NHL training camps are getting ready to open, the new season is only some six weeks away, and that means Alex Chiasson is betting again, with both hands and both feet. No one in the NHL beats the house odds as consistently as this guy when it comes to wagering on himself.
Chiasson, 32, agreed to report to Bruins camp Sept. 20 on a professional tryout agreement, promised nothing but some space to pull on his skates at the club’s Brighton workout facility and a chance to catch the eye of coach Jim Montgomery.
Chiasson knows the auditioning drill better than anyone. A veteran of 651 NHL games, this will be the fifth time Chiasson has reported to an NHL training camp on a PTO. He landed a job the first three times, first with Washington (2017), then Edmonton (’18), and next in Vancouver (’21). Last September, after not securing a job with the Coyotes, he ultimately landed a late-season spot on Detroit’s NHL roster after a protracted tuneup with the Red Wings’ AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids, Mich.
“I took my hockey bag, a backpack and suitcase,” said Chiasson, recalling his job-seeking journey last season that finally brought him to Detroit, where he cobbled together a respectable 6-3—9 line in 20 games, “and I lived out of a hotel room in Grand Rapids for almost three months. It was a good end of the year there, and I was hopeful things would work out, but the business end of things … it can be a tough business.”
The PTO path can be especially cruel. It worked out ideally here in the fall of ‘07 for journeyman forward Glen Metropolit, invited by then-Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli. Metro played all 82 games, the No. 3 center behind Marc Savard and Marco Sturm, and had 33 points.
But such hits are rare. In recent years, another veteran forward, Ted Purcell, showed some impressive flashes in his Sept. ‘17 tryout with the Bruins, but did not make the cut. He finished his career with a short twirl for KHL Omsk in Russia. Veteran blue liner Anton Stralman succeeded with his audition here last September, secured a one-year contract for a guaranteed $1 million, but suited up for only eight games with the varsity.
Ever a realist, and a successful one when sizing up opportunity, Chiasson said he received “a fair number” of PTO offers this summer, but ultimately chose the Bruins because: 1. Offseason roster moves created some potential openings for a veteran right winger with his skills; 2. His desire to play for a Cup contender.
“So here I am,” said Chiasson, who played at Boston University, a three-year tour (2009-12) prior turning pro with Dallas. “I have to fight again to prove that I can play and help a team out. I felt from all the options I had, Boston was the best spot, and I’m excited to be here.”
It’s ostensibly a homecoming for Chiasson, who decided with wife Riley in the spring to make Boston their permanent offseason home, moving here some three months before the Bruins offered the PTO.
Chiasson, who grew up outside of Quebec City, felt compelled to make the move back to the Hub largely in part because of his BU days. Upon leaving Comm. Ave. in the spring of 2012, he stood six courses short of completing his degree in economics. Now living just a few miles west of the campus, he said he fully intends to tidy up the course work, the majority of which has to be taken in classrooms rather than online.
In the immediate, though, he hopes to stay gainfully employed some seven miles east of the BU campus, with a Bruins hard hat on his head. The mortarboard cap can wait.
For all his years in the league, Chiasson’s best fit came during his three seasons in Edmonton, where he landed his initial roster spot with his PTO and then knocked home 22 goals in his first year, riding with evolving superstars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
“I’m sure that helped,” said Chiasson, chuckling over the good fortune of being on that line. “Yeah, I had 22, and to be completely honest, I probably should have had over 30, easily. I think I was at the right spot at the right time, and had just won a Cup with Washington (2018), felt comfortable, and Edmonton was an up-and-coming team. The staff was expecting some kind of leadership out of me. Really a great group. I enjoyed it there, and obviously, they’ve gone on, evolved, and they’re fighting for a Cup every year now.”
Over his three years in Alberta, the 6-foot-4-inch, 208-pound Chiasson played up and down the order, often in the top six, sometimes in the top nine, called on frequently for power-play duty.
“I was put in a lot of different positions,” he said. “My role has kind of changed … as you age and stuff. But I know what I can do. I think I’ve shown that I can play throughout the lineup. I can be a fourth-line guy. I can play on the first power play. I can play in the top six when guys are injured.
“Now it’s on me to show up in camp and show them what I can do. I’ve obviously played in the league for a while. But at the same time, you’ve got to go, you have to battle, you have to earn it, and that’s the way it’s been throughout my career.”
A NO. 1 CENTER?
Bruins would be prime suitors for Flames’ Lindholm
Rumors continue that the Flames will look to deal veteran center Elias Lindholm, on target to be an unrestricted free agent July 1. If they are serious about shopping the 28-year-old pivot, the Bruins would be prime suitors.
Like recent retirees Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, Lindholm is a right-shot centerman, smart and durable and fairly prolific. He has rolled up 513 points in his 10 NHL seasons, ranking him third in his 2013 draft class, behind Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon (759) and Florida’s Alexsander Barkov (631).
Lindholm would plug in immediately as the No. 1 pivot with elite wingers Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, allowing Pavel Zacha to remain at No. 2 and Charlie Coyle at No. 3.
All that, of course, is assuming the Bruins would not have to surrender Zacha in the swap. Zacha almost certainly would be one of Calgary’s asks.
It was just 13 months ago, when Brad Treliving was the Flames GM, that Matthew Tkachuk made clear he would not sign a contract extension in Calgary after the 2022-23 season. Rather than wait around for the trade deadline, Treliving shipped Tkachuk to the Panthers (Tkachuk’s preferred landing spot) for a package that included center Jonathan Huberdeau and blue liner MacKenzie Weegar, along with two more assets (prospect Cole Schwindt and a first-round pick in 2025).
Huberdeau, the prime offensive piece coming back in the swap, saw his production plummet his first season in Calgary from 115 points with the Panthers to a pedestrian 55 with the Flames. Little surprise that new Calgary GM Craig Conroy, hired soon after Treliving packed up and later took command of the Maple Leafs front office, made finding ways to kickstart Huberdeau’s game his top priority.
Frankly, shipping out Huberdeau and signing Lindholm to an extension could be the shrewder play, but last August Treliving signed Huberdeau to an eight-year extension (cap hit: $10.5 million) that begins this season. He can’t be traded without his permission for the next six seasons. Given his cap hit, and his overwhelming underperformance last season, suitors would be scarcer than an Alberta oil man at a Tesla R&D convention.
Lindholm has not made clear whether he wants to stay in Calgary. He has a reasonable cap hit ($4.85 million) which, coincidentally, is only $100K higher than Zacha’s number. What is painfully clear to the Flames is that they cannot afford to see his deal expire after 2023-24 and then receive zero in return if he were to sign elsewhere.
Lindholm, by the way, was a Carolina draft pick (No. 5, 2013) and was only 18 when he debuted with the Hurricanes. He played five seasons in Raleigh before he and Noah Hanifin were swapped to the Flames in the deal that sent ex-Bruin Dougie Hamilton and the rights to Adam Fox to the Canes.
Bruins will celebrate milestone with history on their side
The Bruins have not divulged all their celebratory plans, but the franchise will keep a bright spotlight on its 100 years of history, especially during the week that includes the Opening Night puck drop Oct. 11 on Causeway St. vs. the Blackhawks.
The Montreal Maroons were in town for the franchise opener, Dec. 1, 1924, and John J. Hallahan was the Globe’s man on the beat, chronicling the Bruins’ 2-1 win at the Arena (still operating today as Matthews Arena at Northeastern).
“Fair Sized Crowd Sees Boston’s Professional Hockey Team Open League Season With Victory”, heralded the eight-column headline across the top of Page 12 of the Globe the next morning. Neither the story nor game summary provided the attendance figure. The Globe is the city’s only media entity to have chronicled the club’s every season and did so for decades in both morning and evening editions.
In the lead paragraph of the game story, Hallahan kept in mind he was introducing the pro version of the sport to a new audience, noting, “It was an auspicious start, for the Bruins, as the team has been nicknamed …” Everything was so brand new.
And in his third paragraph, Hallahan provided the details of a fight in the final minute of play between Montreal’s Harry “Punch” Broadbent and the Bruins’ Herb Mitchell.
The combatants were “winding their arms around each other’s heads and indulging in a real battle.”
An 11-game losing streak — five of those on Arena ice — followed that auspicious start, before the Bruins pinned a 3-2 loss on the Canadiens on Jan. 10 in Montreal. Art Ross’s charges then dropped the next seven, all but setting in stone the franchise’s first postseason DNQ.
Near the end of the 11-game losing streak, the Bruins purchased defenseman Lionel Hitchman, then a spare part on the Ottawa blue line. Almost a century later, Hitchman’s No. 3 is among those revered retired numbers hanging in the Garden rafters.
“Owner Charles Adams believes he has secured the men with which to give Boston a worth-while team,” wrote Hallahan after the win at Montreal, with Hitchman on the blue line. “If those men do not measure up to expectations, he will keep up the hunt for players who will eventually, if not this year, make Boston a winner.”
Nearly a century later, the hunt continues.
Forsbacka Karlsson might have benefited from staying at BU
Jeff Petry, flipped to his hometown Red Wings after the Canadiens reacquired him in the three-way swap that landed Erik Karlsson in Pittsburgh, was drafted No. 45 overall by the Oilers in 2006. The Bruins, of course, made Bergeron the 45th player chosen in the ‘03 draft.
Two other Bruins to go in that same 45 hole: Ryan Spooner (’10) and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson (’15).
Spooner, wheeled to the Rangers in the Rick Nash deadline acquisition (Feb. 2018), led KHL Minsk last season in scoring (19-28—47), topping a Dynamo roster that included former Lightning defenseman Mark Barberio.
JFK, displeased with his career trajectory with the Bruins, returned to play in Sweden after the 2018-19 NHL season. Following three low-production seasons in the SEL, Sweden’s top league, he did not play anywhere last season.
No telling if a longer stay in college would have made a difference, but many believed Forsbacka Karlsson turned pro prematurely when he bolted BU after his sophomore season in the spring of ‘17. He went 3-6—9 in 29 games with the Black and Gold varsity.
Some seven weeks after spiriting away Connor Clifton from the Bruins for a three-year/$10 million deal, the Sabres cleared $2.75 million off their back end by shipping Ilya Lyubushkin, 29, to the Ducks for a fourth-round pick in 2025. Lyubushkin only had a year left on his deal, but from a cap standpoint, the Clifton upgrade ended up costing the Sabres just less than $600,000. Both are right-shot D-men, roughly the same age (Clifton is 28), but Clifton adds a little needed snarl to the Sabres’ six pack … The highly-touted Adam Fox, with no interest in signing with the Hurricanes, returned to Harvard for his junior season in the weeks following the Carolina-Calgary deal, and the next spring forced the swap that sent his rights to the Rangers. Carolina’s return: a pair of second-round picks. They flipped one to the Senators, who used it on Mads Sogaard, and used the other to select Noel Gunler, a Swedish winger who in the spring wrapped up his first full season at AHL Chicago. Clear win for the Rangers … The $52 million deal Brandon Hagel signed with Tampa Bay could provide some guidance for Jake DeBrusk’s next deal. Hagel, who turns 25 Sunday, is under Tampa’s control for the next nine seasons (the new pact, with a $6.5 million cap hit, starts in 2024-25). Hagel’s existing deal carries a $1.5 million cap hit. DeBrusk, who turns 27 in October, is entering the final year at $4 million and, like Elias Lindholm in Calgary, is on target for UFA status in July. DeBrusk has delivered points at a .587 clip per game, while Hagel has popped for .626 per game. The Bruins can offer DeBrusk the max eight-year extension, but will they want to do that if the cap hit is, say, $7 million or more? … Your faithful puck chronicler’s top five picks to win the Cup in 2024: 1. Carolina; 2. Vegas; 3. Tampa Bay; 4. New Jersey; 5. Pittsburgh … Pat Maroon, swapped from Tampa Bay to Minnesota this summer, was the Original 32′s most-penalized perp this past season with his 150 PIMs — a total that would have earned him “shrinking violet” status in the NHL of old. For example, legendary Bruins winger Terry O’Reilly piled up 200-plus PIMs for five consecutive seasons (1977-82), part of a career dossier in which he totaled 2,095 PIMs (No. 45 on the all-time list). No. 1 remains Dave “Tiger” Williams with 3,971, a mark surely not to be equaled in today’s kinder, softer, sweeter NHL … Dan Petry, father of the new Red Wings defenseman, broke in with the Detroit Tigers as a 20-year-old righthanded starter in 1979 and finished with a career record of 125-104 across 13 seasons. His final days on the mound were with the 1991 Red Sox on a staff that had 29-year-old Roger Clemens (18-10) at the top of the rotation. Dan, 64, these days is a commentator/studio analyst for Bally Sports during Tigers broadcasts. Jeff, 35, who grew up outside Detroit dreaming of playing for the hometown Winged Wheels, will wear No. 46 in tribute to his dad, who also wore No. 46.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.