to watch for:
• At some point this season, Chiarelli will need to make a trade in order to free up some cap space. If that decision comes during camp, defenseman Johnny Boychuk, whose name has been the one spinning the rumor mill, could be the one to go. The veteran blueliner has one year and $3.36 million remaining on his contract before becoming an unrestricted free agent. Losing Boychuk and his relentless style of play would impact Boston’s blue line, but Chiarelli and Julien are confident in the team’s defensive depth.
• Speaking of defensive depth, if everyone remains healthy and no trades are made, the Bruins will have a logjam on the blue line. It’s actually a good problem to have. With Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Boychuk, Dougie Hamilton, Adam McQuaid, Krug, Kevan Miller, Matt Bartkowski and David Warsofsky, the Bruins will use training camp and the entire preseason schedule to figure out which pairings work best. The Bruins were uncharacteristically inconsistent defensively during the 2013-14 season. After the Bruins lost to the Canadiens, Boston could blame its inexperience on defense as one reason for the series loss. Moving forward, the Bruins can’t make that excuse. Depending on Boychuk’s status, the top four will include Chara, Seidenberg and Hamilton. Presuming Krug’s status and McQuaid’s health won’t be issues, there should be a lively competition for the remaining spots.
• David Pastrnak, the Bruins’ first-round selection (No. 25 overall) in June’s draft, will be given every opportunity to earn a roster spot out of training camp. The 18-year-old forward impressed the organization during rookie development camp in July and during the recent national rookie tournament in Nashville. But now he’ll be playing against the big boys and his skills will be tested. So far, there’s a lot to like about Pastrnak. For starters, he genuinely loves the game. He seems mature and ready for the challenges of playing in the NHL and in Boston. His progress will be a major storyline during camp, and if he makes the team, he could quickly become a fan favorite.
• Other than Pastrnak, there is a host of homegrown talent that will battle for roster spots. If Smith remains unsigned, there would be three forward positions vacant. Ryan Spooner, Matt Fraser, Jordan Caron, Justin Florek, Bobby Robins, Alexander Khokhlachev and Matt Lindblad, along with camp invitees and veterans Ville Leino and Simon Gagne, all are in the mix. If the offseason plan of having Loui Eriksson on the top line with David Krejci and Milan Lucic works out, and Smith does sign and remains on the second line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, then the bottom two lines could see several different combinations during camp.
• Expect Hamilton to have a big season. He made major strides during his first full season with the Bruins in 2013-14. He no longer carries that “inexperienced” tag and there’s no reason to think he won’t be a top-four defender again this season. The 21-year-old blueliner is strong and smooth with his 6-foot-5, 200-pound frame. If he makes the most of his physical presence and combines that with his hockey sense, he could be a dangerous player.
• Another topic this offseason was the departure of veteran leaders Shawn Thornton and Jarome Iginla. Thornton spent seven seasons with the Bruins, but the team decided not to re-sign him, and he landed a two-year deal with the Florida Panthers. Iginla spent one season in Boston and signed as a free agent with the Colorado Avalanche. Their absences will leave a small void in the leadership department, but the Bruins are loaded with leaders, both on and off the ice. From Chara, Bergeron, Krejci, Rask and Chris Kelly, there’s plenty of leadership.
• At the start of the 2013-14 season, Julien and Chiarelli discussed the concept of finding ways to preserve Chara and keep him fresh for the entire season and into the playoffs. But due to a number of key injuries on the blue line, along with the reinforcements’ inexperience, Chara was forced to log his normal ice time and played nearly 25 minutes per game. At 37, there’s no doubt the team’s captain is still a machine. He’s in incredible shape, but his 6-foot-9, 255-pound frame isn’t getting any younger and he still has four years remaining on his contract. Julien likely will attempt to manage Chara’s minutes again this season and it will be interesting to see how it plays out and how much he has remaining in his tank come playoff time.
• With Rask settled into the No. 1 goalie spot for the foreseeable future, he will again have a new partner this season. Since he’s established himself as a true No. 1, he’s had different backups each of the last two seasons with Anton Khudobin and Chad Johnson, respectively. While it appears Niklas Svedberg will serve in the capacity this season, fellow goaltending prospect Malcolm Subban wants to battle for that spot during training camp. Svedberg signed a one-year, one-way contract this summer worth $600,000, but the Bruins haven’t handed him the backup role; he’ll have to earn it.
The team also will hold its annual “State of the Bruins” event at 5:30 p.m., Thursday at TD Garden. The panel will consist of owner Jeremy Jacobs, principal Charlie Jacobs, president Cam Neely, coach Claude Julien, captain Zdeno Chara and assistant captains Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci.
The event gives Bruins season-ticket holders and premium-ticket holders the opportunity to participate in a question-and-answer forum.
The Bruins announced their training camp roster on Wednesday:
FORWARDS: Patrice Bergeron, Anthony Camara, Gregory Campbell, Jordan Caron, Craig Cunningham, Loui Eriksson, Alexander Fallstrom, Brian Ferlin, Rob Flick, Justin Florek, Matt Fraser, Simon Gagne*, Seth Griffith, Cory Kane, Bracken Kearns*, Chris Kelly, Alexander Khokhlachev, Jared Knight, David Krejci, Ville Leino*, Matt Lindblad, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, Daniel Paille, David Pastrnak, Tyler Randell, Bobby Robins, Ben Sexton, [Reilly Smith], Carl Söderberg, Ryan Spooner, Ethan Werek*
DEFENSEMEN: Linus Arnesson, Matt Bartkowski, Johnny Boychuk, Chris Breen, Chris Casto, Zdeno Chara, Tommy Cross, Steve Eminger*, Dougie Hamilton, [Torey Krug], Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller, Joe Morrow, Dennis Seidenberg, Zach Trotman, David Warsofsky, Ben Youds*
GOALTENDERS: Tuukka Rask, Jeremy Smith, Malcolm Subban, Niklas Svedberg
*Denotes player attending training camp on a tryout basis; [Denotes player who is unsigned]
Seidenberg tore both the MCL and ACL in his right knee on Dec. 27 and had season-ending surgery on Jan. 7. He nearly returned to the lineup for the Stanley Cup playoffs, but the Bruins lost to the Montreal Canadiens in the second round.
The veteran blueliner is healthy and ready for the 2014-2015 season. He’s been participating in the captain’s practices, but Seidenberg is looking forward to a normal team practice.
“It’s been a while. The last time I was on the ice with the team for a real practice was December, so I’m looking forward to getting back at it, skating with the guys and starting to get some body contact. I’m just really excited to get going and play some games.”
Since there are no restrictions, there is no special plan for the preseason game schedule.
“I’ll do whatever. I’m part of the team and there are no restrictions. So, whatever they want me to do, or whatever I have to do, I’ll do. I’m looking forward to it,” he said.
If every defenseman is healthy, and no trades are made, the Bruins’ defensive depth chart will consist of nine players, including Seidenberg, Zdeno Chara, Dougie Hamilton, Johnny Boychuk, Adam McQuaid, Matt Bartkowski, Torey Krug (remains unsigned), Kevan Miller and David Warsofsky. It’s a logjam on the blue line, but the players expect something will happen via the trade market.
“We all know how they can play and we have great depth at D. It will be interesting, if Torey shows up at some point, so we’ll have nine, 10 guys that can play, so there’s a crazy amount of guys out there and it’ll be really interesting what’s going to happen,” Seidenberg said. “I think something’s going to happen, but who knows what. Again, they’re all great players. They skate really well and it would be nice to have them all on our team, but it’s just impossible.”
David Pastrnak, the Bruins’ first-round selection (No. 25 overall) in June’s NHL Entry Draft, scored his first goal in a black and gold sweater and was named to the All-Tournament team, along with teammate Chris Casto.
Pastrnak played the right wing the entire tournament.
“I felt good on the right wing,” he told reporters in Nashville. “Feel like I’m developing.”
Back in New England, while participating in the team’s annual charity golf tournament at The International, Bruins coach Claude Julien talked about what he saw at rookie camp.
“You get to see a lot of things from your prospects,” he said. “I was there for the first two games and it gives me an idea of some of the guys that will be coming to the main camp and what to expect. It’s good for the guys.”
Since rookie development camp back in July, Pastrnak has impressed with his skill and will have a chance to earn a roster spot. Julien’s early impressions of the 18-year-old rookie are good.
“That first game he showed a lot of skill. He was probably the best player out there. Second game, not as much, but the first game he really showcased what he’s all about, so there’s a reason to be excited about the future of that player,” Julien said.
Once main camp begins with the team’s first on-ice session on Friday, it will be an entirely new level for Pastrnak.
“The test he has to pass is can he play at this level? I think he’s got the speed and he’s got the skill,” Julien said. “Does he have the strength and does he have the experience to be able to overcome the challenges he’s going to be facing? We won’t know that until training camp starts, so it’s something we’ll keep a close eye on.”
Prior to teeing off at the team’s annual charity golf tournament at The International, Julien explained the adjustment he and his coaching staff have come up with for playing in the neutral zone.
“Just some small adjustments, nothing huge, just tweaks here and there, maybe in the neutral zone. We’re going to try to just be a tad more aggressive. Don’t be running with this and say, ‘They’re going to be way more aggressive.’ A tad more aggressive, OK guys? A tad, so where maybe we can turn the puck over quicker and spend more time with it, so small adjustments like that,” Julien said.
It starts with puck possession, and that’s what he would like more of. As Julien recently explained to the Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa, the Bruins’ coach will give his defensemen the green light to step up more in the neutral zone if there’s a possibility to create a turnover, and if the forwards are strong on the backcheck and are in a position to gain possession in transition.
The Bruins will give it a trial run during training camp and the preseason.
“That’s the good part about our coaching staff is [its] always trying to make our system better and find ways to improve it,” said assistant captain Patrice Bergeron. “I’m sure whatever it is it’s going to be the best for the team, and being more aggressive, if you’re smart, is never a bad thing.”
It is a reflection of the salary-cap constraints general manager Peter Chiarelli is up against -- not an indication of bad blood between the players and the organization.
The Bruins held their annual preseason charity golf tournament Tuesday at The International, and neither Smith nor Krug attended the event.
At the start of the offseason, Chiarelli had mentioned that both players, who are considered entry-level free agents and can't negotiate with other organizations, may have to settle for one-year deals. Chiarelli added that both players deserve pay raises at "some point," so they might have to wait.
Chiarelli also told reporters last weekend at the rookie tournament in Antioch, Tennessee, that due to the salary-cap constraints, it's likely he will trade a defenseman. Johnny Boychuk's name continues to spin the speculation rumor mill, since he has one year and $3.36 million remaining on his contract before becoming an unrestricted free agent.
Never in Chiarelli's tenure has a player, for whatever reason, held out at the start of training camp, and the Bruins are hoping that continues.
Bruins coach Claude Julien said he's prepared for any scenario.
The Bruins have nine defensemen on the depth chart, including Zdeno Chara, Dougie Hamilton, Dennis Seidenberg, Boychuk, Adam McQuaid, Matt Bartkowski, Kevan Miller, David Warsofsky and Krug. If Krug does not sign, no one is traded, and everyone is healthy, the Bruins will be well protected in that area.
Offensively, even with Smith in the mix, there are already two forward positions up for grabs. David Pastrnak, Ryan Spooner, Matt Fraser, Justin Florek, Bobby Robins, Alexander Khokhlachev and Jordan Caron will all be battling for those spots. Without Smith, there would be three spots to fill.
“If there’s going to be some openings there, we feel we’ve got some people at our camp that can certainly fill those openings. It’s up to every one of them that has that chance to stick with the team to take advantage of it, have a good camp, and force us to keep them,” coach Claude Julien said Tuesday.
“Absolutely. We wouldn’t invite those guys just to fill in our training camp roster,” Julien said. “Those are guys who have experience. Both of them are coming off injuries, major injuries, and they both feel really good.
“Gagne didn’t play at all last year, but he trained a lot and he’s feeling the best he’s felt in a long time, and Ville Leino is the same way. Those guys have some experience and it’s an opportunity for those guys to seize some of those spots if they want to, and then for the young guys to battle their way into it. We always have to add some youth to our lineup as well, so I think there’s room for both, whether it’s veterans or young guys.”
In past years, Chiarelli has always locked up the players, so everyone could focus on hockey.
“It’s been good,” Julien said. “You know what? When you have a certain amount of success it’s because your players are doing well. When your players are doing well, eventually they get raises. It was just a matter of time before we got into those situations, and right now I think we’re still in a good position where we can handle it. It’ll just take a little bit of time and I’m sure, as Peter mentioned to you guys a few days ago, he may have to make some moves in training camp. We’ll have to wait and see. At the end of the day, I’ll have 20 to 23 players at my disposal that I’m going to make sure work to our advantage.”
He told reporters Monday at Ristuccia Arena that he will remain limited for training camp as he continues to regain strength in the wrist, which he injured during Game 1 of the second round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens.
Lucic said he will be "cautious" so he doesn't suffer any setbacks, and believes the injury won't affect his play this season.
"Every time you have surgery, it never really goes back to 100 percent," he said. "But you hope that you can get back to a point where you were feeling as good as before the surgery. For myself, just trying to get mentally healthy and get that out of the way, the mental part of it. That part of it is a big part of it to overcome, as far as shooting and just pushing and just all that type of stuff. It's a lot of hard work when you get injured to get to 100 percent, and that's your main goal is to try to get there."
Speaking to reporters at the Bruins' rookie game against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Antioch, Tennessee, Chiarelli acknowledged that the salary cap crunch won't allow him to keep everybody on board. While the Bruins recently signed David Krejci to a six-year extension, Johnny Boychuk and Carl Soderberg are the biggest names entering the final year of their contracts.
“I can't sign everybody, and I'd love to sign everybody, but we can't for the numbers that they want,” Chiarelli said, according to WEEI.com. “Some things you have to let play out, and we have to be a little versatile ourselves when it comes to team-building and we're forced to do that this year.
“Am I going to try to sign all these guys? We look at all these guys, we look at different lineups going forward into the year. As the year progresses, we look and I think we're going to take more time.”
Historically, Chiarelli has tried to lock his players up before they reach their walk year.
“I've always tried to get the team together signed and get them in place and give them a level of security,” Chiarelli said. “I always feel that with that, they will perform. Of course, I've got to see the performance to get to that point. They've seen that we've tried to keep this team together as much as we can; we've had a lot of success with this group of guys. Around the fringes, guys have to go, but they've seen us try and [keep the team together], so they know our intentions are noble, so now it's not quite ideal where we can keep the band together, so to speak.”
Chiarelli also addressed the Bruins' abundance of quality defensemen.
“There's a lot of competition, there's a lot of spots, including -- you don't wish one of these D-men to be traded, but we just have too many D-men,” he said. “At some point, I'm going to have to do it, and all the teams in the league, most of the teams in the league would like one of these defensemen.
“And I know everyone's waiting, 'What move will [he] make? What move will [he] make?' Well, I have to see what's going to happen, see who fits well with whom, but the uncertainty is something this year that is a byproduct of the cap and a successful team and locking up those guys, and eventually there's other guys that are just going to get too expensive. I don't cast any aspersions on them for being at that level, but that's what it's at.”
The Boston Bruins' first-round selection (No. 25 overall) in June's NHL entry draft has a colorful personality and genuinely loves the game of hockey.
"I love his infectious personality," Bruins assistant general manager Don Sweeney said. "Really, he just shows up wanting to play hockey and get better. He came over early on his own right to get acclimated. He's made a few trips back and forth. We asked him, 'Are you tired at all?' He smiled and [said], 'No way.' This is about wanting to play hockey."
On the ice, his ability stands out. He's a strong, fast skater and is known for his instincts, accurate shot and smooth hands. He communicates well on the ice and is always looking to make the right play.
"His skill set separates him at times, because it's awfully good," Sweeney said. "Now, we've got him playing some center and some wing just to get him comfortable, but he's excited and we are as an organization to have him a part of our group. We've all seen him play an awful lot of hockey and we're excited about where he is now, but also where he could be in the future for us."
The Bruins don't want to place too much pressure on the rookie, but there's a realistic chance Pastrnak could earn a roster spot out of training camp with the Bruins. And, it's obvious that's the only thing on his mind.
On Thursday, the Bruins' rookie camp began at Ristuccia Arena. Pastrnak was among 21 others to participate in the first camp of off-ice testing and on-ice drills. It was his first organized on-ice session with the Bruins, and afterward he said it went well.
"I was working hard all summer and just getting better," he said. "I feel really good on the ice, so I'm happy and just have to keep working."
The group of 22 players will travel Friday to Nashville to participate in the national rookie tournament, Sept. 12-16. The Bruins will play three games against the Nashville Predators, Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers.
"It's going to be fun," Pastrnak said. "We just have to play the best we can, and it's going to be fun."
When asked if he thinks about anything other than hockey, he quickly answered: "No."
He's also polished with his answers. The 18-year-old native of the Czech Republic learned English at 15 and he speaks it well. He'll say all the right things, but he'll add a bit of humor to his honest answers. One aspect of youth that sometimes bothers veteran players is when a prospect doesn't understand at least some of the organization's history. Pastrnak will admit he's learning about the Bruins, but he's concentrating on one thing.
"I'm focused on hockey," he said with a huge smile. "But I promise I'm going to look into it."
Even when he was pressed about the possibility of realizing his dream of playing in the NHL for the Bruins this season, a confident Pastrnak respectfully dismissed the notion.
During rookie development camp in July, Bruins goalie prospect and former first-rounder Malcolm Subban quickly formed a strong competitive bond with Pastrnak. The two went out and purchased a PlayStation and they're in the process of setting of up a tournament for "NHL 15."
"He's a great guy," Subban said of Pastrnak. "Obviously, he's got a lot of character. He's competitive and a lot of fun to be around. When you have two competitive guys, you're always competing for every little thing and we're always going at it, but he's definitely a great guy to have around the room, for sure."
Even after the first day of rookie camp ended, the two remained on the ice for a shooting competition.
"He's a great player," Subban said. "You watch him and he loves to compete and battle on the ice. He's also a skilled guy, too. He's a great player, for sure."
Since arriving back in Boston a couple of weeks ago, Pastrnak has been skating with his future Bruins teammates during captain's practices. He has been skating with the likes of Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Patrice Bergeron, Tuukka Rask, Chris Kelly and David Krejci.
"It was great," he said. "I learned a lot. It was a great experience, not just on the ice but off ice, too. I'm happy I practiced with them and I tried to get as much experience out of it as I could."
Learning the style of the North American game along with the culture here will be a crash course for Pastrnak. He's trying to focus solely on hockey, but he admits being away from his family is difficult.
Fortunately, the advice his mother gave him a few years ago is paying off now and could be one of the reasons he makes the team out of training camp. When Pastrnak left the Czech Republic to play junior hockey in Sweden two seasons ago, his mother told him how important that move would be in order for him to one day realize his dream of playing in the NHL.
In Sweden, he learned English and lived on his own. That prepared him for what he's experiencing now in Boston, and since he's already been through a life-changing transition, this time he only has to worry about hockey because he's comfortable.
"It's pretty different. [Compared] to back home, there's a lot more people. I like it here. I don't have any problem with that. It's hard to communicate with my family back home because of the time change, so that's pretty tough. Otherwise, it's all good here."
Added Pastrnak, "I feel like I'm not thinking about it too much, because I'm just playing hockey all the time and practicing, so I don't have too much time to think about it. The worst is my mom is alone back home and she's just waiting for my messages. I can't write her because right now I'm at the rink, so it's pretty tough. I think it's much tougher for her than it is for me."
One of Pastrnak's favorite songs is "Best Day of My Life" by American Authors. The first line of the song is: "I had a dream so big and loud, I jumped so high I touched the clouds."
He's on the verge of realizing that dream and it starts with rookie camp this week.
"One of the many steps," he said with a smile.
The group of 22 players will then travel Friday to Nashville to participate in the national rookie tournament Sept. 12-16. The Bruins will play three games against the Nashville Predators, Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers.
Here is Boston’s rookie roster for camp:
Forwards: Andrew Aamon, Spencer Asuchak, Anthony Camara, Mitchell Dempsey, Alex Fallstrom, Brian Ferlin, Seth Griffith, Cory Kane, Dawson Leedahl, Matt Lindblad, David Pastrnak, Ben Sexton, Kevin Sullivan.
Defensemen: Linus Arnesson, Bryce Aneloski, Mickael Beauregard, Chris Casto, Lee Moffie, Frankie Simonelli, Mike Young.
Goaltenders: Adam Morrison, Malcolm Subban.
Jonathan Toews edged Sidney Crosby for the top spot, with the Stanley Cup playoff performance of Drew Doughty still fresh in the mind of voters, who put him third on the list.
This week in New York, many of the franchise players who were named by executives gathered for the player media tour, the unofficial kickoff to the NHL season. It was an opportunity to give the players a chance to answer the same question. The same rules applied: Players were asked to list three players they'd want if they were starting a franchise from the ground up.
A few players wanted to add their own ground rules. Tyler Seguin felt compelled to pick teammates, so he added a rule that you couldn't pick your own teammates. Some guys followed the rule, others didn't.
Claude Giroux introduced the idea of picking himself, to which we had no objection. Henrik Lundqvist, however, saw a conflict of interest there.
"Am I the GM?" Lundqvist asked. "Then I'm not picking myself."
He quickly identified Sidney Crosby, then paused for a moment. "This is tough."
And with that, here are the results, giving three points to a first-place vote, two for a second and one for a third:
Sidney Crosby (19 points): Crosby finished a close second to Jonathan Toews when executives voted, but he ran away with it among the players.
After a drama-filled seven-game series last spring between the two rivals, capped by Bruins winger Milan Lucic sharing his love for the Canadiens in the handshake line -- we jest, of course; heated words were exchanged with several players -- the Oct. 16 game in Montreal is certainly must-watch TV.
"Absolutely, it's going to be a lot of fun," Canadiens star winger Max Pacioretty told ESPN.com Tuesday during the player tour media event.
"After a series like that, there's tons of emotions. It might have been build up a little bit more than what it really was. But at the same time, they’re a great team. That’s our measuring stick team. We play against them so many times a year, they’re one of the best teams and you really can tell a lot about your team by how you measure up against the Boston Bruins. They contend every year. We get a little bit more of the juices flowing when we play against a team like that. We definitely have a lot to prove when we play a team like that."
Teammate P.K. Subban echoed the respect the Canadiens have for the Bruins, but also said the emotion and intensity between the two rivals is absolutely genuine.
"We don’t need to sugar coat it, there was a big deal made about the comments that Lucic made in the line," Subban told ESPN.com Tuesday during his player tour interview. "But I mean, this is hockey, this is professional sports. There’s mutual respect between all players. That series got heated. And I think it’s good for the game, it’s good for the fans to know that these guys are making millions of dollars but it’s real, guys want to win. It’s competitive. At the end of the day we still want to send kids the message of sportsmanship, but this is professional hockey. I'm not going into that game thinking about was said in the handshake line. We're just trying to win. Lucic is a big enough guy anyway that I’m sure if anyone wanted to justify it, he’d be willing to answer it. But all in all, the rivalry that's rekindled over the last few years has been great for hockey."
Asked about Shawn Thornton no longer being with the Bruins (he signed with the Panthers) to squirt him with a water bottle, Subban didn't miss a beat: "Well, I don't mind him squirting me with water in Florida because it's hot there."
The Habs upset the Bruins last spring in the second round before losing to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference finals, a successful season by any measure for a Habs team not picked by most to contend.
And yet, lots of changes in the offseason, the team getting younger after parting ways with veterans such as Brian Gionta, Josh Gorges and Daniel Briere.
Gionta’s free-agent departure opens up the captaincy in Montreal, and it’s expected head coach Michel Therrien will name his new captain at the end of the training camp or around that time.
Both the names of Pacioretty and Subban have been in the mix from fans and media as far as candidates to be the next captain, along with the likes of Tomas Plekanec, David Desharnais, Andrei Markov et al.
"It’s already an honor just to be in the conversation, but I know I have to step up and help lead this team no matter if there’s a letter on this sweater or not," said Pacioretty, 25, Montreal's leading scorer last season. "I feel like I'm ready for it. When Gorges and Gio were here, you don’t want to step on any toes, you want the leaders to lead and want them to be able to do their thing. But now that they’re gone, I think there’s a big gap to fill right now. I hope to be able to do so. Whoever does have the 'C' on their sweater, he's going to have a lot of help. We know a lot of guys in the room that can lead, guys who have been on Stanley Cup teams. So I think whoever gets the letter, he’ll get help."
Like Pacioretty, Subban didn’t hide what it would mean to him if he were ever named captain of the Habs.
"Obviously, I would want that honor," Subban said. "I don't think anybody sees me as a player that would shy away from that type of responsibility. Not more money, not more ice time, but more responsibility given to a player, in my opinion, makes him better. For a player that’s going to be in Montreal for a minimum eight years time, to be considered a leader of this franchise and a leader of this team, would be a great deal of responsibility but it’s exciting you could be a guy to help lead your team to a Stanley Cup."
Subban recalled a phone call he got after signing his new contract this summer from the wife of Habs legend Jean Beliveau.
"She congratulated me on the new contract, was very complimentary, and very excited to know that she'll be watching me for the next eight years," said Subban. "She spoke on Jean's behalf as well. To me that was very flattering. To be able to wear the 'C' like one of my idols Jean Beliveau, that would be a great honor."
The 28-year-old top-line center has one year remaining on his current deal before his six-year, $43.5 million contract begins in 2015-16.
Krejci’s willingness to sign a long-term deal now means he can focus on playing and nothing else. He said his decision to stay in Boston was an easy one, mainly because the organization is dedicated to winning by locking up core players such as Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Tuukka Rask to long-term deals. Krejci said he hopes Milan Lucic joins the list very soon.
Krejci could have been a free agent after the upcoming season and likely could have earned a bigger contract elsewhere, especially with the likelihood of the salary cap increasing next summer.
“Yeah, maybe I could get more, maybe less, but money wasn’t really the issue. I wanted to play where I could win,” Krejci said. “[Bruins general manager] Peter [Chiarelli] and the organization feel I could help them win the Cup and that means a lot. I didn’t hesitate and accepted the offer. I’m glad I can be a Bruin for the next seven years.”
For years, Chiarelli has focused on keeping the Bruins’ core intact. The formula of top-line centers -- Krejci and Bergeron -- along with a true No. 1 goaltender in Rask, and a strong defensive unit led by Chara and Dennis Seidenberg is a sign of the organization’s commitment to winning.
“It’s awesome that they believe in you, that they trust you. It means a lot,” Krejci said. “You just go out there and play the game, you don’t think about anything else. To have Peter, Cam [Neely], the whole organization behind me, that’s awesome. That’s perfect. I really feel we have a really good team this year and the next few years as well, so hopefully we can make a run. That’s why I signed here. I want to win another Cup and this is the team that can do it.”
Krejci and Lucic have been longtime linemates, but the last few seasons they’ve had some turnover on their right wing. Nathan Horton helped the Bruins win the Stanley Cup in 2011 and after he signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets as a free agent, the Bruins signed future Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla to play alongside Krejci and Lucic.
It’s no coincidence both players enjoyed their most consistent season with Iginla on the right side, but now that Iginla is playing for the Colorado Avalanche, Loui Eriksson will get a look on the team’s top line.
“Chemistry you can create pretty fast and if you have the right guy, a guy who listens and knows how you play, then it could be easy,” Krejci said. “I played a couple of games with Loui last year and I like playing with him. He’s a great player. He can pass the puck and I feel if I play with him I’ll have even more goals because he’s a great passer. Obviously I’m excited and I would play with him. We’ll see how camp goes and go from there.”
If that trio works, it will give Boston’s top line a different look than it had with Horton and Iginla, both of whom featured a physical presence. Eriksson is more of a two-way, finesse player.
Krejci has recorded only two 20-goal seasons during his seven years with the Bruins. Last season, he had 19 goals and 50 assists for 69 points in 80 games, but he’s hoping to generate more scoring.
“I do want to score more goals, for sure,” Krejci said. “Not necessarily because I signed a new deal, but just because I want to get better every year. That’s my goal -- get more goals and help the team win more games.”
As disappointing as last season’s second-round exit from the playoffs at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens was, one positive aspect for Krejci was that he would have a long summer to rest and recuperate in preparation for the 2014-15 season.
“I feel great. I took some time off, but after a few weeks I got back in the gym and started to do some stuff. I feel like I’m in really good shape. Only time will tell, but I feel great. I wanted to come into camp in the best shape I could be and I feel really, really close,” he said.
Krejci also believes he’s ready to add more to the team off the ice. Prior to last season, he was honored when he was named assistant captain. He took pride having the “A” on his sweater but believes he can be a better leader moving forward.
“It was a learning experience for me,” he said. “It was new, but I feel like I did an OK job. I don’t think I did a great job at it, but it was a learning experience and I know what to expect now. I know how to treat the other guys in the dressing room and I feel I can take on a bigger role.”
Krejci is the type of player who focuses on the present and nothing else. But he admitted Monday that if he accomplishes his goal of helping the Bruins win a few more Stanley Cups during the next seven seasons, he would like to return to the Czech Republic and finish his hockey career at home.
“I want to win and I really think we have the team to make a run, not just one year but the next few years,” he said. “Seven years from now, if we have what we’re trying to achieve, then it’s going to be an easier decision to go back home. I’ve always wanted to finish my career back home and that will be a way easier decision [if we win another Cup]. If not, I would have to think twice about my next move.
“But that’s the reason I signed here, I believe we can win, not once, but more times, so it’s just up to us. Seven years is a long way from now and I don’t want to think too much ahead.”
That strategy has paid off with the 2011 Stanley Cup title, plus a return trip to the finals in 2013.
The latest example of the Bruins' dedication to more championships came Thursday, when the team announced a six-year, $43.5 million contract extension for top-line centerman David Krejci, a deal that begins at the start of the 2015-2016 season. He joins a strong group of core Bruins who are locked up for the long term, including fellow centerman Patrice Bergeron, goaltender Tuukka Rask and defenseman Zdeno Chara.
On Friday, Chiarelli addressed the state of the team as it prepares for the start of training camp on Sept. 18.
"He's been a real valuable player for us," Chiarelli said of Krejci. "You've seen his performance during the season, you've seen his performance during the playoffs. He's come up through the ranks for us and I consider him one of the pillars of this franchise, so to get him locked up, for fairly reasonable term and value, it speaks a couple of things. One, to him wanting to stay and be a part of us continuing to win and two, obviously our commitment to try to keep this success core together."
Even though Krejci has one year remaining on this current deal, it was important for the Bruins to lock him up now and avoid the distraction of pending free agency.
"It was a priority, and we've been working on it for a while," Chiarelli said. "We've got some other things to take care of now, and we'll peck away at it. But to know that we've got two of the best centers in the league locked up at still a young age is very comforting. I mean you see any of the successful teams are strong down the middle. And now, we've got these two guys that play the way that they play, that showed that they can play tough minutes and playoff minutes. I mean it's a solid step for us."
The other order of business for Chiarelli is signing his entry-level free agents, forward Reilly Smith and defenseman Torey Krug.
"I want them to be part of this team, and obviously to have a full camp. In my tenure here we've never had anyone not attend. But that doesn't mean that they won't," Chiarelli said.
Chiarelli would not comment further on negotiations with the two players.
"I don't make a practice of commenting on negotiations and I'm not going to start now," he said. "They're both valuable members of this team and I hope they'd be with us when we start playing."
With the Bruins dealing with salary-cap constraints, Krug and Smith may have to settle for one-year deals. Chiarelli admitted at the start of the offseason that both players deserve pay raises at "some point," so they might have to wait.
The trade market remains a possibility for Chiarelli to free up some cap space, too. On Friday, he admitted there are some things he's looking at, but he wants to wait and see how things develop during training camp before making any trades.
Bruins assistant captain Patrice Bergeron admitted Thursday that the commitment by ownership and management to keep the core talent in place for the long term resonates with the players in the room.
"I think they appreciate it," Chiarelli said Friday. "Based on some of the comments that they've said, based on some of my private conversations with them, they know what we're trying to do. It's a fine line keeping the core together and making the right decisions, and we don't always make the right decisions. But, what I've seen in these players that have given us service, and I've seen them in the trenches for a number of years, it makes it easier for me to make the decision."
Chiarelli added that due to the salary cap, there are difficult decisions to be made, but he's prepared to do whatever it takes to secure this core group of players.
"The players know we're trying to build a team, maintain a team that's going to challenge for the Cup, and you just have to make important decisions, key decisions," Chiarelli said. "You see it in other sports. You have to sometimes fish or cut bait. You know, we're going to be in the same boat, we have been in the same boat and we'll be in it again. We have to make the right decisions."
Along with Krejci, Chiarelli also said forward Milan Lucic will be a priority to sign to an extension. Lucic has two years remaining on his current deal before he becomes an unrestricted free agent after the 2015-2016 season.
"Well, he's another guy that we like, and obviously I consider him a part of the backbone of this franchise," Chiarelli said. "So, eventually we'll get around to that. We've got a lot of things we have to do and that's the business of hockey, and you know unfortunately, and this doesn't apply to Looch, this is generally speaking, unfortunately when you're in the position of success that we've had and players are at an age that they're commanding, based on their years of service, they're commanding certain salaries, you have to make tough decisions. But, you know, for Looch we'll get him done when his time comes around."