Another season, another example of the Boston Bruins‘ Chris Kelly not living up to his contract. In 2012, he signed a four-year, $12 million contract extension with the team that keeps in in Boston until 2016. Last season, injuries kept the 33-year-old out of the lineup for the bulk of the latter part of the season, including all of the playoffs. He under-performed his contract and $3 million cap hit, scoring only nine goals and nine assists in 57 games. With the team struggling t0 make signings this offseason, his cap hit would offer the team some wiggle room to sign and re-sign some key players.
When the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011, the midseason acquisition of Kelly and Rich Peverley was touted as depth moves for the team headed into the playoffs. But, their true value came to fruition in that very playoffs, as the duo’s speed and overall hockey intelligence bolstered the squad deep in the playoffs. But with Peverley’s departure last summer, Kelly struggled to find a match on the Bruins’ third line that struggled to find scoring all season.
In the playoffs, with Kelly’s injury still lingering, the third line of Carl Soderberg, Loui Erikkson and Matt Fraser was the team’s best line against the Montreal Canadiens. That trio played with speed and efficiency that Kelly was unable to match when he was in the lineup. While his injury was an unfortunate one, it proved that the Bruins can certainly move on without his services.
The emergence of the third line in his absence proved that Soderberg was a talented player capable of filling in his role of third line center and also as a penalty killer. Even though Kelly’s numbers were disappointing, he was a valuable penalty killer who used his speed to pressure the opposition on each shift. But, now that he has effectively been replaced by a younger, bigger player, Kelly’s contract should be used as a compliance buyout to open up some cap space for the team. His injury hurt his ability to perform, but his contract hurts more. That’s why it is time for the Bruins to get rid of Kelly before next season.