Friday was supposed to be Daniel Paille’s big day. The versatile forward was signed to a three-year extension worth $1.3 million a season to stay with the Bruins, and joined general manager Peter Chiarelli on a conference call to discuss the new deal.
And there is a little evidence that Paille actually was on the call, even if Chiarelli spent the bulk of the half-hour session fielding questions about his revelation that goalie Tim Thomas is likely to take the upcoming season off.
But if Paille was upstaged on Friday, the Bruins have hopes that the veteran winger will grow into a more central role on the team in the coming years.
Paille is already an effective energy player on Boston’s fourth line and one of the club’s top penalty killers. Chiarelli has no complaints about Paille’s performance in those roles, but the GM also believes he can contribute even more.
“Well I think at the very least –- at the very, very least –- we’re going to get what we’ve been getting and I’d be very happy with that,” Chiarelli said. “I talked about those areas of his game. But I think he can play up the lineup, and he knows this organization, he knows the coaching staff well enough to know what needs to be done. But he’s got the speed and he’s got the other elements of his game that would allow him to play up the lineup.”
Paille has filled in on occasion on higher lines in his three seasons in Boston since the Sabres’ 2002 first-round pick came over from Buffalo in a trade for a third-round pick in October 2009. Paille creates chances with his superior speed and hockey sense, but has struggled to finish many of those opportunities as he’s had just 10, six and nine goals in his three years as a Bruin.
“As a player we tend to want to improve every year and I mean that’s my goal,” Paille said. “For me there’s certain aspects of my game that I need to work on, and you know I plan on doing that. But the big picture, obviously, I feel that I have a big role here, but I definitely want to try to make a bigger role. Whether it’s playing on the same line where I am now, or moving up, either way I’m happy. But I definitely feel that I have a lot more to give and I feel like I’m coming into my prime, and I think that’s a big confidence booster for me going into the future.”
Paille did score a career-high 19 goals for Buffalo in 2007-08 and put up a 37-43-80 line in his final year of junior with Guelph in the OHL in 2003-04. He is just 28, but is already entering his eighth season in the NHL, and this could finally be his chance to go from being a good role player to a good player, period.
“In my mind he’s still a young player, and I think he’s still learning things,” Chiarelli said. “We’ve seen some players learn in their later 20s, and I believe Dan is that type of player.”