Free agency does not officially start until July 1, but for the 26 teams no longer playing hockey, their main focus is on retooling their respective clubs for the 2015-’16 season.
The Bruins are one of those 26 teams that have put 2014-’15 in the rear view mirror and have shifted their attention to the upcoming season, one that will be here before we know it. The Bruins have a handful of free agents—both restricted and unrestricted—that are seeking new contracts, leaving Don Sweeney and company with some tough decisions.
Gregory Campbell, Daniel Paille, Adam McQuaid, Matt Bartkowski and Soderberg are all unrestricted free agents while Brett Connolly, Ryan Spooner and Dougie Hamilton are restricted free agents. The Bruins have already notified Campbell and Paille that they would not be back with the club next season.
If you include the Long Term Injured Reserve spot that Marc Savard will be placed on, the Bruins have roughly $10 million in cap space. With Hamilton, Spooner and Connolly all expected to be back, the Bruins are not left with a ton of money to spend. That does not leave much money for the team to spend on unrestricted free agents—Soderberg included.
Soderberg has been very solid for the Bruins since joining the team in 2012 where he skated in just six games. In his last two full seasons with the Bruins, Soderberg has scored 29 goals and chipped in with 63 assists. Soderberg was one of two Bruins (Dennis Seidenberg) to skate in all 82 games last season.
With a bit of a weak free agent market this summer, Soderberg is expected to be one of the most sought out forwards on the market.
Soderberg wants to remain in Boston, but similar to Jarome Iginla’s departure from Boston, Soderberg’s impending raise combined with the Bruins salary cap issues may be too much to overcome, ultimately ending Soderberg’s tenure in Boston.
The Bruins are the lone team allowed to talk to Soderberg until the end of June, but it is expected that Soderberg will field offers from other teams before making a decision despite his interest in remaining a Bruin.
“I don’t know, I don’t think anyone knows. I want to hear from Boston for sure first. That’s my first choice. If we can find a solution together this coming couple of months that would be great” Soderberg said of remaining in Boston during the team’s breakup day last month.
“I came in here and we were the top team in the league  and the first two seasons went pretty smooth as a team. Even if we lost to Montreal last year [2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs], I think we had a strong year. I know we were a Stanley Cup contender. I think it was hard for the whole group to realize that weren’t a contender this year. We were battling for the playoffs, and I think it took a while into the season this year before we realized that” added Soderberg.
Soderberg is the perfect third line center. A big body that has a very smart hockey mind and play-making skills will be an assist to any team seeking his services. Soderberg’s expiring contract paid him just north of $1 million per season. As one on the top forwards on the market, Soderberg should expect something in the ballpark of $3.5 million per season.
Last week the Bruins announced the signing of Finnish forward Joonas Kemppainen. The 27-year-old was given a two-way contract worth $700,000 after spending five seasons with Karpat of the Finnish Elite League.
Like Soderberg, Kemppainen is too a natural center and a big body. Kemppainen is expected to battle for the Bruins’ fourth line center position, but could also be a replacement for Soderberg should he sign elsewhere.
Kemppainen really opened eyes with his play in this year’s World Championships where he had nine points in eight games for his native Finland.
Heading back to Sweden and the Swedish Elite League is always an option for Soderberg, but Soderberg made it clear that he wants to remain in the NHL for a few more years
“I’m going to play here for a couple years more, for sure.”