Coming into camp, the bulls-eye was squarely on Michael Ryder.
The veteran Bruins winger was entering the final year of his contract at a hefty $4-million cap hit. And he was coming off a disappointing season that saw him drop from 27 goals, 53 points and a plus-28 rating in 2008-09 to just 18 goals, 33 points and a plus-3 last year.
Given Boston’s precarious salary cap situation, Ryder was far from a lock to play out that final season on his deal in Boston. But with Marc Savard now poised to potentially open the season on long-term injured reserved along with Marco Sturm, the Bruins aren’t faced with such an immediate need to shed salary. And with those two top forwards sidelined, they don’t have the luxury of discarding Ryder, who has scored 30 goals in a season twice and topped 25 goals four times.
“I know there’s been a lot written about Mike, that he’s the odd man out,” said Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli in a conference call on Sunday. “I wouldn’t say that right now because he’s been one of our better performers in the last two playoffs. That’s been something that’s hard to get. Camp is [in its] early [stages]. We’ll see how his performance goes the rest of the way.”
The Bruins need Ryder to regain his old form and scoring touch, but Chiarelli didn’t exactly give a ringing endorsement to his camp performance thus far.
“I haven’t minded it,” said Chiarelli. “He came to camp in better shape than he has before. That’s never really been an issue, but his run test was better, his vertical jump was better.”
Ryder has played just one of the first three preseason games, picking up an assist in a 3-2 loss to Florida in Rochester, N.Y. on Thursday.
While Chiarelli went out of his way to speak with Savard this summer after the center told an Ottawa newspaper he was hurt by seeing his name pop up repeatedly in trade rumors, the Bruins GM made no such overtures to Ryder this offseason despite speculation about a potential trade or even demotion to the minors to clear his salary off Boston’s cap.
“No I haven’t,” said Chiarelli. “I talked to Marc in the summer. I haven’t talked to Michael yet. I have to do my job. I have to talk to other teams. In the course of that, names get out. I can’t spend all my time mending fences, so to speak, with players.”