Today, the Bruins and Peter Chiarelli let the NHL know that they think that their Stanley Cup a year ago wasn’t a fluke when they re-signed Chris Kelly and Gregory Campbell to new deals that will keep the depth and versatile forwards in Black and Gold for four and three years respectively. The Bruins, more so than any teams who have won the Cup in the New NHL, won Lord Stanley on depth, grit and a stout back end.
Chiarelli has never been afraid to sign system guys to longish deals and arguably overpay them. There have been a number of times where fans have wanted to see young prospects take the place of gritty role players like Daniel Paille, Campbell, and others but Chiarelli and Claude Julien’s system has always proved to be the most successful way to win in Boston.
On the flip side, this year more than any in the past 4-5 years, the Bruins are in flux. Their goaltender flew the coop and left the team with a $5 million bill and they’ll look to young players like Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin to fill Vezina-sized shoes. Dougie Hamilton will likely be on the blue line and the front end talent is either reaching their prime or needing to prove that they aren’t one-year-wonders.
The Bruins heart lies in the third and fourth lines (as well as the majority of the defense). They are the anchor that keeps the ship upright through stormy waters and they are good enough to ensure a smooth sailing offense from time to time. Chiarelli has shown loyalty to his grinders and it’s before paid off. That, combined with Julien’s ‘roll four lines’ mentality makes the team more reliant on depth than almost any other team in the NHL. For those reasons it makes sense that the Bruins pay (and maybe overpay) for depth players.
Speaking of overpaying, Chiarelli has a reputation for one bad contract for every good move. David Krejci’s $5.25 million hit and Milan Lucic’s $4 million hit look like sheer misses in evaluating potential while Chiarelli’s foresight for guys like Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid look like steals. So did the Bruins overpay today? Kind of. The deal for Campbell won’t get many eyebrows raised, it’s a long deal for not a lot of money for a guy who can do a lot of things for your team. No problems there. But Chris Kelly remains a fairly large question mark. Are the Bruins paying for a 20+ goal-scoring Chris Kelly or the role-player who has trouble getting on the score sheet consistently? Kelly still is a guy who hasn’t reached 40 points in any given season.
It seems like the Bruins are hoping that the salary cap keeps going up and up and that their core continues to reach potential. I worry that the first line of Lucic-Krejci-Horton has reached it’s potential and won’t improve. Those are three guys, for various reasons, who don’t strike me as improving, and at $14 million combined, it could become quite the problem.
Overall, I think the Bruins did good on themselves today but $3 million per for a 31-year-old Kelly doesn’t make me feel great.