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Contract years swindled Boston Bruins

Mar 20, 2010, 4:30 PM EDT

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bostonbruins.jpgLast season, the Boston Bruins were one of the league’s true surprise teams. Simply put, they were on fire at times, getting plenty of good bounces and more than a few career seasons from its players. It was a perfect storm of contract years and good fortune that – clearly – has proven to be unsustainable.

Obviously, Phil Kessel is no longer with the team but he still fits the bill in having an unusually productive contract year season. It honestly is a bit staggering how much of their success could be attributed to conveniently timed peaks. Here are the other three contract year stories from that season.

Tim Thomas – he’s been a big disappointment a year after winning the Vezina trophy. To be fair, the Thomas signing was at least slightly logic; after all, last year was his best season but not his only productive one. Still, I doubt the Bruins are happy with his deal right now.

David Krejci had an impressive season last year (73 points) but is now down to 40 points this season. I get the feeling Krejci was “chosen” over Kessel, but I wonder if the correct answer would have been “none of the above.”

Dennis Wideman has been a disappointment for most of his career, until he had a fantastic 2008-09 season in which he matched Zdeno Chara’s 50 points while posting an impressive +32 rating. This year he’s gone back to being a poor defensive player (-17) and middling offensively (only 20 points this season). Wideman’s deal must be the biggest regret for Boston.

Now, if you combine the contract years of Kessel, Thomas, Krejci and Wideman with somewhat lucky seasons from Blake Wheeler and Milan Lucic, the picture becomes clearer. I’m not trying to say that the Bruins weren’t legitimate last season, but it’s clear that monetary motivation and luck just aren’t on their side like they were last season.

So, the bad news is that the Bruins’ cap will be clogged with players who will struggle to meet their contract expectations after atypical years. The good news, though, is that they can really stock up on prospects if those Maple Leafs picks end up being top-5 material. It’s not all rosy for Boston, but things should get better.

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