NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 19:  Kris Russell #4 of the Calgary Flames looks on beforoe a face off against the New Jersey Devils on January 19,2016 at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Report: Bruins are ‘kicking the tires’ on a Kris Russell deal

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With Loui Eriksson gone, David Backes in the mix and the potential for even more changes via trades, the Boston Bruins are already primed to look very different in 2016-17.

Will they go the extra mile to improve their blueline, though?

There’s no denying their hunger for a “transitional defenseman” on top of those tweaks down the middle, and CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty reports that the Bruins are “kicking the tires” on a possible deal with Kris Russell.

Bruins GM Don Sweeney addressed being unable to find the “right fit for those players at this point in time” during a press conference on Friday, so maybe the “right fit” isn’t so far away?

In discussing bringing back John-Michael Liles, Sweeney ticked some of the boxes that would also be in favor of Russell: the “sort of guys that are able to defend and be hard but also having guys that can transition, get up and down the ice, get back on pucks and move pucks.”

There’s no denying that Russell has his strengths and weaknesses, but you could probably sell Sweeney on his credentials in those areas.

(See more about the pros and cons of Russell in this UFA of the Day post.)

Speaking of selling, the bidding war might end up being a lot for the Bruins and other teams to stomach.

This post breaks down the variety of reports and rumors, with a $5 million cap hit being a possible price tag.

Yikes.

If Russell draws a contract that meets or exceeds those rumors, it would be difficult to call the team who lands him a “winner.”

The Bruins appear to be involved in that auction, at least to some extent.

Seidenberg shocked by Bruins buyout

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Dennis Seidenberg‘s time in Boston ended unceremoniously.

And to hear Seidenberg explain it, surprisingly as well.

“It’s a shock,” Seidenberg told the Boston Herald, one day after the B’s bought out the final two years of his contract. “[Bruins general manager] Donnie [Sweeney] called me and he said it was a tough call to make, but he had to buy me out, that they were going with the kids.

“Told me I was a great guy, and that was it.”

It seems Seidenberg’s shock isn’t from the actual buyout, but the timing of it. The 34-year-old acknowledged earlier this offseason he could be a buyout candidate but, given that the window closed on Thursday, he figured he’d be safe.

Turns out it wasn’t the case.

The timing was pretty unfortunate for Seidenberg. Had Boston bought him out earlier in the process, he could’ve participated in the free agency interview period, which happened right after the draft. But because he was B’s property during that time, he entered Friday’s UFA frenzy at a disadvantage, having failed to speak with any potential suitors.

Boston can hardly be blamed for making the move, however.

For a team facing a potential cap crunch, the relief Seidenberg’s buyout provided was key. Per General Fanager, a buyout means a cap hit of $1.17 million next season, $2.17 million in 2017-18 and $1.17 million in both 2018-19 and 2019-20.

So the Bruins will gain almost $3 million in cap space for next season.

Some of that was used almost immediately, as the B’s signed RFA blueliner Torey Krug to a four-year, $21 million extension, then made a big splash in free agency by inking ex-Blues captain David Backes to a five-year, $30 million deal.

As for Seidenberg, chances are he’ll catch on somewhere. Despite a down ’15-16 campaign he still averaged just under 20 minutes per night in 61 games, notching 12 points.

Bruins’ Khokhlachev officially signs in KHL

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Fare thee well, Koko.

Alexander Khokhlachev’s tumultuous tenure with the Boston Bruins officially ended on Friday, as KHL club SKA Saint Petersburg announced it had signed Khokhlachev to a two-year deal.

A second-round draft pick in 2011, Khokhlachev has spent the last three seasons piling up points in the AHL; however, he’s only appeared in nine games for the B’s.

There were rumblings of him getting flipped at the deadline, but those never came to fruition. And those rumors came after Khokhlachev all but begged the Bruins to give him a chance, saying “I’m not a young guy anymore, I’m 22 already,” and “if they don’t give me a chance to play while I’m here, I won’t play in [AHL] Providence all of my life.”

But in the end, Khokhlachev ended up playing most of his professional life with the P-Bruins. He did have a terrific ’15-16 campaign, with 68 points in 60 games, but it wasn’t enough for him to want to stick with the Boston organization.

Earlier this month, his agent told CBS Boston, “Alexander did not really get a chance for all the years that he signed a deal, for four years, the deals he signed with Boston, didn’t really get a chance to play in the National Hockey League, so he won’t stay in the organization.”

Sweeney: Bruins have had ‘very productive’ talks with … John-Michael Liles

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 01:  John-Michael Liles #26 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the first period against the Calgary Flames at TD Garden on March 1, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Torey Krug: Signed to a four-year, $21 million contract extension with the Boston Bruins.

Dennis Seidenberg: The Bruins put him on unconditional waivers for the purpose of the buyout.

John-Michael Liles? Well, according to Bruins general manager Don Sweeney, the club and the player are in discussions. Liles is a free agent tomorrow, as his four-year, $15.5 million deal is at an end.

The Bruins added Liles to their roster at the trade deadline, in a bid to bolster their blue line for the stretch drive, which eventually ended with Boston unable to qualify for the post-season.

There is still a need for Boston to strengthen its blue line for next season, and buying out Seidenberg would add further room to a team with more than $17 million in cap space for Friday.

“We’ve talked to free agent candidates. I mentioned John-Michael, I think that we’ve had very, very productive talks there,” Sweeney told reporters in a conference call.

“We’re looking for balance. We’re looking for our younger players to have an opportunity, emerge and grab a hold of that. Whichever way we can improve our team internally, externally, we’re going to continue to evaluate and pursue. The trade market, whether that materializes, that remains to be seen.”

The Bruins have been in the market for a “transitional defenseman” but those come at a cost, perhaps a heavy one and perhaps too heavy in the trade market. Free agency? There are possible candidates, although some, like Brian Campbell and Dan Hamhuis, are decidedly older options.

From the Boston Globe:

On defense, the pickings are even slimmer. Jason Demers is the top prize, which speaks volumes about a market that grew even more limited after the early trades and signings of Keith Yandle and Alex Goligoski. The remainder is like the produce selection at Haymarket: distressed and picked over.

The Bruins still have restricted free agent defensemen Joe Morrow and Colin Miller left to sign.

“If we can bring in a guy as advertised … no matter what the acquisition costs are, if it lines up we’re in a position to do that. The flexibility we have is there to be able to continue to explore and improve our team,” said Sweeney.

“If it’s internal … then we’re going to continue to do that. We do feel we have players that can emerge in that sense. Puck possession game, transition game comes in different forms.”

As for Loui Eriksson, also a free agent tomorrow, Sweeney said the two sides continue to talk but they haven’t found “common ground.”

Bruins sign Krug to four-year, $21 million extension

Torey Krug
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The logical follow-up to Dennis Seidenberg’s buyout was an extension for Torey Krug and, reportedly, Boston has made the move.

Per former TSN analyst Aaron Ward, Krug has signed a four-year, $21 million extension with the B’s, one that will carry a $5.25M average annual cap hit.

UPDATE: B’s make it official.

Krug, who was an RFA coming off a one-year, $3.4 million deal, finished 20th among NHL defensemen last year with 44 points in 81 games, and his 40 assists put him ninth among all blueliners. He was also a key part of Boston’s seventh-ranked power play.

This is a significant extension for Boston. Krug — who turned 25 in April — is a big piece of the B’s blueline moving forward, and had to be paid accordingly. It’s part of the reason why Seidenberg was bought out earlier this morning, as the near $3 million in cap relief will be of benefit to a team that will likely end up close to the ceiling.

The B’s have $17.6 million in cap space still available, but only 16 players under contract for next season…with some significant holes to fill.

As for Krug — with today’s deal, he becomes Boston’s second highest-paid blueliner, behind Zdeno Chara, and the club’s fifth most expensive player (behind Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Tuukka Rask and Chara).

Of course, the latter will likely change when Brad Marchand, heading into the last of a deal that pays $4.5M annually, gets his new contract next season.