Oh, what a difference seven years can make.
When the Bruins last faced a looming lockout, their general manager at the time, Mike OConnell, felt the best course of action was to allow a solid nucleus to dissolve in free agency. Playmaking center Michael Nylander, in-his-prime puck-moving defenseman Sergei Gonchar, prototype power forward Mike Knuble and Mr. Versatility Brian Rolston were all allowed to leave Boston heading into the lockout.
OConnell and the Bruins had a belief that the NHL lockout landscape would create a bountiful free agent class in a buyers market, but a few things tripped them up. Chief among those tripping points was a 24 percent salary rollback for the players that OConnell and Harry Sinden didnt foresee in those bitter CBA negotiations.
That serious free agency misread led to overpayment for cooked free agent veterans like Brian Leetch and Alex Zhamnov, and within two seasons the Bruins franchise was in a free fall after dealing franchise player Joe Thornton.
It wouldnt be hyperbole to say that the Bruins front office had the worst strategy coming out of the last lockout.
Its amazing how things have changed.
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli is determined to keep his core of Bruins players together that won a Stanley Cup two years ago, and has re-signed young forwards Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin to multi-year deals over the last week. Marchand inked a four-year, 18 million extension at the end of last week that will keep him in Boston through the 2016-17 season, and Seguin signed a six-year, 34.5 million that will keep in Boston through the 2018-19 campaign.
I think thats where I am right now in my career. I feel like Ive settled in a bit here in Boston over two years. I dont think my age is a factor. I want to be a leader, even at the age of 20, said Seguin. Getting situated with the boys and learning everybody and getting to know everyone in the organization, I feel I can step into those leadership roles and step into those shoes.
Whether its new guys or just giving a good example out there on the ice, thats what I want to do.
Seguin will be earn an average of 5.75 million per season that will make him the highest paid forward on the Bruins roster, and put him in the same neighborhood as the contracts signed by Carolina Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner and Edmonton Oilers Taylor Hall last month.
Chiarelli has worked tirelessly to make sure that history wont repeat itself in Boston around this lockout even if he wasnt a primary witness to the botched roster strategy. He also wont be held hostage by the unknown CBA that will be in place over the next few months, and the conditions that might make it necessary for him to make trades under a lowered salary cap.
Chiarelli also took some issue with past reputations for penny-pinching within the walls of the Bruins ownership offices. It might have simply come down to a former Bs front office contingent -- one that helped lead the Bruins to more than 20 straight playoff appearances -- that made some major miscalculations in the end with the franchise paying the price.
You have to look at what our projected payroll and projected layout will be after this year to gauge the money thats being spent, said Chiarelli. But your point about the frugality of the Jacobs family? I hadnt been part of that and I dont know if it really ever existed. I take you for your word that that was the reputation. But I do know that when I came in here that -- Id seen past payrolls here -- the payroll was fairly high.
"We want to be prudent and we want to be fiscally responsible when we make these decisions. I think weve shown that we generally have been and will continue to try to be, but we also want to win. We want to put the best team on the ice for our fans. I think before you can characterize us as lofty, lofty spenders -- and were obviously in the top quartile over the course of my tenure here -- it does show commitment on the part of our ownership and a willingness to win. Were going to continue to do it that way, but in a responsible way. Its about making smart decisions."
Clearly both Marchand and Seguin had motives to get deals done before potentially unfriendly CBA conditions become a reality, and No. 19 is the future of the Boston Bruins franchise. Hes just scratching the surface of his greatness after leading the Bruins in goals, and points in his second NHL season, and he talked on Tuesday about beginning a life in Boston.
Chiarelli had plenty on his plate with Marchand, Seguin, Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton, Tuukka Rask and Andrew Ference all facing free agency after this upcoming season, and perhaps even greater headaches ahead if the players are fighting for less money. The Bruins general manager now has two of those major deals taken care of before the next NHL season eventually gets underway.
Lucic should be similarly signed if both sides can find something in the 5.5 million-per-season range to lock up a vital power forward piece in the Black and Gold attack.
As if the Stanley Cup championship and the four Northeast Division titles in the last five seasons didnt separate Chiarelli and Co. enough from the business as usual that had transpired on Causeway Street prior to their arrival, the Bruins pre-lockout strategy this time around is 180 degrees different.
It would appear this B's regime is determined not to repeat history, and that's a very good thing.
Its also another sign that the Black and Gold will be headed in the proper direction once the NHL comes to its senses and starts playing the games that everybody will be pining for over the next few months.