Those dreaming of a scenario where the Bruins shake up their roster with a big name free agent acquisition might be in store for a disappointment. Those happy keeping together a roster that hoisted the Stanley Cup over their head a year ago today will be much, much happier.
Watching the Bs struggle to total 13 goals in seven playoff games left many with the notion that Boston needed a significant offensive upgrade. Potential franchise players like Ryan Suter, Zach Parise and Rick Nash will be available via free agency or trade to the highest bidder this summer, and all three would be significant offensive upgrades both five-on-five and on the power play.
But theres little to no chance that any of them come to Boston.
There are a number of stumbling blocks that will ultimately act as impediments to Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli pulling off such a roster-shaking maneuver, but the bottom line is that its not bloody likely.
Instead, it appears Boston will move ahead with nearly the same cast of characters aside from erstwhile goaltender Tim Thomas -- that won the Cup exactly one year ago, and finished second in the NHL last season with 3.2 goals per game.
For Chiarelli thats not such a bad thing at all.
You have to avoid making rash judgments," Chiarelli said. "You have to view the season as a whole and look at injuries to players. You shouldnt react solely on a playoff series, but you cant ignore it either. There are areas we have to improve, but generally I like the experience of the team. I like what weve been through. We won the Cup because of the way we responded to defeat the year before, and well do that again.
Were not going to dismantle the team. Its a good team. Its a really good team. But weve got some areas where there will be question marks. As much as Im confident in Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin in net they have to prove it. Thats an area where well be a question mark. I dont want to put too much emphasis on the power play because were slicing it and dicing it behind the scenes. But there needs to be an improvement there. I know there will be. LA won this year without a good power play, but it needs to be better because you need those timely goals.
Whats the first -- and most obvious -- road block to the Bruins adding a big name to the current mix?
How about the players own preference for where theyll be playing?
Nash would actually make the most sense for the Bruins given that Boston is one of his preferred destinations, but the trade asking price demanded by Columbus (some combination of Tyler Seguin, Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton) is far too rich.
So the chances of winning the Nash sweepstakes seem remote for the Bruins. As long as the Flyers appear willing to give up a player like James van Riemsdyk the high price for Nash doesnt appear to be changing anytime soon.
Both Parise and Suter would seem to be perfect players for the Bruins because all theyll cost is more of Jeremy Jacobs money.
Parise has scored 30-plus goals in each of his last five healthy seasons and led his New Jersey Devils to the Stanley Cup Finals. Suter quarterbacked the top-ranked Nashville Predators power play and would be the perfect No. 2 defenseman to pair with Zdeno Chara.
But both players are unrestricted free agents, and appear to have their own plans after earning that right.
Parises hometown team, the Minnesota Wild, is going to push hard for the dynamic US-born forward and the Detroit Red Wings are already clearing the decks for at least one if not both of the 7-8 million per players.
That doesnt sound like Boston is prominent in their thoughts or desires, and thats kind of important.
With the cap going up 10-percent for the summer after July 1 the Bruins do have the cap flexibility should the right player drop into their laps.
Everyone wants to try and read between the lines. Weve done our homework and we know what and who we like in free agency if we do decide to do that depending on where the market is, said Chiarelli. If something comes up then well definitely look at it, but Im really happy with what weve got right now.
But Chiarelli would also be forced to disrupt a team structure thats built the Bruins into a perennial contender in the wide open Eastern Conference.
Bs players like Dennis Seidenberg, Johnny Boychuk, Chris Kelly, Gregory Campbell, Rich Peverley, Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci eschewed free agency to remain with Boston at a discounted price.
Bringing in a top dollar free agent that would immediately vault past Chara as the highest paid player on the Bruins sends the kind of message Chiarelli doesnt appear comfortable sounding off.
When we get going in free agency we have the ability to acquire that 7-8 million player and carry that player during the season, said Chiarelli. With the egalitarian approach that weve taken to building this team and youve heard me say this on a number of occasions we always say this player took less and that player took less. Thats always true. We talked about two the other day in Gregory Campbell and Chris Kelly, but theres Rich Peverley, Johnny Boychuk and David Krejci.
Theres always a risk going to market, but if guys like that go to the free agent market theyre going to make more money. Its going to be hard for me to digest and facilitate the assimilation of that 7-8 million player into our lineup assuming that theyre going to get major, major dollars. Thats going to be hard. Philosophically it would be very hard to parachute a player like Parise, Suter or Nash into our group.
Theres also the long term concerns if the Bruins cracked open the vault and tossed out ridiculous cash for a top drawer player.
Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, Tyler Seguin and Nathan Horton all hit free agency after the 2012-13 season and will command a healthy chunk of player salary as the Bruins attempt to keep their Black and Gold band together.
For all of the reasons above, Chiarelli sounds much more willing to bypass the sexy NHL free agent names for something a little steadier and more familiar.
Mark Recchi isnt walking through the Bruins doors, but theyre looking to find the next best thing for a young Bs team that could still use tough veteran leadership and grit.
If were going to add somebody I would rather add a piece like a Mark Recchi. Those guys are hard to come by, said Chiarelli. They wouldnt be exactly like Rex, but those kinds of guys are out there via trade or free agency.
We have guys that are growing into that kind of leader, but hes a Hall of Fame player. We talked about the quality of chances and getting into those scoring areas that was lacking during the playoffs and hes a guy that epitomized that. He gets to those areas and other guys will follow that. Our guys will do it and theyll have learned from that Washington series that its required. But thats something you miss when Rex isnt around.
The young Bruins players did a commendable job of following Recchis lead into the danger areas en route to winning the Cup last year, but that was clearly something missing from this years short postseason trip.
A veteran NHL forward with cachet and leadership similar to Recchi would be the perfect fit in Chiarellis eyes, and there are some possibilities. Phoenix Coyotes forwards Shane Doan and Ray Whitney led their team to the Western Conference Finals, and will both be free agents after July 1.
Jarome Iginla moves closer to being traded from the mess in Calgary every single day, and is in the final year of a contract that pays him 7 million per season. A one-year investment in a player like Iginla with the possibility of extending him at a lower price beyond that makes much more sense.
Ryan Smyth has many of the same intangibles that Recchi brought to the table if he can be pried away from the Western Conference where hes made his home for an 18-year career aside from 18 games with the New York Islanders after a deadline deal in 2006-07.
There may be more names on Bostons list once the trade chatter kicks up around the NHL Draft next week, but it doesnt appear that any of those names will be Nash, Parise or Suter.