By Jeremy Lemoine
BOSTON – With the NHL Entry Draft in the books and three trades already completed in the last two weeks, the Bruins are moving forward with a plan. Keeping that plan in mind, the club is making leaps and bounds towards building a competitive team for the upcoming season.
The Bruins hired a new General Manager in Peter Chiarelli some four weeks ago. Unfortunately, the National Hockey League has ruled that he must stay with his former team – the Ottawa Senators - and cannot assume his new post on Legends Way until July 15. So until then, Bruins Interim General Manager Jeff Gorton is in charge and has done an admirable job thus far.
“I have had very little contact with Peter (Chiarelli),” said Gorton. “He is in Ottawa trying to finish up his work there. He has entrusted the organization to the people that are here now.”
Gorton did not waste any time giving Bruins fans a preview of what is ahead. The acting GM has begun the transformation process after making three trades to acquire forward Petr Tenkrat, defenseman Paul Mara, and goaltending prospect Tuuka Rask. He does not plan to stop there either.
“We have a lot of things going on right now and we are trying to sift through it all,” said Gorton. “There are more things going on and whether they get done with other teams, we’ll see, but we have been talking.”
On Saturday, June 24, Gorton and his scouting staff did not surprise anyone, as they were successful at another NHL Entry Draft. The Bruins snatched up Phil Kessel at No. 5 overall – a player believed to be the most dynamic forward of the draft. Kessel, nicknamed “The Thrill,” finished his freshman season at the University of Minnesota with 51 points.
Gorton told BostonBruins.com that the B’s have never forced a player to leave school. However, he did say that it will be up to Kessel to make the decision of whether he wants to become a professional hockey player now, or head back to Minnesota for his sophomore year.
Said Kessel moments after the Bruins selected him at No. 5, “I think I can play, but I’ll do whatever (Boston) thinks is best.”
Along with Kessel, the Bruins made five other selections at the Entry Draft – three forwards (Milan Lucic
, Brad Marchand
, and Levi Nelson) and two defensemen (Yuri Alexandrov and Andrew Bodnarchuk
). Gorton believes Marchand might be the “sleeper” pick of the group.
“Probably because he is a little smaller and he fell down other team’s lists because of his size,” he said. “He plays a high energy game with an irritating style. He has skill too. I would say he was a value pick for us.”
One common denominator of the players the Bruins selected is character and speed. Character is an attribute the Bruins organization prides itself on, while speed is an element that lends itself to the new rules implemented in the revived NHL.
Draft weekend will not be the only sleepless weekend for Gorton. In order to keep rebuilding, the Bruins will need to sign some key unrestricted free agents this summer. The free agency period begins at noon on Saturday and the interim General Manager will arrive at the Garden in hopes of landing those critical pieces to make the Bruins a Stanley Cup contender for 2006-07.
“Yes, there will be no fourth of July celebrations for me,” he said. “I’ll be (in my office) and I’m excited about it. There are some players that can fit really well with what we are going to do to turn this team around.”
There is are some key differences between unrestricted and restricted free agents. The Bruins have the right to match any offer their restricted free agents receive from other NHL teams. Unrestricted free agents, on the other hand, are open for any team to try and scoop up. According to Gorton, he doesn’t foresee any problems with the restricted free agents who belong to the Bruins. As for the unrestricted free agents, he plans to make the Bruins a major player the day it begins.
The organization is committed to the future. It is good to be a Bruins fan these days.