2010 NHL free agency: Bruins accept Blake Wheeler decision, sign him for $2.2 million

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blakewheeler2.jpgThe Boston Bruins have made a commitment to Blake Wheeler. After Wheeler’s arbitration case was decided yesterday with the winger winning a $2.2 million award, some wondered if that cost was going to be enough to make the Bruins walk away from the young scorer. After all, the Bruins are in a bit of a salary cap bind and they’ve still got to find a way to get Tyler Seguin locked in. All of that doesn’t matter now though as the Bruins have accepted the arbitrator’s award and signed the forward for one year at $2.2 million. Fluto Shinzawa gets some words from Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli.

“It is never a pleasant experience for either side to go to arbitration,” GM Peter Chiarelli said in a statement. “However, as a manager, you know that the player will be under contract for the following year either way. We talked to Blake before and after the hearing and we are satisfied to have a good, young player under contract for another year.”

It’s always best to do some work with the player before and after these things to make sure there are no ill feelings coming out of an arbitration hearing. As for the Bruins and the salary cap, that’s another mess unto itself. The solutions on what to do probably boil down to one difficult move in sending Michael Ryder down to Providence and having a guy make $4 million to play in the AHL.

Ideally swinging a trade to free up the cash would be a great solution but the main man of rumors, Marc Savard, likely isn’t going anywhere. Other guys who might be considered for deals are the aforementioned Ryder and perhaps a defenseman like Andrew Ference. The catch with those two, as always, is the money. Ryder has one year left at $4 million and Ference was given a contract extension last year that pays him $2.25 million for the next three years. How the Bruins handle this situation will be worth watching.

Goalie nods: Niemi expected for Stars against Penguins

Antti Niemi, Jonathan Toews
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Talk about getting thrown into the fire.

Antti Niemi is expected to be the starting goalie tonight in Dallas when his Stars host Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin and the rest of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Niemi has, not surprisingly, been given the assignment over Kari Lehtonen, the latter of whom struggled badly during the preseason, allowing 15 goals on 84 shots.

Not that Niemi was razor sharp himself. He allowed eight goals on 65 shots, for a save percentage of .877.

Considering the Stars have a combined $10.4 million in cap space tied up in those two veteran netminders, it’s no wonder the number-one question facing the club is whether the goaltending has indeed been fixed.

We’ll start to find out tonight.

Marc-Andre Fleury will undoubtedly be in goal for Pittsburgh, though that hasn’t been confirmed.


Craig Anderson, the goalie the Senators decided to keep, versus Robin Lehner, the one they traded to the Sabres.

Cam Ward will start for Carolina when the Hurricanes visit the Predators, who will obviously go with Pekka Rinne. The consensus is that Eddie Lack will eventually supplant Ward as Carolina’s starter, but that apparently hasn’t happened yet.

Brian Elliott goes for the Blues versus Cam Talbot for the Oilers. Elliott was excellent in the preseason, stopping all but two of the 57 shots he faced, while Jake Allen allowed six goals on 60 shots.

Steve Mason for the Flyers versus Ben Bishop for the Lightning.

Ondrej Pavelec for Winnipeg versus Tuukka Rask for Boston.

Devan Dubnyk likely for the Wild versus Semyon Varlamov for the Avs.

Flyers want to prove doubters wrong

Jakub Voracek, Claude Giroux
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Jakub Voracek totally understands why nobody’s expecting much from the Philadelphia Flyers. When a team finishes 14 points out of the playoffs the year before, that’s typically going to be the case.

“We weren’t good enough last year, let’s face it,” Voracek told CSN Philly. 

So, no, it doesn’t upset him that the Flyers aren’t considered among the Stanley Cup favorites.

That being said, “it makes you feel you want to prove them wrong.”

The Flyers get going tonight with a tough game against the Lightning in Tampa Bay. They also play Saturday in Florida against the Panthers, before a rematch with the Panthers Monday in Philadelphia.

“My biggest concern would be getting off to a good start,” GM Ron Hextall said. “That’s one thing that we need to do.”

That’s something they didn’t do last year. In fact, they won just once in their first six games. By the end of November, they were 8-12-3 and in a big hole — one that proved too deep to climb out of.

Related: Flyers to start season with seven defensemen