Patrice Bergeron wants to skate, right now, today, which isn't winning him a whole lot of good will with his NHL buddies back home in Quebec City who have their minds fixed on vacation and not vocation. Late June on the NHL calendar is reserved for fishing, backyard barbecues, 18 holes (minimum) of golf, and extra-extra-extra time by the pool.
Skating, or even driving by a rink, is definitely not on your average NHLer's to-do list.
"Yeah, some of the guys are giving me pretty weird looks," said Bergeron. "But I'll get some of them out there, for sure, and it will be [this] week. They know how I am, and how long it's been for me - how much I miss it."
OK, the vitals, and Bruins fans, you are going to like this:
"I'm feeling great," said Bergeron, his voice clear and strong, exactly what one would expect of a 22-year-old who is eager to restart a career that was nearly hijacked out from under him. "I'm back doing full workouts, the same as I was doing last year, and in some ways I'd even say I'm ahead of where I was last year. No problem."
Now all he has to do is convince some of his pals to come in from the summer sunshine, at least for a couple of hours. Bergeron routinely trains in the summer at one of Quebec City's suburban rinks, with Steve Bernier, Antoine Vermette, Mathieu Garon, Simon Gagne, and Eric Belanger, among others. As the weekend approached, he was making his calls, stating his case, hoping to persuade enough of them to resume some light on-ice workouts as early as tomorrow.
"I think they understand, you know, that I didn't get to skate much at all last season," he said. "I think they'll come. They know how much I love to play."
If they're slow to come around, Bergeron plans on taking to the sheet himself, just for shooting and stickhandling drills. Once the puck is dropped in the preseason, it will have been some 46 weeks since he last played, and he knows how close he came to that Oct. 27 game being the last game he ever played. When he's back in September, he wants to be as game-ready as possible.
"There's our impact player," said Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli, who opted not to replace Bergeron's salary, as allowed per the CBA, during the 2007-08 season. "When someone comes back from injury, it's like getting a player via trade."
Meanwhile, Bergeron also plans on having some added head protection upon his return. He and team trainer Don Del Negro have had a number of discussions in recent weeks with Reebok about making sure he has a helmet that fits snugly and contains some extra padding.
"The people at Reebok are willing to help me a lot," said Bergeron. "They've been great. We've talked about the extra padding in there, and also to make sure that when it's on, it doesn't move."
His next visit to Boston will be July 7, the day before the Bruins open their development camp (July 8-12) in Wilmington for draft picks and free agents. He plans to work out that week with John Whitesides, the club's conditioning guru, and will jump on the Ristuccia Arena ice before or after the kids are put through their paces.
"I'm very thankful," said Bergeron. "I've got a long career ahead of me. I love Boston, and more than anything, I want to win in Boston."
Locking up LecavalierA report out of Tampa late last week that stud center Vincent Lecavalier was on the verge of signing a "lifetime contract" with the Lightning may have been premature, and a wee bit exaggerated. Not necessarily wrong, but . . .
"Yeah, I stepped into a bar here in Ottawa and read about that lifetime deal on TV," said Lecavalier's agent, Boston-based Kent Hughes, reached Friday just before the draft at Scotiabank Place. "A couple of the Detroit guys were there, and they started giving me the business, like, 'Hey, come on, doesn't he want to be with a winner?' "
According to Hughes, there is a very good chance that Lecavalier, 28, will sign a lucrative long-term deal to stay with the Bolts, who are in the midst of a transfer in ownership. The sides, said Hughes, have discussed both length and total compensation - enough so, the agent believes, that a deal should get done. "When you have two sides that want the same thing," said Hughes, "why not?"
How soon? Hughes said he isn't sure.
What dollars? The numbers are confidential.
"Well, I don't know about lifetime, because frankly, Vinny will be 29 at the completion of his current deal, and I mean, how long is a lifetime deal?" mused Hughes. "I don't know what that means, really."
Now, the tea leaves. Given that only a small percentage of players work beyond their late 30s, a man of Lecavalier's age, and riches already banked, is probably looking at no more than an eight-year extension, bringing him to age 37. The league soon will announce that a max deal, based on leaguewide revenues and the salary-cap figure, will be pegged around $11 million a year.
Exposed in the free agent market next summer, Lecavalier likely would entice at least a couple of suitors (are you listening, Montreal?) to offer him a max deal. To remain in Tampa, where many of his extended family members have moved in recent years, he probably would lock in around eight years at $80 million. Premium tea leaves, no?
Bruins' Day 2 draft picksSECOND ROUND 47. Maxime Sauve, C, Val-d'Or (QMJHL) Ht.: 6-0; Wt.: 170; Age: 18
Of note: From Tours, France . . . Split 2007-08 season in QMJHL between Quebec Ramparts (12-20 -32 in 38 games) and Val-d'Or (14-19 -33 in 32 games) . . . Selected for 2008 CHL Top Prospects game . . . Cousin of Philippe Sauve, who played two games in net for the Bruins in 2006-07 season . . . His father, Jean-Francois, was a teammate of Bruins coach Claude Julien on the Quebec Nordiques from 1984-86 . . . His uncle, Bob Sauve, won 1979-80 Vezina Trophy with the Buffalo Sabres and played 13 seasons in the NHL.
THIRD ROUND 77. Michael Hutchinson, G, Barrie (OHL) Ht.: 6-3; Wt.: 185; Age: 18
Of note: From Barrie, Ontario . . . Played in 31 games for Barrie last season, going 12-15-4 with a 3.02 goals-against average and .912 save percentage . . . Averaged 44 saves over eight playoff games, going 4-4 despite a .941 save percentage (second in OHL) . . . Went 8-3-0 with a 2.11 GAA and .931 save percentage in 14 games for Barrie in 2006-07 . . . Patterns his goaltending style after Roberto Luongo of the Vancouver Canucks . . . Same hometown as former Bruins winger Greg Johnston and former Bruins antagonist Shayne Corson.
FOURTH ROUND 97. Jamie Arniel, C, Sarnia (OHL) Ht.: 5-11; Wt.: 183; Age: 18
Of note: From Kingston, Ontario . . . Split 2007-08 season with Guelph Storm (9-4 -13 in 20 games) and Sarnia Sting (18-16 -34 in 40 games) . . . Notched two goals and two assists in nine playoff games last season . . . In two previous seasons with Guelph, totaled 42 goals and 49 assists in 129 regular-season games, and 4 goals and 2 assists in 19 postseason games . . . Scored a goal in the 2008 CHL Top Prospects game . . . His uncle, Scott Arniel, played 11 seasons in the NHL (149 goals, 189 assists), and played 29 games with the Bruins in 1991-92.
SIXTH ROUND 173. Nicholas Tremblay, C, Smiths Falls (CJHL) Ht.: 5-11; Wt.: 190; Age: 20
Of note: From Candiac, Quebec . . . Was MVP of CJHL, led league in scoring (51-59 -110 in just 57 games) . . . Plans to enroll at Clarkson in fall.
SEVENTH ROUND 197. Mark Goggin, C, Choate-Rosemary Hall (Conn.) Ht.: 5-11; Wt.: 177; Age: 17
Of note: From Glen Ellyn, Ill. . . . Recently selected to Team USA's Under-18 team for the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament . . . Committed in 2009 to Dartmouth, where his brother, Connor, is an incoming freshman.
Upon the completion of the amateur draft yesterday, Glen Murray remained on the Boston roster, and the Bruins have only until June 30 to buy him out (at a cap cost of $1.38 million each of the next two years). Meanwhile, word around the league is that general manager Peter Chiarelli continues to try to move Murray. One possible scenario would be for Murray and P.J. Axelsson (cap hit: $1.85 million) to be wrapped up as a $6 million package, with the Bruins getting back one or two players that would trim Boston's cap exposure back by, say, $3 million. The trade would go a long way in covering a new deal for Dennis Wideman, and open up two wing opportunities for a couple of kids, or perhaps the signing of unrestricted free agent Marian Hossa. Keep in mind: Axelsson has a limited no-trade clause in his contract.
Penalty for instigating?
Not wishing him any ill will, mind you, but wasn't it a teensy bit ironic that Tiger Woods ended up with the classic hockey injury - a blown-out ACL - after he openly offended hockey lovers earlier this month? For those who missed it, Woods, in a conference call with reporters, was asked for his pick, Red Wings or Penguins, in the Stanley Cup finals. "I don't really care," he said. "Let's talk about the Dodgers. I don't think anybody really watches hockey anymore." Not what the folks wanted to hear around Bloomfield, Mich., the Hockeytown suburb that will host the PGA Championship Aug. 4-10. The knee surgery has Woods off the course for the remainder of the season. Imagine all the octopi that would have been tossed his way along the fairways of Oakland Hills.
Wingman for Osgood needed
Now that Dominik Hasek has retired for real, at age 43, the Red Wings have to figure out who will back the Cup-winning Chris Osgood for the foreseeable future. Former Maine Black Bear Jimmy Howard, chosen 64th in the 2003 draft, is a possibility. But it's a good bet GM Ken Holland will sign an extra body to put some heat on the 24-year-old Howard. Two contenders: Alex Auld, the backup here last season behind Tim Thomas, and Ty Conklin, the former UNH star who was sizzling hot this past season in Pittsburgh when No. 1 Marc-Andre Fleury was sidelined.
Let's make a deal
Bill Zito, agent for Bruins winger Petteri Nokelainen, reports that there have been no talks yet with Boston on a new deal for his client, who becomes a restricted free agent July 1. "But no worry," said Zito. "We will get something done. Unless there is something I don't know about. He has huge upside. He can play on every line. I don't foresee any problem." Nokelainen, 22, sent here by the Islanders in a preseason deal for Ben Walter, showed some grit and filled some valuable minutes in his first full NHL season.
They're in place for Ace
Ex-NHLers Bob Sweeney, Nick Fotiu, and Ron Duguay will be at BU's Walter Brown Arena Friday through Sunday, helping to coordinate the national "Got Skills" competition, the charity event held in memory of Ace Bailey, the former Bruins forward killed in one of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Competitors, ages 9-12, will compete in up to four disciplines: skating, puckhandling, shooting, and goaltending. Organizers also hope a player or two on the current Bruins roster will attend. For more info: firstname.lastname@example.org.
According to Ducks GM Brian Burke, Chiarelli earned kudos in the GM brotherhood for landing free agent Blake Wheeler, the ex-University of Minnesota winger who intends to sign a two-year contract here July 1. "Pete's getting praised for this around the GM campfire - solid prospect with size, acquired at no cost," said Burke. No cost in terms of having to yield assets. Wheeler's two-year deal will be for the max base for entry-level deals, $875,000, and will include bonus clauses that could beef it up to some $2.5 million per season . . . The Bruins this week are expected to provide the names of all the kids who will attend the club's July 8-12 development camp at their Wilmington facility. Matt Keator, agent for Wheeler, confirmed that the 21-year-old will attend. At least a couple of this weekend's draftees should be there, too . . . The Senators (with Ray Emery) and Kings (with Dan Cloutier) initiated the process to buy out goalies. Emery, both his game and character in question, will lose two-thirds of the $6.75 million he had coming his way and will be paid $2.24 million over four years as severance. Cloutier, who has never fulfilled his promise, will lose one-third of the $3.1 million he was due in 2008-09 . . . Just before the draft began, the Leafs gave the Habs permission to talk to Mats Sundin, with the Leafs due compensation (possibly a 2009 first-round pick?) if Montreal GM Bob Gainey can hammer out a deal before July 1. Sundin setting up Alexei Kovalev would send Bruins fans rushing to the Vault concession stands for $7.50 Pepto-Bismol shakers . . . Reminder: Milan Lucic will introduce Cam Neely, Bruins VP of Passion, at Tuesday night's Tradition induction on Causeway Street: Reminder to Lucic: No open-podium hitting will be allowed. Ditto for Neely . . . Longtime Bruins employee Tom Songin, who wore the spoked-B for 43 games after his BC salad days, was dismissed from the club's scouting ranks. A team spokesperson said the club is exploring other opportunities that could keep the affable "Bomber" with the club. Hope so, because although it has been too easily forgotten on Causeway Street, good will still generates equity in the Hub of Hockey.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at email@example.com; material from personal interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.