BOSTON (CBS) — The end of the 2013 Bruins playoff run is also the end of Andrew Ference’s Bruins career.
The veteran defenseman spoke to the media Wednesday as the players packed up their lockers for the summer, and he said he won’t be back.
“With the current cap, Peter [Chiarelli] isn’t going to be able to keep me,” Ference said. “So you know, he’s got to re-sign Tuukka [Rask], and obviously do his side of the business.”
Chiarelli later confirmed that the team will let Ference walk in free agency.
“If you can recall, we brought him in my first year. He’s been part of this, what we’ve built here,” Chiarelli said. “The warrior-type of attitude and playing style for his size. As Claude talked about, the leadership. He’s been through seven years, basically, and you can’t say enough about his leadership and what he’s brought to our organization. It was a tough conversation to have.”
Ference, 34, was traded to Boston in February of 2007 along with Chuck Kobasew in exchange for Brad Stuart and Wayne Primeau, two of the three players acquired in the Joe Thornton deal. In his first full season in Boston in 2007-08, Ference had just one goal and 14 assists to go with a minus-14 rating. The minus-14 was by far the worst on the team, with Phil Kessel’s minus-6 the second-worst.
However, in the five seasons that followed, Ference averaged three goals and 12 assists while posting a plus-40 rating and establishing himself as a reliable D-man on the second pairing on the 2011 Stanley Cup run.
Ference signed a three-year deal worth $2.25 million before the 2010-11 season, which at the time brought criticism upon Peter Chiarelli for overpaying for an injury-prone defenseman. Yet it turned out to be a bit of a bargain, with Ference playing in 190 of a possible 212 regular-season games, as well as 46 of a possible 52 playoff games. He introduced the team jacket for the player of the game in 2011, and he brought the Army Rangers jacket during this postseason run.
His importance to the team was evident in his being named an alternate captain following the Stanley Cup victory, splitting the second “A” with Chris Kelly.
But now with the salary cap set to be lowered next season, Ference said he knows the Bruins will need to spend their money elsewhere.
“Unfortunately with the new CBA, he’s restricted. [Chiarelli] said ‘wish it wasn’t so,’ but that’s the way it is,” Ference said.
Ference’s departure will be notable beyond the hockey reasons, as he has made himself a part of the city as much as any other athlete in Boston. He and his bicycle became well known around the city, to the point where he towed the Stanley Cup around town on the back of his bike. Ference also lent his support to numerous environmental and charitable causes during his time in Boston.
“It’s the outside of the rink stuff that has made it,” Ference said. “The city has been unbelievable.”
While both sides would probably prefer to continue the relationship for at least a couple of more years, the reality of the business is forcing an early end.
“We’re losing not just a good player, but also a leader in the dressing room and everything else,” head coach Claude Julien said. “He’s always gone above and beyond with the little things in the dressing room and everything that comes with it. He’s been a good teammate, smart. Every year in the playoffs he always took the initiative to come up with some of the ideas of the jackets and stuff like that. He’s meant a lot. He’s really respected by his teammates, but at the same time these are the toughest things. I can’t speak for Peter, but I’m going to speak for myself, as a coach. As much as you like players and as much as you respect them, sometimes it’s not about the emotions, it’s more about the business side of it that creates those situations. Knowing Andrew and not having talked to him about that, because Peter did, he’s professional enough and smart enough to understand the situation. Do we lose a good player? Absolutely.”