Bruins GM talks Benoit Pouliot potential
Free agent Benoit Pouliot's first full season in the pros, at the age of 25 with the Montreal Canadiens, proved mostly uneventful: 30 points, 87 penalty minutes and four healthy scratches in the Habs' seven-game, first round series with the Bruins earlier this spring.
But in the 6-foot-3 left wing, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli saw a body of work good enough to sign to a reported one-year, $1.1 million contract. Pouliot has struggled to live up to expectations since being picked fourth overall by Minnesota in the 2005 draft, but in Chiarelli's eyes, the 25-year-old is still young enough to coach up.[+] EnlargeFrancois Lacasse/Getty ImagesBenoit Pouliot wasn't an impact player with the Canadiens, but Peter Chiarelli sees something in the 25-year-old.
"Pouliot is a player that was drafted quite high and this would be his third team," Chiarelli said in a conference call with the media Friday afternoon. "We like his skill, we like his size, we think he'd fit in with our team. He's got a good shot off the wing, he's still young, we feel he'll develop, and we were happy to get him at that number."
Pouliot acknowledged Friday after signing with the Bruins that consistency has been an issue for him.
"I can do more. Obviously, this year was a tough year, not saying that I didn't really get the chance that I should have, but sometimes, you know, you want to be on the top two lines, you want to be a power player, especially when you're playing well," Pouliot explained. "And at times, I was playing well and sometimes it's the coach's decision and you can't really do anything about it, you just have to keep playing. It's just a thing about being consistent every night, being good, playing good, in practice and in games. It's just a thing about, my game, I mean the game is fine, it's just being able to compete every night and every time you step on the ice."
The left-shooting Pouliot is a natural fit on the left side. But Chiarelli noted that while with the OHL's Sudbury Wolves, Pouliot saw some time on the right wing, giving the Bruins another flexible winger like Rich Peverley, Jordan Caron and Brad Marchand.
Asked whether Pouliot could slide up and down the forward pairings, Chiarelli said, "Yeah, listen, he's been a healthy scratch in Montreal. He certainly has shown flashes. He's got to earn a spot, as will everyone else. So you know, he's anxious to come here and to prove himself. We think he's got a pretty good package that we can work with."
Amid a flurry of big-money signings on this first day of free agency, the other big news locally was the Dallas Stars' signing of Michael Ryder, who underperformed in the regular season but was instrumental in the Bruins' Stanley Cup run (eight goals, nine assists). Ryder -- who signed a three-year, $12 million deal with Boston back in 2008 -- signed a two year, $7 million deal with Dallas.
Chiarelli said he sent a text message this afternoon to Ryder, wishing him well and to "make sure you light up all of those Eastern Conference teams -- except us". Chiarelli remains confident in the leadership values of his core, should the Bruins not sign a suitable replacement.
"You know what, in the three years we had him, he was really good in the postseason," Chiarelli said. "So that's going to be an area I hope that the group will, I talked about leadership earlier, the group inheriting some of that responsibility if we don't bring in someone else. And you know, the timely scoring is something that I've liked what I've seen with the rest of the group."
The Bruins aren't expected to go after any big names this summer, but Chiarelli revealed that he is not done yet. He's currently in talks with several defensemen, including unrestricted free agent Tomas Kaberle, whom the team acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs in February.
"Yeah I've had a few discussions today with him and that's where I'll leave it," he said. "But I have had a couple of discussions and again, I'm not ruling out re-signing Tomas."
Whitfield played in 45 games for the Providence Bruins last season, recording 18 goals and 18 assists for 36 points.
Khudobin played in 16 games with the Providence Bruins last season, posting a .920 save percentage and 2.40 goals against average.
Brendan Hall covers the Bruins and high school sports for ESPNBoston.com.
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