Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Bruins making efforts to keep team together



BOSTON (Ticker) - The Boston Bruins are making a concerted effort to retain the core of their team.
The Bruins on Tuesday made contract offers to five of their free agents, including captain Joe Thornton and defenseman Sergei Gonchar.
Also receiving offers were restricted free agent left wings Sergei Samsonov and P.J. Axelsson and right wing Martin Lapointe, who is unrestricted. Teams exclusively can negotiate with their free agents through July 31.
"These players have made valuable contributions to our team," Bruins general manager Mike O'Connell said. "We hope these offers make clear to them how much we want them to be a part of building a championship team in Boston."
A restricted free agent, Thornton was offered a five-year contract. The 26-year-old made $5.5 million in 2003-04 and was awarded a one-year, $6.75 million deal after winning his arbitration case last summer.
An All-Star each of the last three seasons, Thornton was selected first overall by the Bruins in 1997. He was named team captain prior to the 2002-03 season, a campaign in which he collected a career-high 101 points.
Gonchar, who is an unrestricted free agent, was given a four-year offer. Acquired from Washington in March 2004, the Russian blue-liner also won an arbitration case last summer, receiving a one-year, $5.5 million contract after making $3.65 million in 2003-04.
The 14th overall pick by the Capitals in 1992, Gonchar recorded a career-high 67 points in 2002-03, one season after netting 26 goals, also a career best. The 31-year-old has appeared in three All-Star Games.
Samsonov, Axelsson and Lapointe each received three-year contract offers.
Samsonov, who made $3.65 million in 2003-04, reached an agreement on a one-year deal for the same amount last summer. Selected eighth overall in 1997, the 26-year-old Russian won the Calder Trophy in 1998 and appeared in the 2001 All-Star Game.
Signed to a lucrative free-agent contract in 2001, the 31-year-old Lapointe made $5.5 million with the Bruins in 2003-04. He scored a career-high 27 goals in his final season with Detroit in 2000-01 but has not netted more than 17 in any of his three campaigns in Boston.
A native of Sweden, Axelsson made $1.3 million in 2003-04. The 30-year-old enjoyed his best season in 2002-03, when he recorded career highs of 17 goals and 36 points.

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