BOSTON (CBS) – The wounds of the Bruins Stanley Cup Final loss are still fresh, but it’s never too early to look ahead.
CBSBostonsports.com Bruins blogger Matt Kalman joined 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich on Tuesday morning, looking ahead to an interesting offseason that awaits the Boston Bruins.
Tuukka Rask proved himself during the playoffs and is in line for a big payday. But Nathan Horton and Andrew Ference are both free agents as well, and without much cap space to work with, Peter Chiarelli will have some tough decisions to make this summer.
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Nathan Horton may go through peaks and valleys in the regular season and is a bit injury prone, but does his performance in the postseason make him a worthy investment?
“Somebody is going to do it because the guy played through it, and we saw early on how hot he was. We saw that when he is practically coasting through the regular season how he puts up 25 goals a year, and that’s a premium people are going to pay for,” said Kalman. “The bigger thing for Horton, as far as it goes for the Bruins, is if they can fit him under the cap. That’s going to be Peter Chiarelli’s big challenge — to determine how many guys he can bring back and if he can clear room for everybody.”
Kalman believes veteran blue liner Andrew Ference won’t be back, with Boston’s stock of young defensemen.
“At some point you have to give in and clear space (for the younger guys). You raise them to play, so you’re going to have Krug, Bartkowski and Hamilton battling for (Ference’s) spot, and then you’ll have some veterans like Boychuk and McQuaid, who if they’re back, will have to compete for playing time,” Kalman said of the Bruins’ defense next season. “A guy like Boychuk had a great playoffs, and maybe this is the time where his stock is high and you move him to clear some room under the cap and on your back line for the younger guys. There are some tough decisions for Peter Chiarelli, especially in light of not winning the Cup. The hangover next year is going to be amazing, so it’s going to be a tough offseason for Peter.”
Should the Bruins lose Horton to free agency, Kalman says it will be up to Tyler Seguin to fill the void.
“He has to find a level of consistency,” said Kalman. “There has to be a time when he gets up into the top six and carries a line like that and can really earn those minutes. That means scoring and playing two-way hockey, because if you’re going to play this system you have to do it and you have to do it every night. You don’t want to be a Nathan Horton in the regular season.”
“They have to have a 25-30 goal scorer that plays two-way hockey. We’ve seen glimpses of that (with Seguin), but he has to be able to do it consistently,” said Kalman.