The Boston Bruins are in an enviable position. They are coming off a Stanley Cup winning season, have a majority of their key players locked into deals, and have some cap space to sign players (with more to come if/when Marc Savard announces his retirement due to injury). Peter Chiarelli will not tinker too much with the lineup, but here are some things he likely he looking to do:
1. Sign a Top 4 defenseman: Unlike many, I still would not be shocked if this were Tomas Kaberle. With a summer to prepare and a training camp with Claude Julien and the Bruins, Kaberle would be in much better shape and understand the systems Julien and the Bruins employ better. He played better as the playoffs progressed, and if he is willing to take around $3 million or so a season, the Bruins might bring him back. If not, there are a few other options out there:
- James Wisniewksi: Columbus has exclusive bargaining rights with the talented Wisniewski (10-41-51) through tonight, but if he makes it to July 1, the Bruins may bite on the 27-year-old.
- Christian Ehrhoff: His rights have been traded twice, and Buffalo has the cash to sign Ehrhoff, who had a great season with the Vancouver Canucks (14-36-50. At 28, he may just be entering his prime.
- Anton Babchuk: The 27-year-old might not be in the same class as Wisniewksi or Ehrhoff, but he has potential. He has plenty of offensive skill and a cannon from the point, but is prone to turnovers in his own zone. He might be a guy who would excel in a new city with a talented team. Had 11 goals and 24 assists and was a plus-14 with Calgary.
2. Sign Brad Marchand to a reasonable deal: Sure Marchand had a great playoff and is a cult hero in Boston, but the Bruins need to be careful not to overpay him. He has the potential to be an all-star, and the Bruins should sign him to a three-year deal for about $2 million annually.
3. Sign a top-nine winger: The Bruins have plenty of depth at center and have 11 of 12 forward spots pretty much set as only Mark Recchi and Michael Ryder (maybe) are gone, and Tyler Seguin seems ready to play a bigger role. Some UFA possibilities include Ryder (at a much-reduced salary), Ville Leion (19-34-53), Erik Cole (26-26-52), Jussi Jokinen (19-33-52), Radim Vrbata (18-29-47), Simon Gagne (17-23-40), and Tomas Fleischmann (12-19-31 in just 45 games). CHris Drury, who was bought out by the Rangers, could fill a valuable role (in Recchi’s spot) as a veteran leader
Of course, there are a few intriguing RFAs out there, including two guys I think would be great fits in black and gold: Zach Parise, Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky. I would be shocked if New Jersey let Parise go, but if the Rangers sign Steven Stamkos, Callahan and/or Dubisnky would become available.
4. Figure out the goalie situation: After winning a Stanley Cup, Conn Smythe Tropjy, and Vezina Trophy, Tim Thomas clearly goes into next season as Boston’s No.1 goalie. However, he will turn 38 during the season and the Bruins must find a way to get Tuukka Rask more starts than he did for most of this season. If he is not their goalie of the future, then they need to trade him while he has value.
5. Don’t get comfortable: The Bruins are in a position to be good for awhile, as they have young talent at all positions and have signed proven talent long-term. This year’s team provided plenty of thrills and a Stanley Cup, but one of the reasons they won was because Chiarelli went out and made changes and added pieces. Though I don’t see a major kove this summer, other than maybe Wisniewski or Ehrhoff, I do think the Bruins need to be active at the trading deadline once again. The trades for Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley especially had an impact on the Cup run.