WILMINGTON — It has been a summer of boredom, a summer devoid of moves or headlines or much of anything, really, for the Bruins. They lost Jarome Iginla and Shawn Thornton in the first hours of free agency, and if not for the signing of some restricted free agents, a Bruins fan could have been forgiven for wondering whether general manager Peter Chiarelli spent his summer fishing.
But now? Now something has to be done.
The Bruins stand to enter training camp with nine NHL-caliber defensemen, as Chiarelli repeatedly has stated. And while they are without the right-shot winger they could use, they have a surplus of centers. That could get a player wondering.
Adam McQuaid and Chris Kelly are coming off injuries, with McQuaid having suffered through a quad injury and ankle surgery and Kelly undergoing offseason surgery to repair a herniated disk. They have, at times, been crucial players for the Bruins. But their positions are a bit more precarious entering this season.
By the time the Bruins were beating the Red Wings and losing to the Canadiens in the postseason, McQuaid was a mere memory in Boston. He managed to play just 30 games in an injury-ravaged season that appeared to be yet more bad luck for a player who has seen too much of it.
He returns to a crowded blue line: Zdeno Chara, Dougie Hamilton, Dennis Seidenberg, Torey Krug (as soon as the team manages to sign him), and Johnny Boychuk (as long as he isn’t traded) all will be playing. But they also have Kevan Miller and Matt Bartkowski and David Warsofsky.
“I guess it’s a good situation to have for the team,” said McQuaid, who has a cap hit of $1.566 million this season before becoming an unrestricted free agent. “Luckily we’ve put ourselves in this position as an organization.
“Control what you can control. I want to come out and give out my best effort. Hopefully that’s enough.”
He isn’t alone in that thought.
Kelly’s cap hit of $3 million each of the next two seasons is a hefty price for a team that doesn’t have the money — so far — to re-sign Krug or second-line forward Reilly Smith. Kelly played both center and wing last season in his 57 games, interrupted by a fractured fibula and the back injury.
He found a home toward the end of the season alongside Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson, with Soderberg taking over the center spot on the third line. But Eriksson might be bumped up to the Milan Lucic-David Krejci line, and there is uncertainty in the bottom two lines.
Kelly, who was acquired from the Senators in the 2010-11 season, has a no-trade clause with eight teams listed.
“Those things are out of my control,” Kelly said. “That’s not a hockey player’s issue, that’s management’s issue. They do a great job with that, so I’m sure they’ll continue.
“I don’t know if I knew where I was going to fit in last year. Every year is the same. You come in and be a player, don’t try to be anything else than that.
“There’s always speculation, there’s been speculation my entire career: Where are you going to play? Who are you going to play with? Are you going to be here? Are you not going to be here? You go crazy worrying about those things. There’s more important things to worry about.”
For now, both players are more concerned with continuing their recoveries. Kelly spent the first six weeks after surgery doing nothing — no working out, no lifting his two young children — as he became “a skinny fat guy.”
It was an injury that “was probably one of the worst pains I’ve ever had,” Kelly said. “I’ve broken a lot of bones, separated shoulders, but it just kind of crippled me.”
Kelly, who said he has been cleared for contact, has been skating since midway through July. (Though, in true Kelly fashion, he quipped that he could get hit “unless Z wants to hit me.”) He doesn’t anticipate being limited in training camp.
It’s much the same for McQuaid. He said he still needs to get up to speed, as he put it, especially with his strength and conditioning after getting a late start to the summer. He started skating only about a month ago, taking his offseason program more slowly than normal.
“It’s been a bit of a layoff, so getting back into situations, making plays and reading plays and understanding your position on the ice, which probably everyone will have a bit of an adjustment, but it’ll be a little more for me,” McQuaid said.
But he’ll need to make that adjustment quickly as decisions loom for the Bruins, especially on defense.
“I think every year you’re looking to show that you’ve improved and you always want to put your best foot forward, so nothing changes from that mind-set,” McQuaid said. “I think you’re always proving yourself.
“You can’t hang your hat on what you did yesterday. There’s always guys pushing to get up, guys that are fighting to stay here. That’s how it’s always been, so every day you have to come with your best effort.”Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.