The Bruins maintained their depth down the middle with the re-signings of centers Chris Kelly and Gregory Campbell, but those moves will also keep another key Bruin from making a move to the middle, at least for the foreseeable future.
With David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron already locked in as the centers of the top two lines and now Kelly and Campbell back to center the third and fourth lines, respectively, Tyler Seguin will remain on the wing.
And that's not a bad thing.
While primarily a center in his junior career, Seguin has yet to see significant time in the middle with the Bruins over the course of his first two seasons in the NHL. But the second overall pick of the 2010 draft has thrived out wide, leading the Bruins in both goals and points last season with 29-38-67 totals in 81 games.
With the chemistry he developed skating with Bergeron and Brad Marchand last season, there's no need to mess with a successful formula.
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli agrees. He noted that it is not unusual for players to move from center to wing, a transition both Kelly and Rich Peverley had made at different points in their careers. Peverley will remain at wing as well this season now that Kelly and Campbell are back in the fold, though both Peverley and Seguin are capable of sliding back to center if the need arises with injuries or other issues.
"Kells is a center and Pevs is a center and they've played wing," Chiarelli said during Wednesday's conference call to discuss the Kelly and Campbell extensions.
And will Seguin continue to follow that pattern?
"For the short term, yes," Chiarelli said. "He's had success on the wing. And the short term may be one, two, three years, who knows? But at this point we don't have any reason to put him to the middle."
Seguin's stay out wide may continue for a while. Krejci and Campbell are signed through the 2014-15 season, Bergeron through 2013-14 and Kelly will be locked up through 2015-16 once he officially signs his deal. Chiarelli explained on Wednesday that hasn't happened yet because of "payroll tagging issues." The Bruins and Kelly have agreed in principle to a four-year, $12 million deal, but it can't be signed until July 1.
Cap technicalities aside, the Bruins should be set at center for the foreseeable future without needing to move Seguin back to his former spot. Seguin's overall play continues to improve, a progression evidenced by his plus-34 that ranked second only to linemate Bergeron's plus-36 in the NHL last year. But it is still a work in progress. Claude Julien's system puts a lot of stress on a center to be responsibly defensively, and Krejci, Bergeron and Kelly have all thrived in that role.
All three have been strong two-way performers for the Bruins, with each reaching the 20-goal mark last year and Bergeron and Kelly in particular excelling in shutting down the opposition's scoring lines. Seguin remains better suited to let his skills shine in a less demanding role out wide, with a linemate like Bergeron capable of covering for any lapses, while Seguin is free to try to create more opportunities offensively.
That was a system that helped the Bruins tie for second in the NHL with 3.17 goals a game last season, while also finishing sixth in goals against at 2.43. That was a mirror image of Boston's championship season in 2010-11 when they were sixth in scoring (2.98) and second in goals against (2.30). It's the type of balance the Bruins hope to maintain for many years to come now that they have secured their strength down the middle.
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