Gregory Campbell Has Exceeded Expectations in Boston, But Center’s Price Could Exceed Bruins’ Budget in Free Agency

Gregory Campbell Has Exceeded Expectations in Boston, But Center's Price Could Exceed Bruins' Budget in Free AgencyEditor's Note: The Bruins are facing a longer offseason than they had hoped after their title defense was ended early with a first-round loss to Washington. The extra time could come in handy though, as the Bruins have plenty of decisions to make this summer. At the top of that list is what they will do with the many pending free agents on their roster. Each day over the next two weeks, NESN.com Bruins beat writer Douglas Flynn will look at one of the club's veteran free agents.

Gregory Campbell's arrival in Boston flew under the radar a bit. He joined the Bruins from Florida in the summer of 2010 in the same deal that brought the much more heralded Nathan Horton to the Hub.

Horton more than lived up to expectations that season with a series of clutch playoff goals to help Boston end its 39-year Stanley Cup drought, and was putting together another solid campaign before a concussion ended his 2011-12 season in January.

Campbell doesn't have the offensive skills that Horton possesses, but he has contributed to Boston in a variety of ways. Those contributions are not as easy to calculate with stats, though he was one of just eight players in the NHL to reach double figures in both goals and fighting majors in 2010-11, and fell just short of reaching that rare double-double again this past year. Still, Campbell's greatest contributions are more in the realm of intangibles, providing leadership, versatility and a willingness to stand up for his teammates. Now the Bruins must decide how much those intangibles are worth and whether they can afford to pay that price.

2011-12 stats: 78 games, 8-8-16, minus-3, 80 PIMs; playoffs – 7 games, 0-2-2, minus-1, 0 PIMs

2011-12 cap hit: $1.1 million according to CapGeek.com

2012-13 status: Unrestricted free agent

Age: 28

Season in review:

Campbell set the bar pretty high for himself after an impressive debut in Boston in 2010-11. He didn't match the 13-16-29 totals he posted that year, but remained an effective fourth-line center capable of chipping in some offense this past season. He continued to provide a physical presence, reaching double figures in fighting majors for the second straight season with 10, to go along with 107 hits and 53 blocked shots.

Campbell remained a strong defensive forward and a key part of Boston's penalty-killing unit, with 1:40 of his average 12:47 of ice time coming shorthanded. He was an effective faceoff man once again, winning 50.7 percent of the faceoffs he took, and was often called upon to take key defensive-zone draws.

After seeing his first NHL playoff action last year in Boston's Stanley Cup run, Campbell turned in a solid postseason performance this spring with a pair of assists and 16 hits in the seven games against Washington.

Should Campbell be re-signed?:

Campbell has been a valuable role player for the Bruins in his two seasons in Boston. He fits in Claude Julien's system well, playing responsible defensive hockey with a physical edge that is always appreciated in Boston. He's a well-respected player in the Bruins locker room, and has contributed to the chemistry and camaraderie that's fueled much of Boston's recent success.

The issue is whether the Bruins can afford to keep another fourth-liner at a cap hit north of a million dollars. They've already re-signed Shawn Thornton for two more years at $1.1 million apiece, and have to be judicious with their cap space with the uncertainty of the new CBA and so many core players coming up for contracts in the next couple years.

Will Campbell be re-signed?:

Campbell has expressed a desire to remain in Boston, though he will draw interest from other clubs and could be tempted by a chance to play a bigger role elsewhere.

Boston's depth has locked him into fourth-line duty with the Bruins, but he could easily slide into a third-line spot on many clubs. Campbell's fate could be tied to what Boston does with Chris Kelly. If the Bruins are able to re-sign Kelly, they may not be able to afford the luxury of a fourth-line center making seven figures. But if Kelly goes elsewhere, it could be imperative for the Bruins to retain Campbell to maintain their strength down the middle with a dependable two-way forward capable of moving up in the lineup if needed.

In Campbell's own words:

"Of course this is where I want to play," Campbell said late in the season. "This is a great place to play, a great organization and a successful one. Every player wants to play where you've had success and there's more success to come."

Monday: Chris Kelly

Coming Wednesday: Daniel Paille

Have a question for Douglas Flynn? Send it to him via Twitter at @douglasflynn or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

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