That old expression “you can’t win them all” is so overused, it borderlines on the nauseating level.
However, with this particular Boston Bruins team, it undoubtedly applies.
After taking a few days to sit back and reflect on this particular Stanley Cup shortcoming, the amount of disappointment was not that high at all. Why was this the case? It was because the Bruins lost to a better team. In fact, the Chicago Blackhawks were statistically the best team in the NHL for the entire season, so it was only fitting that they would hoist the greatest trophy in all of sports at the end of the day.
Sure, Gregory Campbell went down with a broken leg and Patrice Bergeron played through a plethora of painful ailments. With that being said, the Bruins will not use injuries as an excuse on why they could not get it done. Excuses are for the weak.
During last year’s brief playoff run, we were left with a feeling of disgust and utter shock when the Bruins lost to the Washington Capitals in the first round. The B’s were the better team, yet they were forced to play the Capitals style of play and that turned out to be costly. It was awful to watch.
Fast forward to right now. The Bruins still have some big questions they have to answer in regards to next season.
The obvious one to start with is Tuukka Rask. He proved that he is a number one goaltender in this league and he will get paid. The concern with him was whether or not he could do it in the playoffs. Even though he fell two games shy of winning it all, he certainly recorded some solid numbers. He posted a 1.88 goals against average with a .940 save percentage and three shutouts this postseason. Those “injuries” that he suffered last season held up pretty well and he certainly became battle tested.
According to sources, the starting ground for a new contract for the restricted free agent netminder is six years/$39 million. That averages out to be around $6.5 million per season. The highest paid goaltender in the league is Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators, who makes $7 million per year. Rask falls slightly under his skill level, so the $6 million dollar range sounds about right.
With backup goaltender Anton Khudobin becoming an unrestricted free agent, look for him to get an offer from another team. Perhaps Calgary, Philadelphia, or Tampa Bay could be potential landing spots for Khudobin. Niklas Svedberg should be the backup for Rask next year, assuming a deal gets done with No. 40.
Also, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli announced that he will not re-sign unrestricted free agents Andrew Ference, Jaromir Jagr, and Jay Pandolfo to new contracts. Jagr (no playoff goals) and Pandolfo (no playoff games) are obvious choices not to bring back.
However, some may look at the situation with Ference and be split down the middle. He spent seven seasons wearing the Black and Gold and has appeared in two Stanley Cup Finals during that time, winning one of them. He was a true Bruin at heart. Unfortunately, the Bruins need to get younger at the defense position and bringing Ference back would only prolong the inevitable. With both Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg well into their thirties, it is time for Dougie Hamilton and Matt Bartkowski to join Torey Krug with this solid defensive core.
Lastly, the Bruins should try and work out a deal with forward Nathan Horton.
Normally, he would not enter a situation where he would get overpaid. With this being such a weak free agency class, Horton has become a prized commodity even with his concussion history. Is he worth four or five million dollars per year? The Bruins may have to pay close to that if they want to keep him.
Will they trade a player like Chris Kelly or Rich Peverley to make some room? Will they finally terminate the contract of Marc Savard to clear that space? They have options, but they have to make a couple of tough decisions to bring back the core of this team due to the new collective bargaining agreement.
It is in the Bruins’ best interests to bring back most of their free agents. They will be competitive for most of next year, and once the trade deadline approaches, they can go out and get that piece or two that will put them over the top.
All of this action will take place very soon. October cannot come quickly enough. The 2013-14 NHL season is only a few months away.