When the Bruins sent a 2011 second round draft pick to Ottawa in exchange for Chris Kelly back in February of 2011, no one knew much about Kelly who previously spent seven seasons with the Senators.
Kelly got off to a slow offensive start with the Bruins, scoring just twice while adding three assists in 24 regular season games. When the playoffs rolled around, people got a good understanding as to why Peter Chiarelli wanted Kelly in Boston so desperately.
Chiarelli had been trying to pry Kelly away from Ottawa for months, but Senators’ General Manager Brian Murray wouldn’t ship Kelly out for anything less than a second round pick. The Bruins GM finally gave in and gave Murray what he had wanted for the versatile Kelly.
As the Bruins marched through the playoffs and eventually captured Lord Stanley’s Cup, Kelly started to get comfortable in Black and Gold, playing a huge role on the Bruins third line. Kelly scored five times and chipped in with eight assists in the summer of 2011, but it was his all-around game that really stood out. His two-way play combined with his talent at the faceoff dot and penalty kill capabilities made Kelly a valuable piece to the puzzle that was the 2010-11 Boston Bruins.
A season after winning his first ever Stanley Cup, Kelly had a great year with the Bruins during the 2011-12 season. Kelly scored a career high 20 times, while finishing the year a plus-33, a testament to his tremendous two-way play. He was a lock for the Bruins’ Seventh Player Award in 2012, an annual award that is handed to the Bruin who exceeds expectations for that particular season. Unfortunately, the pink hats of Boston had their way and the award was given to Tyler Seguin.
This past season was Kelly’s fourth in Boston. Unfortunately for the third liner – these past two seasons haven’t been anywhere close to how successful the first two were.
The 2012-13 lockout shortened season saw Kelly miss 14 games with a broken tibia. Before and after the injury Kelly struggled with consistency, scoring three goals in 34 regular season games.
Luckily for Kelly and the Bruins, they got back to the Stanley Cup Final in 2013. The playoffs didn’t bring much more success for Kelly, though, as he scored twice in 22 postseason contests.
This past season was another disappointing one for the 33-year old Kelly. The Toronto, Ontario native, appeared in just 57 games this season as a leg injury followed up by a herniated disc caused Kelly to miss some time.
The herniated disc suffered in the Bruins’ fourth to last game of the season caused Kelly to miss the 2014 postseason. After the Bruins were eliminated by the Montreal Canadiens in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Kelly underwent successful surgery on his back to repair his herniated disc. Kelly’s injury was finally reviled as the Bruins met with the media for the final time after their season unexpectedly ended early.
Midway through the 2013-14 campaign, head coach Claude Julien juggled things around on his third line. He moved winger Carl Soderberg to center—his natural position—and moved Kelly to the wing. The move paid off immediately, as Soderberg became one of the most consistent Bruins down the stretch. Line mates Loui Eriksson and Kelly seemed to feed off of a more comfortable and more confident Soderberg. The line was playing great hockey in all three zones. That was until Kelly suffered his second injury of the year.
“For sure, I think another frustrating part was I felt that Carl [Soderberg], Loui [Eriksson] and myself were actually forming real good chemistry and being able to play well and getting to know each other on the ice was a good thing, but obviously with Loui getting a couple injuries and then myself with some injuries it was tough, but when we did play together it was extremely fun,” said Kelly.
What Kelly brings to the table is sometimes hard to find. He plays a huge role on the Bruins penalty kill and is a very responsible forward in the Bruins’ defensive zone. His efforts don’t always show up on the score sheet, but he’s appreciated by the Bruins on and off the ice.
As the Bruins look to piece together their squad for the upcoming season, the Bruins have some moves that need to be made. With 17 players under contract for the 2014-15 season and right around $9Million of cap space, some roster players could be on the move. Could Kelly be one of them?
With Kelly expected to be fully recovered by training camp, the Bruins could look to trade the fourth-year Bruin this summer in order to free up some cap space. With two years and $6 million left on his current contract, Kelly could easily be traded to a team looking for a veteran forward.
The Bruins are expected to be heavily involved in the trade market this summer. Kelly could be used as a “throw in” in any deal where another team is looking to make a move with the Bruins.
The Bruins also could use a compliance buy-out on Kelly. Even though Kelly is still technically “injured,” he was never placed on injured reserve. As a non-injured reserve player, Kelly can be bought out. Doing so will wipe out Kelly’s three million dollar cap hit for this season and next season.
If the Bruins have Kelly in their plans for next season, where he fits in the lineup will be interesting to see. Kelly could remain on a line with Soderberg and Eriksson as the trio could try to rekindle the magic that worked very well at times this past season. Kelly could also be a key part of what is expected to be a new look fourth line for the Bruins next season.
Regardless of what the Bruins decide to do with Kelly, some difficult decisions await the Bruins in the coming weeks.