Fourth-liner Byron Bitz has been seeing some time on the first line with Marc Savard (and Blake Wheeler) and is expected to play up there tonight against Montreal.
The Bruins just re-signed Savard. I hadn’t considered this, but part of the reason they wanted to lock Savard down is to give them long-term depth down the middle, a la the Penguins. Savard is joined by fellow centers Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. While Bergeron is an unrestricted free agent next season, Fluto Shinzawa writes he expects Bergeron to have his contract extended sooner rather than later.
The center-depth strategy is kind of interesting. Part of the rationale behind it seems to be that a good center can elevate an average player. We saw it last season with Bill Guerin and Sidney Crosby and it seems we’re starting to see a comparable effect with Bitz and Savard.
Although, there’s definitely something to be said for a strong top line, like we’ve seen in San Jose with Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley, and Joe Thornton. But then again, the Sharks don’t have the best post-season record, so maybe they’d be better off going with strength down the middle, rather than strength along one line.
Speaking of signings, here is my take on the Duncan Keith, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews contract extensions in Chicago. I love that Kane and Toews were given relatively short-term deals. It gives Chicago flexibility but is also a lot less pressure on two very young players.