Could Tomas Kaberle actually return to the Boston Bruins next season?

On paper, Tomas Kaberle’s overall 2011 playoff numbers don’t look too awful:

Games Played: 25; zero goals and 11 assists for 11 points; +8 with 4 penalty minutes.

Yet those statistics don’t really capture how disappointing Kaberle often was for the Boston Bruins. He was traded from the Toronto Maple Leafs – and rumored to be the target of offers for what seemed like ages – for a simple reason: he was supposed to improve a flat Bruins’ power play. Instead he only managed to produce three power-play assists in 24 regular season games and five power-play assists in 25 playoff games with Boston. (He hasn’t scored a power-play goal for the Bruins yet.) While Pension Plan Puppets points out that Kaberle might not be the power play stud people expected, those are still numbers that disappointed many who hoped that the Czech-born blueliner could make the impotent Bruins man advantage more effective.

That unit didn’t do much until the Stanley Cup finals (finishing with 10 power-play goals in the playoffs overall), but Kaberle’s struggles weren’t isolated to scoring issues. He also was forced into plenty of troubling turnovers, perhaps partially because he simply wasn’t very familiar with his teammates.

Our instinct was to say that he’s a goner in Boston, but there might be a sentiment brewing within the organization to bring him back. Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli had some very positive things to say about Kaberle in the Boston Herald.

“You know what he brings, and you saw it more against Vancouver. He brings the ability to both slow down the play and speed it up with his passing and skating,” said Chiarelli. “And he freezes guys. He freezes guys for the opposing forecheck, he freezes them in the neutral zone. He makes great passes, he skates into the trap. I think he was our top defensive scorer. He was a real important component here and I know he was criticized for a time.

“But you know I’ll continue to defend him because he’s a good person and he brought a lot to the back end.”

(snip)

Kaberle’s agent, Rick Curran, said yesterday that he has only had a chance to extend a perfunctory hello and congratulations to Chiarelli and that the two will have a more meaningful conversation soon, most likely prior to next week’s draft in Minnesota.

Curran said Kaberle was initially stung by the level of “venom” in the criticism he received early in the playoffs but he got past that, and Curran pointed to the defenseman’s improved play. He felt it was a matter of Kaberle adjusting to the system and the coaching staff adjusting to the player’s talents.

Being part of the Stanley Cup-winning formula (even in a reduced role, often playing on the team’s third defensive pairing) won’t hurt Kaberle’s resume even if his perceived weak output would. Ultimately, it will probably come down to price. If he’s willing to take a substantial pay cut from his previous $4.25 million salary cap hit, the Bruins might give him the benefit of the doubt that a training camp to familiarize himself with Claude Julien’s system might make him more of an impact player.

Besides, the market for unrestricted free agent defenseman is notably weak, so they might be wise to give it a try for one more year anyway.

(For another take on the Bruins’ future roster, check out what Joe Haggerty had to say.)

Preds GM Poile still has work to do, with Johansen in need of a deal

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David Poile got some work done Saturday.

The Nashville Predators re-signed Viktor Arvidsson on the day the two sides had an arbitration hearing scheduled. The new deal? Seven years at a total of $29.75 million — an annual average value of $4.25 million for a player that just scored 31 goals while playing on the top line with Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg.

The Predators made a run at the Stanley Cup last month, doing so with great goaltending from Pekka Rinne, a top-four group of defensemen that you can argue sets the standard around the league and a talented group of forwards — a number of them with age on their side.

They didn’t win it all, but Poile was recognized for his work by claiming General Manager of the Year.

This is likely among the reasons why.

Roman Josi still has three years left on his deal, while Mattias Ekholm, who was a valuable and reliable top-four d-man playing alongside P.K. Subban, has five years remaining on his deal.

With the Arvidsson contract completed, the priority is now to get Johansen — a restricted free agent — signed. At age 24, he’s Nashville’s No. 1 center coming off a 61-point season, which completed his three-year, $12 million deal.

He was also in the midst of a terrific playoff performance before he suffered a thigh injury and postseason-ending surgery. He’s in line for a significant raise from the $4 million AAV he made on his last contract.

The Predators have about $14.5 million remaining in cap space, per CapFriendly.

Vegas GM doesn’t appear to be in any hurry to move extra d-men

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The Vegas Golden Knights currently have 10 defensemen under contract — and that is without Nate Schmidt signed.

Schmidt and the Golden Knights have an arbitration hearing scheduled for Aug. 3, so there is still plenty of time for them to negotiate a new deal for the restricted free agent blue liner without having a neutral third party decide the matter.

Schmidt’s agent, Matt Keator, told the Las Vegas Review Journal that talks with the Golden Knights have been positive, which lends to optimism that perhaps the club and player will avoid this whole process with a deal.

A new contract between Schmidt — left unprotected by Washington in the expansion draft — and Vegas would put the Golden Knights at 11 d-men less than two months before training camp opens.

Granted, that number is considerably less than what Vegas had following the expansion draft, when they stockpiled 15 defensemen and eventually moved players like David Schlemko, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Marc Methot.

While it seems more moves are likely on the back end for Vegas, general manager George McPhee doesn’t seem to be in any particular hurry right now, per the Vegas Review Journal.

“We’re at a manageable number right now,” said McPhee. “We’re pretty close to where we want to be and we’re comfortable with the roster we have.”

Their blue line also includes five players — Jason Garrison, Luca Sbisa, Clayton Stoner, Brayden McNabb and Deryk Engelland — that are pending unrestricted free agents at the end of next season. As far as Vegas’ defensive group is concerned, this could mean future trades during the season as other clubs, perhaps playoff bound, look to possibly add a rental late in the year.

One thing McPhee has made clear in the past: He planned on keeping Schmidt and fellow d-man Shea Theodore (only 21 years old). Now, they just have to get Schmidt under contract.

Related: Vegas has more ticket revenue than Boston, Philly and Pittsburgh, says Foley

Predators sign Arvidsson to seven-year, $29.75 million deal

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Viktor Arvidsson has cashed in on his impressive, breakout 2016-17 campaign.

Playing in the final year of his entry-level contract — and making $640,000 in total salary, according to CapFriendly — the 5-foot-9 tall Arvidsson erupted for 31 goals and 61 points playing on the top line last season for a Nashville Predators team that eventually made its way to the Stanley Cup Final.

The two sides had an arbitration hearing scheduled for Saturday.

From The Tennessean:

Viktor Arvidsson received a new contract Saturday befitting a breakout star, with the Predators signing the energetic forward to a seven-year, $29.75 million contract, Arvidsson’s agent told The Tennessean. 

Few unheralded NHL players last season surprised more than Arvidsson. Expected to be a secondary contributor, Arvidsson erupted offensively with 31 goals and 61 points as part of Nashville’s top line, tying for the team lead in each category. 

Update: The Predators have since confirmed the deal, which pays Arvidsson an annual average value of $4.25 million per season, through the 2023-24 season.

Nashville’s general manager David Poile has work remaining this offseason. The Predators still have restricted free agents Ryan Johansen — another member of that vaunted top line in Nashville — and Austin Watson left to get under contract.

Watson and the Predators have an arbitration hearing scheduled for Monday. Watson is reportedly seeking $1.4 million in arbitration.

Flames re-sign RFA goalies Gillies and Rittich

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The Calgary Flames have re-signed goalies Jon Gillies and David Rittich to one-year, two-way contracts, the club announced Saturday.

Both spent the majority of last season in the American Hockey League, but did get in some game action with the big club in Calgary. The 23-year-old Gillies, the Flames’ third-round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, played in 39 games with the Stockton Heat, posting a .910 save percentage.

He then made his first career NHL start on April 6 against the L.A. Kings and stopped 27 of 28 shots faced for the win. He then began the playoffs as Calgary’s back-up because of an injury to Chad Johnson.

Rittich made his debut two days later, allowing one goal on 10 shots in 20 minutes of ice time versus San Jose.

The Flames have already taken care of their goaltending situation at the NHL level for next season, bringing in Mike Smith from Arizona and Eddie Lack from Carolina.