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BOSTON (CBS) -Let’s get this out of the way right off the top.
Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli has publicly maintained since the early days after his team’s first-round loss to Washington in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs that he wasn’t going to make a big splash in free agency or via trade this offseason and it’s doubtful his thinking will change.
A top-nine forward has been atop his shopping list since Joel Ward ended Boston’s season, and it’s probably still sitting there. But by Chiarelli’s thinking, he doesn’t even have to add that once the free-agent market opens Sunday and then the “secondary” trade market commences after most free agents have found a home.
Chiarelli got out in front of the market by re-signing key free agents Tuukka Rask, Chris Kelly, Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille in advance of free agency. Depending on how the market goes and where prices fall, retaining those key cogs to Boston’s efforts to return to a championship level might be the biggest names Chiarelli gets on the dotted line this summer.
Right off the bat, you could pretty much rule out the Bruins being part of any bidding on the two biggest free agent prizes: Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Adding such high-caliber players would require too much cash, cap space and maneuvering to make room. By that same token, Alexander Semin and Matt Carle, who are probably the No. 2 forward and defenseman, respectively, are also out of the question.
There are a few other bigger names that would be pipe dreams for the Bruins, particularly among veteran forwards. Getting Shane Doan, Teemu Selanne or Jaromir Jagr to pull wear black and gold would require some major coaxing and conniving, not to mention the funds. None are likely to move away too far from where they’ve spent most of their recent seasons. While Dustin Penner or Olli Jokinen might be able to boost Boston’s offense, they’re the type of inconsistent talents the Bruins usually shy away from, especially when the price tags get hefty.
More than likely the Bruins are going to wind up with a bargain-basement signing or two. At forward, you’re talking about someone in the mold of Jeff Halpern, Ruslan Fedotenko or Daniel Winnik. On defense, where they figure to not have a regular job open if you believe one of Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug or Matt Bartkowski will be ready for a role next season, Boston might only consider a veteran in the ilk of Scott Hannan, Kurtis Foster or Bruno Gervais (someone that might quickly be trade bait or wind up on the sidelines).
Nonetheless, there are a few “second-tier” forwards the Bruins might want to consider bringing into the fold, even if they might have to sell of Tim Thomas’ cap hit, and or use Marc Savard’s LTIR money. These are guys that can still produce, bring leadership and don’t require a ton of ice time on a deep team.
Ray Whitney from Phoenix is a guy who’s long been rumored as a center of Boston’s attention. The 40-year-old scored 24 goals last season and might want more years than the Bruins would be willing to offer, but maybe they could lure him with another chance to win. The Coyotes’ situation is still up in the air, so he may or may not want to stick around to try to make a run with a final-four team.
Edmonton’s Ryan Smyth (36) might not want to come East. He proved last season he still has some gas in the tank and has always been a great leader. St. Louis’ Jamie Langenbrunner (also 36) brings more intangibles these days, but that could benefit Boston’s opportunity to watch its bottom line. Petr Sykora (35) returned to North America with a 21-goal campaign. By the end of New Jersey’s playoff run, he was basically out of the mix. That might make him willing to cash a check for barely six figures and be a complementary part of a championship-caliber club. You can’t go wrong adding any of these guys to Boston’s already harmonious dressing room.