Bruins Signing Joonas Kemppainen Could Compete For Bottom-Six Center Job

Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said Friday it is “highly unlikely” Carl Soderberg will be re-signed.

That situation, combined with Gregory Campbell not returning, leaves openings at the third- and fourth-line center spots. Finnish forward Joonas Kemppainen, who signed a one-year, two-way contract in May, is expected to compete for one of those jobs in training camp and the preseason.

“Obviously, we’re trying to plan for every circumstance that may exist and Carl was a very important part of our team this year and in a perfect world, we would be able to retain Carl,” Sweeney said in a pre-draft conference call. “It’s highly unlikely at this point in time that that will be happening, relative to our overall situation, and I think that Joonas represents a player of similar nature, similar skill set.

“You know, he’s a big, strong player, he’s responsible, he’s 27 years old, so he’s been through the pro ranks and he’s ready for it. He’s got some heaviness to his game, but you look at his offensive production was pretty darn good this year in particular, but really the past couple of years. He’s been very, very consistent and he rolled that right over into the World Championship where, again, he was both very reliable and accountable as a two-way player but also produced offensively, which is huge for us.”

The next step for Kemppainen, who tallied 32 points in SM-liiga last season, is to transition full-time to the North American style of hockey and the smaller ice. That process will ramp up at development camp, which begins July 14.

“We’re excited to have him for development camp here in July to get him acclimated and go through a rookie camp process, so by the time he gets to training camp, hopefully he feels very comfortable to go out and do what he does,” Sweeney said. “It was exciting for our guys throughout the entire year to be watching Joonas, to have a change to meet with him. All of our guys right across the board that had seen him throughout the course of the year and made the connection did a tremendous job for us to be able to sign this player.”

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Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@leijonat