The nucleus of the Bruins is expected to be the same heading into next season after a one-and-done playoff showing against the Caps last week.
But that doesnt mean there wont be roster-tweaking and player changes for the Bs after a long summer away from the rink. Ten Bruins players will be approaching free agency on July 1 if you want to include Marty Turco in the mix -- and some of the names on the list were key performers during their Stanley Cup run.
Ive got to look at our roster and obviously we have some guys that are unsigned: Benoit Pouliot, Chris Kelly, Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell, Joe Corvo, the two additions three additions, sorry. So, we obviously have some guys to consider whether we sign them or not, said Peter Chiarelli. From the makeover perspective, certainly were not going to do anything to makeover this team. You hear me talk about the parity in this league and our first round loss in seven games this year can be another Stanley Cup Final next year its that close.
"You saw the number of teams in the West you kind of see the new four teams in the West and you see some different teams in the East so you just have to be prepared. Id like to maybe look at a forward to bolster our top nine, doesnt mean Im going to look at signing Pouliot. It doesnt mean were not going to consider Caron up there. I just want to look at the trade market and the free agent market.
Chris Kelly is the name at the top of the wanted free agent list after potting a career-high 20 goals during the regular season. The perfect 18-0-0 record when Kelly scored a goal this year tells you all about the importance of secondary scoring on the Bruins, and the gritty centers nightly impact on wins and losses. The 31-year Kelly picked the perfect time for a career year, and should attract interest around the league if he gets to July without a new contract.
Kelly said he loves Boston and has voiced a strong desire to return, but thats been the lament of many an athlete on their way out of town.
Playoff-caliber teams will look at the third line center as the exact sort of leadershipintangibles guy that could help put them over the top as he did with the Bruins last year. Peter Chiarelli might have to pay more than anticipated to keep Kelly in Black and Gold moving forward, and that might be difficult given the salary cap uncertainty headed into next year.
Kelly has come in and done a great job for us, said Bruins President Cam Neely. Hes got great character. Hes shown some very good leadership qualities that are also very important.
Kelly is the most likely unrestricted free agent to return, however.
Restricted free agents Tuukka Rask and Benoit Pouliot are likely to return to Boston next season with Rask a certified lock and Pouliot a good candidate as long as he brings along the same bargain basement price tag as last season.
Fourth liners Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille might return if the circumstance (ahemthe money) is right, but theres no denying simple facts: the fourth line didnt have a very good season for the Bruins and got dominated by the Mike Knuble, Joel Ward and Keith Aucoin fourth line of Washington during the playoffs.
It might be time for both players to cash in on the cachet of their Stanley Cup experience elsewhere. Likewise it might be best for the Bruins to bring in younger, hungrier players ready to breathe fire on Bostons fourth line.
It was telling that Shawn Thornton was taken care of during the regular season with a contract extension while his fellow Merlot linemates were not.
Local product Mike Mottau makes a lot of sense for the Bruins as their extra defenseman given his understanding of the system and veteran willingness to play in a reserve role.
Id welcome it a lot more after being able to get into the lineup and know that I could have some success here. Its a good group of guys that work with each other," Mottau said. "I know I could have success here because it plays to some of my strengths: hockey intellect and decision-making. I know I could be inserted into the lineup and play, and add value. I would totally welcome that.
Its really ultimately up to them to see where I fit within the organization. Well have a conversation and see where it takes us.
But it would be surprising to see Greg Zanon return to the Bruins after inconsistent work through the regular season and playoffs. It would also be jaw-droppingly stupefying to see Joe Corvo return after a season with the Bruins that defined the term short money mistake.
So the Bruins have some work to do on the defensive side of the ice whether its Dougie Hamilton joining the NHL ranks as a teen-ager, or a free agent singing that could answer Bostons power play and puck-moving issues.
There may be some new faces in the Bruins fold next season, but thats not necessarily a bad thing coming off such a disappointing finish.