News of Gregory Campbell re-signing with the Boston Bruins began to trickle out earlier in the week in advance of the team's official announcement Wednesday.
That didn't stop Campbell's phone from heating up as his teammates once again reminded the veteran center about one of the many reasons he signed a three-year deal to remain with Boston without even testing the waters of unrestricted free agency July 1.
"I think it's really a team that fits my style of play. It's a team that's built on winning championships and a team and an organization that's fully committed. So my first priority going into free agency was ultimately to not even make it there," the 28-year-old Campbell said during a conference call to make official the contract that will pay him $1.6 million annually.
The Bruins announced Tuesday they have agreed to deals with Chris Kelly and Gregory Campbell, keeping both from becoming unrestricted free agents. (Photo: Getty Images)
"As soon as I signed, I got text messages from every single player on the team. And that really exemplifies how close we are as a team, and this is really great to have almost entirely the whole 2011 championship team back. And I know this year was a little bit of an underachievement, but with all that being said, we played well as a team and I really believe that there's a lot of good things to come. And I want to be a part of it."
In addition to the signing of Campbell, the Bruins also announced they reached an agreement in principle with would-be unrestricted free agent center Chris Kelly, who will re-sign for four years and $12 million when that paperwork is filed July 1. Chiarelli said that the delay was due to payroll tagging issues.
While Campbell was with the Bruins from the start of their 2010-11 championship season after a summertime trade with Florida, Kelly joined Boston just in time for its run in a February trade with Ottawa. The 31-year-old Kelly's time with the Bruins has taught him what Campbell has also learned about the tightness of the players in the dressing room.
"The fact that this team has the opportunity to be a great team for a lot of years and I've got the opportunity to play with great players on a daily basis," Kelly said about his reasons for also agreeing to a deal without testing the open market. "I don't think you'll find a closer team than we have. Gregory talked about it with the amount of texts he got once he signed. That's the way our locker room is. You don't find that everywhere. That was a huge part of me wanting to come back, the fact that the Bruins is a definition of a team and we have the opportunity to be successful for a lot of years."
General manager Peter Chiarelli lauded the roles both Campbell and Kelly have played for the Bruins, but also pointed out that in a thin free-agent pool for centers, both players would've probably received wealthier deals elsewhere. Kelly and Campbell's decision to stay with Boston is an extension of the job they've done on the ice -- producing points, but mostly the sometimes thankless tasks of blocking shots, winning faceoffs and playing tight defense.
"Both these guys are glue guys and Gregory epitomizes the Bruins' style of play," Chiarelli said. "And when we brought him here the year before last, he did great service for us on the fourth line. But he's also shown that he can play up and he's a strong player, a strong faceoff [guy], a very responsible player -- and I can't stress enough the ‘glue' nature to his game. He's hard on the puck, heavy on the puck and plays a real Bruins style of game. So he's an individual who due to the lack of centermen out there on the free market, he took less than he would've got on the market -- let's make no bones about that.
"As soon as I signed, I got text messages from every single player on the team. That really exemplifies how close we are as a team, and this is really great to have almost entirely the whole 2011 championship team back. I really believe that there's a lot of good things to come. I want to be a part of it."
-- Bruins' forward Gregory Campbell
"Chris is another guy that we brought in a year and a half ago at the deadline … and he's a player that obviously I know well from having been in the Ottawa organization. As much as I talk about glue, [Kelly] has this too to his game. And we've seen him score clutch goals for us. You've seen him take clutch faceoffs for us. You've seen him make great defensive plays, make great offensive plays, and he shows up every night."
Last season, Kelly mostly centered the Bruins' third line. But he still managed to set a career high with 20 goals and 39 points. Campbell has also been more productive on the score sheet than his job maybe requires. In his two seasons with the Bruins, Campbell has totaled 21 goals.
Not only a bigger paycheck, but a bigger opportunity, might've been waiting in another city had Campbell or Kelly decided to wait out the days until July 1. Neither considered anything but a return to the Bruins.
"For me, being a role player, as I am probably considered in the League, it's important to be a role player on a good team," Campbell said. "Because I've experienced it before being a role player on a team that's not too successful, and you kind of get lost in the mix, your role isn't appreciated. ... When you win and you have the opportunity to win and play with good players, that makes you a better player. And Boston has all those aspects and that makes me a better player."
During his exit meeting with the press following the Bruins' seven-game first-round loss to Washington, Chiarelli said he would be in the market for a top-nine forward this offseason. With the signings of Campbell and Kelly coming a couple weeks after the re-signing of Daniel Paille, Boston has 12 forwards that played a major role on last year's team (and 11 from the 2011 Cup-winning team) under contract for next season. Although he's not ruling out future moves, he's excited to have so many familiar faces in the mix.
"I feel really good with our lineup right now. To add a player like I talked about [top-nine forward] still isn't out of the realm of possibilities," Chiarelli said. "It gives me a lot of flexibility going into the free agency. But this is as solid a forward group as you could get. So if we do nothing, that's fine. But if something comes across that looks attractive and we have to look at it, we'll certainly look at it."