-- Ever since he stepped out of St. Lawrence University as a three-time scoring leader for the Saints, Rich Peverley
has been trying to prove himself as a professional.
Now that he's been rewarded with a three-year contract extension to stay with the Bruins through the 2014-15 season -- at a reported annual cap hit of $3.25 million -- Peverley said things aren't going to change just because he agreed to a deal in advance of potentially becoming an unrestricted free agent next summer.
"It feels good to not have to worry about the contract on your mind the whole year. But some guys play better in those situations and I've done this actually before, signing a year earlier," he said after the deal was announced and he practiced here at Ristuccia Arena. "It does help, but it doesn't change the goals in mind that you have."
Center - BOS
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 2
SOG: 6 | +/-: 2
Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli lauded Peverley's speed and his shot, as well as his character, for reasons the Bruins wanted to re-sign the 29-year-old so early in the last season of his deal.
Peverley was a key addition to the Bruins last February before their run to the Stanley Cup. While he had just 4 goals and 3 assists in 24 regular-season games for Boston, he came alive in the postseason with 4 goals and 8 assists. However, Chiarelli isn’t paying Peverley based on past production or on the assumption that he'll just match what he's done in previous seasons.
"Well, I really think he can score … I found last year he didn't score as much as I would've thought. He contributed in a lot of ways and he actually scored some very timely goals," Chiarelli said. "I feel he can score more with greater frequency. And he recognizes that, also. He thinks he can, too. So I think he's comfortable now, he knows his role and I think he'll be able to finish more."
Two of Peverley's biggest goals came in the Bruins' dramatic Game 4 defeat of Vancouver in the Cup Final. He moved up from the third line to fill Nathan Horton
's top-line right-wing role after Horton was knocked out of the series with a concussion. Peverley's 2 goals helped the Bruins win and even the series.
"Obviously he made an instant impact when he jumped in in Game 4 last year, having the two big goals. It just goes to show what kind of player he is," said forward Milan Lucic
, who along with center David Krejci
completed that first line. "(Peverley) can play any role on this team and he's become a very valuable player for us 5-on-5, on the power play. He's got that skill. And on the penalty kill, he's got those smarts to be reliable defensively."
Peverley's professional career started slow -- he spent two full seasons in the ECHL and American Hockey League before he earned his first NHL contract, with Nashville in January 2007.
From there, Peverley's career took off as he earned a two-year deal with the Predators in July 2008. However, he wasn't in Nashville's plans by January 2009 and he was claimed on waivers by Atlanta. The move to the Thrashers proved to be huge for Peverley, who finished that season with a combined 15 goals. The following season he rewarded the Thrashers for signing him to a two-year extension in October by scoring 22 goals.
Last winter, the Bruins wanted to bolster their depth up front and paid a steep price to import Peverley. Boston shipped out a pair of promising young players, forward Blake Wheeler
and defenseman Mark Stuart
, to acquire a player Chiarelli had watched mature over the years.
"Actually, he was at St. Lawrence so it was close by Ottawa. So I remember seeing him quite a bit,” said Chiarelli, who was an assistant general manager with the Senators before moving to the Bruins. "He was skilled. He was a light player, though, back then. I think he just acquired that part of his game -- not necessarily being a heavy player but just competing and getting in the right spots and winning his share of puck battles.
"I really started to notice that his first year in Atlanta. We had seen him a little bit with Nashville. But I really started seeing that coming out (in Atlanta). When he was on the ice, I considered him to be a dangerous player. That's kind of when I started noticing that."
Peverley said he doesn't like to look back at all the fighting and battling he had to do to make his name at the highest level of the game. However, it's a part of him as much as that Cup championship he helped the Bruins win last June.
The determination Peverley displayed to get to this point is apparent every day and impresses his teammates.
"He's a very genuine person," current linemate Brad Marchand
said. "He's very happy and very proud to be here in this organization. And he knows he's a very fortunate guy. He doesn't flaunt it, he's not one of those guys that's cocky; he's just a great guy and an overall great person."