By Jeremy Lemoine
BOSTON – Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli and his Assistant General Manager Jeff Gorton have been working together diligently to finish the process of putting together a team they feel will be highly competitive for the start of the season.
The top priority on their list is tying up their Group 2 restricted free agents – forwards Patrice Bergeron
, Brad Boyes, and defenseman Milan Jurcina – to contracts. They also have a keen interest in signing defenseman Dave Tanabe, a Group 2 restricted free agent who elected for arbitration. The hearing is set for August 3.
“I have been working closely with Peter on the day-to-day operations, such as working on the contract negotiations and filling out the team in Providence,” said Gorton, who went back to being Assistant General Manager on July 10.
For Gorton, the past four months have been a whirlwind experience. On March 25, he became the Bruins Interim General Manager when Mike O’Connell was relieved of his GM duties. Gorton was a candidate for the new GM post in Boston, but the position eventually went to Chiarelli. To make matters even more complicated, Gorton stayed on as Interim General Manager until Chiarelli was released from his Assistant GM duties in Ottawa on July 10.
Gorton assured that the transition back to Assistant General Manager has been quite smooth though.
“It has not been difficult at all,” he said. “There has just been a different set of circumstances. When you work with a new boss you just try and get a feel of how he wants to do things and how he conducts himself on the day-to-day operations. It hasn’t been a difficult transition at all.”
The Assistant General Manager’s duties will not change too much as he will continue to sign players for the Providence squad and confirmed he has been doing some contract research to sign some entry-level players. Of the entry-level players, Phil Kessel is undoubtedly the most important on the list.
“I have had a number of discussion with Wade Arnott, Phil’s family advisor, and it’s a slow process,” said Gorton. “It’s a big decision for a player and what he wants to do, so we leave the ball in his court with that type of decision. That’s where it’s at right now.”
Gorton still maintains his belief that Kessel can be an impact player in the NHL. He did reiterate that it remains to be seen until Kessel in fact comes to Boston.
“Whether it’s now or later, who knows,” he said. “But I think the organization feels the same as I do. Part of the reason we drafted Kessel is because we feel he has a chance to play.
“It’s a tough decision and I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer. We’ll let it play out and if there is some kind of contract settlement, we’ll have an announcement.”
For the rest of the younger cast, Gorton is unsure how many of the prospects can come in and instantly make an impact. He does feel that there will at least be a few that will be hard not to have on the NHL roster.
“Who they will be, I’m not sure,” he said, “but there is opportunity here and it will be up to them on whether or not to take advantage of it.”
So, while fans continue to get excited about the upcoming season, the front office keeps tinkering with the roster to make sure every game is a must see.