As the 2014 Stanley Cup Final is set to begin this week without the Boston Bruins, the Black and Gold are left licking their wounds, looking back and trying to figure out what went wrong in their quest for the cup. As their focus shifts from what went wrong to what they need to do to be better, General Manager Peter Chiarelli and company will have some decisions on their hands. The Bruins enter the summer of 2014 with five restricted and five unrestricted free agents on their NHL roster.
With their big trade of Tyler Seguin on July 4 and their free agent signing of Jarome Iginla a day later, the Bruins sent off some mid-summer fireworks a year ago. Besides for the ones being sent off on the Charles River on the fourth, Chiarelli doesn’t expect many fireworks in Boston in the early days of July.
“But this is a very good team. This is a very good team. There are some tweaks here and there but it is a very good team,” said Chiarelli during the club’s breakup day.
“Strong down the middle, strong to the nets, good character, good core, we’ve won the Presidents’ Trophy, we beat Detroit in five, we lost in seven to Montreal. It’s like, you know, emotional. Very emotional and it is my job to be unemotional about it. So this is a good team and there are some trends in hockey that we have to address in this team. It may be that we don’t get addressed until fall or half way through the year or July first or before. Just, like, you have to let things unfold sometimes. But we’re not going to make too many changes to this team but there will be some changes.”
Whether it’s indeed “tweaks,” changes-large or small, the Bruins have some decisions to make as they begin to mold what will be the 2014-15 Boston Bruins. The biggest decision they have is whether or not they bring back Iginla. The future Hall-of-Fame forward would love to remain in Boston, but whether or not that can happen remains to be seen.
“Yeah, I am very thankful for getting the chance to be here this year and had a great time. I’ve had a great experience all the way through, around the city, with the team, the guys, during the regular season. It’s been a great opportunity, got to play with great players; it’s a great room, real strong leadership with Z [Zdeno Chara] and Bergy, [Patrice Bergeron] Soup [Greg Campbell] the list goes on,” said Iginla.
“It’s a great group and I hope to be able to come back and I know it’s something that I hope that works and there’s a deal there for everyone. But I know the Bruins need to look at what they want to do and whatever, but yeah, I really enjoyed it and hope there’s something worked out there because I also think it’s a team that has a good of a shot as any to win and I think that next year the team can have that.”
After Nathan Horton decided Boston was no longer where he wanted to be, the Bruins were left with a huge gap on their first line. Iginla stepped in for Horton and fit in perfectly with David Krejci and Milan Lucic, combining to be one of the league’s most productive lines.
At 36, Iginla knows his chances of winning a Stanley Cup are getting slimmer and slimmer. If Iginla truly believes Boston is his best chance at winning that elusive cup, then Iginla should make a huge push to remain in Boston.
The next question the Bruins will face is what to do what the “Merlot Line.” A staple in Boston over the last several years, the Bruins fourth line had arguably their worst playoff run since the trio became a line. With Shawn Thornton a free agent, and a crop of young prospects waiting in the wings, it may be time for the Bruins and Thornton to part ways.
“I am hoping I am back. I don’t know,” Thornton said at breakup day. “I haven’t had my meetings yet, but if not I am still going to be in the community. I am still going to be here. This is where we live now. This is home. That stuff will not change. I’ll be here, trying to get back when I can. I love it here.”
Thornton seemed to have a bit of a black cloud following him around this past season. From his incident with Brooks Orpik, to his squirting water at P.K. Subban during the playoffs, this past season was one Thornton will want to forget.
With Dennis Seidenberg expected back and full healthy and a young core of blueliners already producing at the NHL level, the Bruins have some decisions to make on the blueline. Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski are restricted free agents while the Bruins’ two trade deadline additions-Corey Potter and Andrej Meszaros are unrestricted free agents.
With the Bruins already tight to the cap, and having six defensemen under contract for the 2014-15 season, it should come to no surprise if either Bartkowski or Krug are calling elsewhere home next season.
After a poor playoff performance for the second straight year and some on ice moves that didn’t sit too well with Bruins management, Brad Marchand has been the subject of trade rumors. Marchand scored 20-plus goals in 2013-14, the third time he has done so. But his “on-ice antics” has started to get in the way of what Marchand can do on the ice from an offensive standpoint, something that was very much discussed on breakup day.
“I think sometimes his antics get in the way. This has been a discussion I’ve had, we’ve had, Claude [Julien] has had over the course of three, four, five years and it’s a challenge for Brad [Marchand] to play that aggressive way and not to cross the line,” added Chiarelli.
“And you’ve heard this from me a lot and if those were reputation calls, I’d be disappointed but sometimes that’s the reality. So we both had productive meetings with Brad today and he scored 25 goals and he thought he had a bad year. That’s where he puts his expectations and we talked about that other stuff and we had productive conversation. So I don’t know what it is but we have to dial back some of that stuff and that includes Marchy [Marchand].”
After serving as the back-up to Tuukka Rask, Chad Johnson is set to become a free agent. Johnston was exactly what the Bruins were looking for as a Rask’s backup. Johnson went 17-4-3 with a .925 save percentage and a 2.10 goals-against average. Johnson also had a stretch where he won 11 of 12 straight starts. With goalie prospects Niklas Svedberg and Malcolm Subban knocking on the door, the Bruins may be better off letting Chad Johnson walk away.
The salary cap is expected to increase to approximately $71 million next season, but how much of that the Bruins can use is a mystery. Thanks to performance bonuses to Iginla, the Bruins could be facing around $3 million in bonuses that will go against the cap. With that being said, there are still ways the Bruins can go over the cap and move some stuff around in order to add some new blood to the club.