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Kalman: News And Views As NHL Season Draws Near

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Providence Bruins (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Providence Bruins (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

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BOSTON (CBS) — Appropriately, Labor Day is when NHL teams and players start to get back to work.

Management of all the clubs finalize their plans for when the first pucks drop and players begin trickling into their playing cities to round into shape for Day One of camp.

Off the ice, the Bruins have taken mostly a snooze this summer, but they got a little bit active this week.

Here are my thoughts on some of the happenings that went down with the Bruins and other aspects of the NHL this week.

News: Bruins renew affiliation with Providence of the American Hockey League on a long-term basis.

Views: When it comes to a NHL-AHL partnership, you can’t get much better than Boston and Providence, starting with the proximity of the two cities. Coach Claude Julien brags about it all the time. I don’t know if the Bruins coach has ever eaten a meal on Federal Hill, but I know Providence is at least in his top three favorite cities in New England because it’s close enough for general manager Peter Chiarelli to wait until the late afternoon to make a call-up on a game day. That means the coach can play coy about injuries and his lineup.

But seriously, the Providence-Boston pipeline has produced pretty well. There hasn’t been a ton of star power to come up I-95 in a while, although defenseman Torey Krug is clearly on the cusp of something special in his career. Nonetheless, the P-Bruins have developed plug-and-play supporting players that have contributed to the Bruins in the regular season and playoffs. A lot of the credit goes to the coaches, including those currently behind the bench — Bruce Cassidy and Kevin Dean. Rob Murray and Scott Gordon before them also got the job done with some of Boston’s most important players.

Now it’ll be up to the Bruins to get Cassidy to sign an extension and keep him around until an NHL team is ready to give him another shot to be a head coach at the highest level.

News: Don Sweeney named general manager of Providence Bruins.

Views: The coaches deserve a lot of credit for the development of some of Boston’s best players, but Sweeney also deserves a ton of kudos. He’s proven as adept at developing young talent as he was at overcoming his undersized frame to last 16 seasons in the NHL. Like Cassidy, Sweeney’s going to be the apple of some team’s eye in the near future. The Bruins will be lucky to have Sweeney around for however long he sticks, and anything they can do to expand his role and reach should benefit the organization

News: Jay Pandolfo named Bruins’ player development coach.

Views: A quality guy with experience winning the Stanley Cup, Pandolfo should be a strong influence on some of Boston’s best up-and-comers. While his one year with the Bruins helped him land this gig, his years with the New Jersey Devils should serve him well in not only helping individual players but also making sure Bruins’ prospects continue to adhere to the Bruins’ system of play and code of conduct off the ice.

News: Columbus Blue Jackets and restricted free-agent center Ryan Johansen reportedly $3 million apart on annual value for new deal; Edmonton restricted free agent defenseman Justin Schultz tells media types he’s confident something will get done soon.

Views: Schultz and his representation obviously have a grasp on the situation here. You’re an RFA, you’ve been in the league just two seasons, so you’re not going to break the bank. It’s always been expected they would use the P.K. Subban bridge deal as a guide, and it appears that will happen.

Johansen’s camp and the Blue Jackets have reportedly not talked often this summer. The player wants $7 million and the team wants to give him $4 million. Without arbitration rights, the player has no leverage here. And his one 63-point season certainly doesn’t scream for $7 million, so no one can blame Columbus for trying to go the bridge-deal route. Columbus made some strides as an organization last season. Their best bet if this impasse continues would be to cash in Johansen in a trade. They could fill a couple of needs and send a message that in a salary-cap world, this type of nonsense doesn’t cut it.

News: NHL denies expansion is in the plans.

Views: Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Where there’s $2 billion in expansion fees the 30 teams could split without sharing with the players, there’s expansion. Appropriately, one of the cities could be Las Vegas, because expansion by the 2016-17 is a sure bet. I just hope the Las Vegas bookies have the sense to hire Rick Tocchet or Travis Green as their first head coach.

Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.

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