Two more important pieces of the Bruins' future are now officially in the fold. Work continues on getting a key part of their present signed to a new deal.
The Bruins officially announced the signings of 2010 second-round picks Jared Knight and Ryan Spooner on Wednesday afternoon, while negotiations remain ongoing with restricted free agent Brad Marchand.
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli didn't offer much of an update on that front while speaking with a pool reporter on Wednesday.
"I'm not going to comment on progress," Chiarelli said of Marchand. "We want to get him signed and we'll continue to work towards that."
Marchand was originally drafted in the third round back in 2006 and enjoyed a breakthrough season in his first full year with the big club in 2010-11, putting up 21-20-41 totals in the regular season, then adding 11-8-19 totals in Boston's run to the Stanley Cup.
The Bruins would love to see a similar impact from Knight and Spooner, but will be patient with the two young forwards. Both performed well in their first pro camps last year, with Spooner among the final cuts, and both also got a taste of pro hockey with three games in Providence after the conclusion of their junior seasons.
Still, making the leap to the NHL at 19 is a long shot, and the Bruins have enough depth up front that they don't need to rush them and risk hurting their long-term development.
"It's really hard for a player that's 20 or under to make an NHL team," Chiarelli said. "Generally speaking, those players aren't strong enough at that age. … It's a matter of getting stronger, having confidence in their game. I know Spooner stayed until the very end last year, he had a good camp. Knight had a good camp too but we released him a little bit earlier than Ryan. You know, it would be a pleasant surprise if both those guys challenged and we expect them to open some eyes. But it's a tough road to make our team at that age."
Spooner, the 45th overall pick in the 2010 draft, put together a strong season in the Ontario Hockey League after he was sent back last year. He posted 35-46-81 totals in 64 games split between Peterborough and Kingston, with another six points in five playoff games and two goals and an assist in his three games with Providence.
Knight, taken 32nd overall in 2010 with one of the three picks Boston acquired from Toronto in the Phil Kessel trade, had 25-45-70 totals in the OHL with London, along with 4-2-6 totals in six playoff games and a pair of assists in his three games in Providence. Those performances were enough to convince the Bruins to get both of their signatures on entry-level deals.
"We waited till now. We wanted to see a full year of development up until and including the development camp and we saw improvement and we saw that willingness to get better and that's why we decided to sign [Spooner] now, and the same applies to Jared," Chiarelli said. "It's easier to sign these guys right away and get the signings out of the way but we wanted them to work for it. They're both very good players, very good prospects but we want them to work for it and that's why we waited this long.
Neither player possesses abundant size, but both added some weight and strength over the course of the past year and impressed again earlier this month at the club's development camp in Wilmington. Knight has bulked up to 202 pounds on his 5-foot-11 frame, while Spooner now checks in at 5-foot-10, 175 pounds.
"Both of them got a little bit stronger, a little bit faster," Chiarelli said. "Specifically Spooner, his testing improved from when we did the last till now. And you can see he's a little bit bigger, a little bit faster, a little bit more committed. Knight was always strong, he seemed a little more comfortable with his game at that level. And they both had good junior years. So I like to see them put some work in and then we decide to sign them."
Both players will have to return to their junior teams if they do not make the big club's roster in Boston out of camp, as they are ineligible to play in the AHL until their junior season is over.
The Bruins also re-signed forward Stefan Chaput, who finished last season in Providence after being acquired from the Anaheim system and named Kevin Dean assistant coach for Providence. Chaput, 23, had 3-4-7 totals in 15 games with Providence and 6-8-14 totals in 42 games overall in the AHL last season.
Dean played 331 games in the NHL as a defenseman with New Jersey, Atlanta, Dallas and Chicago and served as an assistant with Lowell in the AHL for four years before spending last season as the head coach of Trenton in the ECHL.