As the Boston Bruins prepared to take the ice on Thursday night for their home opener, news began to break that defenseman Dennis Seidenberg and the team had agreed to a contract extension. During the game, the Bruins would announce the official terms of the deal, a four year extension averaging $4 million per season, for a total of $16 million. Just one day before, general manager Peter Chiarelli made re-signing Seidenberg a top priority, so the deal comes as no surprise. By signing the 32 year old defense for four more seasons, the Bruins have locked into a top pairing of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg for the foreseeable future. For now, that’s good news for fans, but how will this deal hold up and how will it impact the organization going forward?
Chemistry and Continuity
Staying true to form, Chiarelli and his staff identified Seidenberg as a core member of the team, and then made quick work of an extension. With Seidenberg locked up, the Bruins will move forward with four of the six defenseman from their 2011 Stanley Cup Championship team. The chemistry that that group has developed over the years, both on and off the ice, has gone a long way in contributing to the team’s success. To take that a step further, the chemistry that exists between Seidenberg and Zdeno Chara has given the Bruins one of the best shutdown defense pairs in the NHL. With that pair in tact, it takes a lot of stress off coach Claude Julien, knowing that when the calendar turns to April, he can count on those two to be on the ice for almost half of the game each night. Additionally, Seidenberg is an essential piece of the Bruins penalty killing group, which is perenially at, or near, the top of the league. Maintaining the consistency of the PK unit is critical for the Bruins, as it is one of the team’s greatest strengths. Although the continuity is of great value, Seidenberg’s individual talent is extremely impressive in its own right.
In one of his finest moments, Chiarelli managed to acquire Seidenberg and Matt Bartkowski from the Panthers in exchange for Byron Bitz, Craig Weller and a second round draft pick. At the time, it looked like a good deal for the Bruins, but Seidenberg has become so much more than anyone could have anticipated. As one of the Bruins top two defensemen, Seidenberg has averaged between 23 and 24 minutes of ice time per game over the last four seasons. If that wasn’t impressive enough, Seidenberg has averaged at least 26 minutes of time on ice per night in the playoffs over the last three seasons. Players that can handle that kind of workload are hard to find. When you factor in how Seidenberg plays the game, those minutes become infinitely more valuable. He is a physical defenseman, that can handle just about any forward, and he is an incredibly adept shot blocker. Since joining the Bruins, he has been in the NHL’s top ten for shot blocking in all but one season, showing a willingness to do whatever it takes to keep the puck out of the net. For all that Seidenberg brings to the table in the defensive zone, he’s no stranger to the offensive end. In last year’s lockout shortened season, he was on pace to set career highs across the board, finishing with four goals and 13 assists in just 46 games. The real question is if, and for how long, can he maintain his current level of play?
Bargain or Overpayment?
It seems easy enough to place a value on Seidenberg’s present production, but the task that Peter Chiarelli faced was a bit more challenging. He had to balance what Seidenberg is worth today against what Seidenberg will be worth down the road. With a cap hit of $3.25 million this season, Seidenberg already represented an excellent value to the team, and if the salary cap increases as expected, this raise will be very manageable. After signing Seidenberg, the Bruins have officially locked up all but three of the players currently on their active roster. This deal will provide the Bruins with the cap space necessary to add a significant piece or two to the roster, without suffering from a cap crunch. In this day and age, that is a rare commodity. At only 32 years old, Seidenberg has plenty of hockey left in the tank. He keeps himself in top condition, suggesting that he won’t suffer a significant drop off in performance in the near future. His game is not heavily reliant on his speed, which is typically one of the first skills to see the effects of age. Beyond that, playing along side Zdeno Chara and a group of young offensive defensemen, he will be able to emphasize the defensive side of his game and still be a solid contributor for the Bruins. Realistically, this won’t even come into play until the last year of the deal. Fortunately for the Bruins, the no-trade clause included in Seidenberg’s deal becomes a limited NTC in the last two seasons of the deal. Would Seidenberg have been offered more money and/or more years on the open market? It’s almost an absolute certainty. Could the Bruins have replaced Seidenberg’s production for a similar or lesser financial commitment? Doubtful. It’s always risky to give a multi-year deal to a player in his thirties, but Seidenberg seems like a good bet to live up to the expectations that will accompany this extension.
Finding a top two defenseman can be extremely difficult in today’s NHL. Finding defensemen that fit into your team’s system can be a challenge in itself. If you manage to find a legitimate top two defenseman that fits into your system, keeping that player in the organization becomes a top priority. As these players are so hard to find, they have a great deal of leverage, often resulting in long-term, big money deals that eventually hamper their team’s ability to be competitive. In the case of Dennis Seidenberg, the Bruins were able to acquire a top two defenseman and get him assimilated into their system. As soon as they realized what they had, they wasted no time in re-signing him for four more years. Even though the Bruins had to invest a bit more money, this contract should be the better of the two Seidenberg extensions for the team.
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