Had the Bruins allowed Johnny Boychuk to hit unrestricted free agency on July 1, they might have had to spend $4 million or more per season to find a No. 3 defenseman. They were not willing to take that risk.
Yesterday, the Bruins signed Boychuk to a three-year, $10.1 million extension. He will carry an annual cap hit of $3,366,667 million. Boychuk, who was in the last season of a two-year, $3.75 million contract, will earn $3.1 million in 2012-13, $3.4 million in 2013-14, and $3.6 million in 2014-15. The contract includes a limited no-trade clause.
“I would think, if he went to the market, he could have gotten more,’’ said general manager Peter Chiarelli. “The grass is not always greener.’’
The 28-year-old Boychuk has been a solid complement to Zdeno Chara on the top defensive pairing. Through 53 games, Boychuk has three goals and seven assists while averaging more than 20 minutes of ice time per appearance.
“You go back home and think about getting a job for the summertime,’’ said Boychuk of being a five-year AHLer. “It’s just like being a normal person when you have to work out and train really hard. It’s tough when you’re a minor league player. People think you make a lot. But you don’t. You go home and you have to pay for a lot of things, like training. When you look back at it, it’s probably a blessing in disguise that it happened.’’
The Bruins acquired Boychuk from Colorado for Matt Hendricks on June 24, 2008. In 2008-09, Boychuk racked up 20 goals and 45 assists for Providence and was named the AHL Defenseman of the Year. As an NHLer, Boychuk has been a defense-first blue liner with a knack for landing tooth-rattling thumps.
“He’s a Bruins-type player,’’ Chiarelli said. “Physical and he can score with the shot. He’s a punishing player. He chose not to test the market, which was nice for us.’’
Hennessy on call
If there is a secret to NHL success, a strong sense of identity would be among the required intangibles. When Josh Hennessy started his pro career, perhaps that was missing.
“I think I’m more mature and a little bit more responsible defensively,’’ said Hennessy, who was recalled by the Bruins from Providence Monday. “I think I can probably fit into a couple different roles. I might have been more one-dimensional then.’’
Hennessy, a Rockland native, was a healthy scratch last night. The 27-year-old forward traveled to Montreal with the Bruins after the game and will be the extra forward during their six-game road trip. He earned the nod over Zach Hamill, who faded during his recent stint with the big club.
“If there’s an injury on this road trip, it’s a lot easier to bring the guy along if he’s been around the team,’’ said coach Claude Julien, “than just to fly him in, expect him to jump in there, and do the job.’’
Hennessy’s last NHL appearance was Dec. 21, 2009, when he played for Ottawa. He has appeared in 20 NHL games, all with Ottawa, and has one goal.
This year, Hennessy has 15 goals and 15 assists in 49 games for Providence and has assumed a leadership role under first-year coach Bruce Cassidy.
“It’s been the first season for me where I’ve actually been one of the older guys on the team,’’ Hennessy said. “It’s been a learning experience as far as being a leader and a veteran guy.’’
Columbus captain Rick Nash is that organization’s cornerstone, but he could be traded before the Feb. 27 deadline. The Blue Jackets, the NHL’s worst team, are considering every angle for improvement. The Bruins are one of the few teams with the primary piece Columbus general manager Scott Howson would want in return for his franchise player: a young ace goaltender.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, every player on the Blue Jackets roster is available. They are not necessarily shopping Nash but would listen to offers. That was not the case earlier in Nash’s career. Nash, 27, has a no-movement clause.
The Blue Jackets believed they had their ace goalie in Steve Mason, who won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie in 2008-09. But the 23-year-old Mason has hit the skids big-time since his rookie season. This year, he is 6-20-2 with a 3.49 goals-against average and an .884 save percentage.
Tuukka Rask would fill Columbus’s need for a No. 1 goalie with his best years to come. The Blue Jackets would insist on another young impact player, and perhaps a pick, and they would inquire about Milan Lucic.
The Bruins would not consider such a trade. Tim Thomas has one year remaining on his contract and will be 38 April 15. Rask turns 25 March 10 and is entering the sweet spot of his career.
A more likely trading partner would be Vancouver. Marblehead native Cory Schneider would be Columbus’s target. The 25-year-old Schneider is 12-5-0 with a 2.27 GAA and a .928 save percentage. Roberto Luongo is 32, with more tread remaining on his tires than Thomas. Cody Hodgson also could be part of such a package.
Nathan Horton didn’t travel to Montreal yesterday. He missed his eighth straight game last night because of the concussion he suffered Jan. 22. There is no timetable on his return. It is possible, although highly unlikely, that Horton could join the team later during the trip. The more likely scenario would be for him to resume off-ice workouts in Boston if he feels good enough . . . Chiarelli said he has been talking with all of the remaining UFAs-to-be: Chris Kelly, Gregory Campbell, Daniel Paille, Shawn Thornton, and Joe Corvo. “In an ideal world, it would be nice to get stuff done before the trade deadline to know what you’re going to plan for the future,’’ Chiarelli said. “If not, we’ll look at it as the year progresses into the summer.’’ . . . The Rangers blocked 22 shots. The Bruins blocked seven . . . Tyler Seguin led all players with seven shots.