The son of Bruins legend Ray Bourque was traded from Washington to Boston for Zach Hamill on Tuesday, and on Friday he avoided free agency by agreeing to a two-year deal with the Bruins.
If the Bourque surname didn’t supply enough pressure, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli added a little more, as well as perhaps a boost of confidence to help meet those expectations, when he stated that Bourque wasn’t just brought in to help the Bruins’ AHL affiliate in Providence. He is expected to compete for a spot on the big club in Boston.
“That wasn’t the real intention of getting Chris,” Chiarelli said of Bourque’s potential to improve a Providence squad that’s missed the playoffs the last three seasons. “I told him today that I think he’s got a good chance of making our team. I told him basically that he’s just not there to go to Providence. Now, if he does go to Providence that would be great. But I think the fact that we gave him a one-way deal and the second year of that deal speaks to how we feel about Chris.”
Bourque’s deal calls for him to make $550,000 at the NHL level and $200,000 in the AHL in 2012-13, but in 2013-14 he will make $550,000 regardless of where he plays. That shows the Bruins fully expect Bourque to be in Boston by 2013-14 at the latest, as teams don’t pay NHL money for AHL stars, no matter how good they’ve been in the AHL.
And Bourque has been dominant at that level. He won back-to-back Calder Cups with Hershey in 2009 and 2010, earning the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as playoff MVP in 2010 after scoring 27 points in 21 postseason games in 2010. After a year in Europe, he returned to Hershey this past year and led the AHL in scoring with 27-66-93 totals.
Bourque, 26, hasn’t been able to translate that success to the NHL level, playing just 33 career games with Washington and Pittsburgh and managing 1-3-4 totals and minus-6 rating. He last appeared in the NHL in 2009-10 when he dressed for one game with the Capitals and 20 for the Penguins.
Some of those struggles stem from his lack of size at 5-foot-8, 180 pounds, but Chiarelli believes Bourque can contribute in a bottom six role even if he never matches enough of his AHL offensive production to warrant a spot on a scoring line.
“He does have the ability to shoot, to find seams,” Chiarelli said. “But he also has a grit element to his game where that if he has to play lower down the line that he can do that. I told him, that among other things, that he’ll need like another quarter step to maintain it at this level, and if he gets that, and I think he will, again he’s another guy who’s relatively young, than he’ll be able to play at this level on a regular basis.”