BOSTON -- Before becoming an integral part of the Boston Bruins’ success, defenseman Dennis Seidenberg played for four different NHL teams.
The Philadelphia Flyers selected him as their sixth pick (172 overall) in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft and he made his NHL debut with them in 2002. In January 2006, he was traded to the Phoenix Coyotes, and less than a year later he was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes. He signed with Florida as a free agent in September 2009, but he was on the move again in March 2010 when the Bruins acquired him via trade for forwards Byron Bitz, Craig Weller and a second-round pick.
Since his arrival in Boston, Seidenberg has been a solid contributor on the blue line and one of the reasons the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011. His current contract expires at the end of the season, but the Bruins signed Seidenberg last Thursday to a four-year, $16 million contract extension.
At age 32, he finally has stability in his career.
So, why has it taken this long for a team to believe in his abilities?
“You just have to find the right spot,” Seidenberg said. “It could’ve been Florida where I played a lot. It could’ve been Carolina, but they didn’t want to pay. I did play a lot of minutes in those organizations, but it’s a combination of playing a lot of minutes and being successful with a team, which started here. When the coaches trust in you, you’ll get a lot of ice time and it’s been a whole lot of fun playing for them and battling every night.”
His first season in Boston was cut short due to a lacerated forearm tendon he suffered after playing only 17 games for the Bruins in the spring of 2010. The team missed his contributions when it lost to the Flyers in the conference semifinals after leading that series 3-0. He was hoping he had found a home in Boston, but having his season cut short, Seidenberg didn’t know what to expect.
“It was tough because it was a contract year,” he said. “I knew there would be a good chance they were going to re-sign me because they had to still pay me a pretty big bonus at the end of the season the way my contract was structured when I signed with Florida. So, [Boston] made a big commitment towards me and I did play well in those 17 games. It was still tough for me not being able to help the team in the playoffs and keep proving that I’m worth the money they were spending on me. The worst part was watching and not being able to be on the ice.”
Seidenberg’s strength, physical play and all-around contributions have been a perfect fit in Boston, which is why GM Peter Chiarelli awarded the German-born player consecutive contracts totaling $29 million.
During his days in those four other NHL cities, Seidenberg learned firsthand how difficult it was to play against the Bruins. When he was a member of the Hurricanes during the 2008-2009 season, Carolina defeated the Bruins in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
“I knew they were tough to play against,” he said. “Their reputation was big, physical teams. But I had no idea how big of a hockey city Boston actually was until I got traded here -- I had no clue. Coming here definitely surprised me how big hockey was here and it’s good thing. You love playing in an environment where people care and watch hockey games. It’s been a lot of fun.”
His recent contract extension didn’t seem to get much attention. News broke of the deal only hours before the Bruins’ season opener last Thursday at TD Garden. Plus, the Boston Red Sox were preparing for Game 1 of their ALDS series against the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday at Fenway Park.
Seidenberg’s accomplishments in Boston may seem to fly under the radar also because of Zdeno Chara’s presence. But Seidenberg said it doesn't bother him at all.
“The people who care the most and know what’s going on give me credit,” he said. “[Media] might look at goals and points, or flashiness, which I’m not. It definitely helps playing with Z because he’s such a big presence and leads the team every night. He’s one of the best captains ever and he just knows how to lead.”
Together, Chara and Seidenberg are considered the best shutdown defensive pairing in the NHL. Usually during the regular season, Bruins coach Claude Julien has them partnered with younger blueliners who benefit from playing with such veterans.
“He’s a role model for me,” second-year defenseman Dougie Hamilton said of Seidenberg. “The way he plays, the way he works out and takes care of himself off the ice, he’s a role model for everyone. It’s been a lot of fun to play with him and learn from him. You can definitely ask him stuff, but he leads more by example. He’s one of the best guys on our team, maybe in the league at battling.”
While Chara and Seidenberg are the veteran leaders of the defensive core, there’s been an influx of youth and talent on Boston’s back end the last few seasons. Rounding out the blue line this season are Adam McQuaid, Johnny Boychuk, Torey Krug, Matt Bartkowski and Hamilton.
“He’s as hard-nosed as you’ll find,” Julien added of Seidenberg. “He’s really good at taking care of himself off the ice, He’s working out a lot, wants to keep himself strong, in good shape. He’s a serious competitor and you’ve got quite a few guys like that in the dressing room that really when they show up at the rink it’s all about doing their jobs, and he’s one of those great examples of that.”
It didn’t take Chiarelli and the Bruins long before deciding to lock up the core of this current roster. Last summer, forward Patrice Bergeron and Tuukka Rask both signed eight-year deals, and Chiarelli knew Seidenberg was next on the list.
“He’s one of those guys you always know what you’re going to get,” Rask said. “Day in and day out you can trust him out there. He knows what he’s doing and he’s a veteran guy. He’s really solid defensively and he likes to block shots and reads the play well, cutting off passing lanes. Offensively, he’s got that talent to join the play and he’s got a really good shot. He’s the full package.”