About a month ago, Bruins center Patrice Bergeron took his first steps toward getting back on the ice, reporting to Wilmington for light stretching and a few minutes on the exercise bike.
His progress slow, Bergeron, at the suggestion of general manager Peter Chiarelli, recently headed off on an island vacation. Time for some warm weather and sandy beaches, which also could mean the sun officially is about to set on his 2007-08 season.
"I don't think he will be back this season," Chiarelli said Thursday, emphasizing a position he took in the days soon after Bergeron was drilled into the Garden's rear boards Oct. 27 by Flyers defenseman Randy Jones.
"I hope he's back. He wants to be back . . . but at the same time, we don't want any pressure on him. So we told him, 'Hey, head off to the islands.' "
Some three months after Bergeron suffered a Grade 3 concussion, Chiarelli realizes it could be time for the 22-year-old to focus on 2008-09.
"He may be best served - and we may be best served - in the near future to shutting him down," said Chiarelli. "At the start, there was that little blip, he showed good signs, no headaches . . . but then that stopped, and he regressed a little. It's the way it is with concussions; the recovery is not linear."
If Bergeron is shut down for the season, Chiarelli then would have the balance of the center's $5 million salary to work with in the trade market. The GM already has the balance of Manny Fernandez's $4.5 million, too. As enticing as that may sound, it is not as if high-end free agent talent is sitting home awaiting a call. If someone wants to trade - and that's a very big if these days - Chiarelli with the "leftover" salaries of Fernandez and Bergeron would have more financial elbow room than many, if not most, GMs.
"That's really not the big issue with Patrice," noted Chiarelli. "What I'm really concerned about, more than anything, is his long-term well-being."