When the Boston Bruins notified the media that forwards Gregory Campbell and Blake Wheeler had in fact both filed for arbitration, you had a feeling that a contract-extension for fellow restricted free-agent and bruising defensemen Mark Stuart was in the midst of becoming official.
Just two days since the news of Boston’s NHL-quality ‘restricted’ forwards broke, the Bruins have reportedly made things official with Stuart, signing the defensemen to a one-year extension worth 1.675 million dollars.
Drafted by the Bruins in the first round of the 2003 NHL Draft with the 21st overall pick, Stuart has become a model of consistency on the Boston back-end since becoming a full-time member of the squad in 2007.
Playing in a remarkable 214 consecutive games for the B’s until a broken sternum shattered his streak in mid-January of this past season, Stuart experienced a rare and turbulent injury-riddled season in 2009-10 that limited him to a tame 56 contests. However, when healthy, Stuart was successfully relied upon as the Bruins’ steady top-four presence and managed to finish second among B’s blue-liners in hits with 103 hits.
Never bringing much to the table as an offensive-defensemen, the Bruins’ loss of Dennis Wideman in the trade that brought Nathan Horton to town, the departure of Stuart was something the club simply couldn’t afford to handle considering their shoddy depth at the NHL (and AHL) level from the point.
Putting up just seven points this season, Stuart’s reputation as a leader at just 26-years old within the locker room along with his no-nonsense attitude towards every shift made this signing an easy one for the B’s–in theory. While the Bruins (surprisingly) underpaid for another character guy in their organization, Stuart’s modest cap-hit for this upcoming season leaves the Bruins with a measly two-million dollars to spend on their roster barring any trades and that’s without the inclusion of Campbell, Wheeler, or potential NHLer in 2010-11 Jordan Caron.
Bringing up the question of just who seems to be on the move out of Boston before the end of this scorching summer?
An easy choice seems to be Marc Savard, but limited trade options present themselves given Savard’s no-trade clause. However a deal could be worked out given #91′s rumored desire to leave Boston after a rumor-filled off-season has perhaps left Savard feeling unwanted in the Hub. Another trade pipe-dream for Boston could be moving the contract of Tim Thomas but with limited options within the Bruins’ system and NHL free-agent pool along with a short list of suitors seem to indicate that Thomas will be a Bruin until at least the trading deadline.
Leaving nearly realistic options for Boston in the trade market, a buyout of Michael Ryder seems all the more appealing if you’re Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli. Despite beginning his off-season by stating the B’s would not be buying any of their players out, and regardless of Ryder’s 18 goals on an offensively-challenged club, the 30-year old will earn four-million dollars this upcoming season in the final year of a three-year contract with Boston. A favorite of Bruins coach Claude Julien, the Bruins may have to glance at this scenario from a pure business perspective as a Ryder buyout could free up 2.7 million dollars and allow the Bruins to retain Wheeler while integrating young players with bonus-laden contracts such as Caron and/or Joe Colborne into the big-club in Boston.
Certainly a risky move in terms of moving a proven NHL-quality scorer for touted prospects with little AHL experience, a swap of Ryder for Caron or Colborne could prove dangerous for Boston but in the same sense could prove to be a cheaper alternative for a player whose inconsistency and frequent missing-in-actions drove fans crazy.
Either way, with Stuart back in the fold officially, the time for crunching in the Hub is officially on.
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About the Author: Ty Anderson ran the Chronicles From The Garden blogspot account during the 2008-09 NHL season before joining HockeyIndependent as the Bruins Blogger. He is a Seinfeld enthusiast, self-admitted Star Wars nerd, Vezina-quality street-hockey goaltender, and can be found in Balcony 314 of every Bruins home game. Follow him and his tweeting madness on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/_TyAnderson or send him an e-mail at TAndersonBruins@gmail.com.