Don’t expect any blockbuster signings by the Boston Bruins when free agency opens tomorrow.
Not that that’s any news flash because it’s no secret the Bruins only have around $7 million of cap space to get deals done with their three major restricted free agents — Phil Kessel, Matt Hunwick and Byron Bitz — and retain or import a couple complementary unrestricted players.
But today during a conference call, Chiarelli made it clear that he’s going to stick to his cautious persona.
“We’re going to sit back. There are certainly players that we like and we feel that there’s good fits for those players,” the GM said. “Again … history has shown that whenever there’s people talking about being reluctant or conservative going into this period, there are always people that will pay. If you’ve done the homework and the scouting on these players, players that are still available, then you go after them. But you won’t – unless something drastic changes – you won’t see aggressive moves by us to start.”
Chiarelli doesn’t comment on ongoing negotiations, but he did admit he’s talked to the representative for unrestricted free agent forward P.J. Axelsson. The story on Axelsson and a few other UFA players hasn’t changed since before the draft.
“We have to again wait and see how things unfold as this period unfolds itself,” Chiarelli said. “There are some players that we’d like to have back at the right number. And if it’s not the right number, then we’ll move by them. I say that generally …”
As for Kessel, starting July 1 he can negotiate an offer sheet with any of the other 29 NHL teams. The Bruins presented him a qualifying offer, so they can match any outside offer. Depending on the size of the offer from another team, the Bruins could let Kessel go and receive two or three draft picks in return. But as of right now Chiarelli is sticking to his pre-draft stance on offer sheets.
“I’ve gone on record that we’re going to match it, and we will. That’s the approach that we’re going to take going into this free agency period,” said Chiarelli. “Things change as far as teams that get aggressive. My guess is there’ll be overtures at some point. But I have to deal with them as they unfold. At the end of the day, if it’s something that we don’t feel is prudent, then we’re not going to do it. But there’s a salary structure that’s in place and we’re not going to stray from it.”
As for what type of player Chiarelli might consider once he decides to spend some free agent cash, he made no secret of his desire for something to bolster the blue-line corps.
“I’d like the defenseman, if we’re going to do something, to have a good two-way component to him. I think you’ve seen in watching us play, it’s important to be able to defend. So that’s certainly going to be the baseline for any type of player if that’s what we choose to do,” said the GM.
A little later, while dealing in some hypothetical situations, Chiarelli again addressed the defense and made sure to express his satisfaction with the group he has.
“I’m happy with our D. If we don’t do anything with our team, I’m happy with it,” said Chiarelli, echoing what he’s said ever since the Bruins fell to Carolina in Game 7 of the second round without Andrew Ference and Hunwick available. “Because you have to remember that two of our defensemen didn’t play in the last two series. I feel that that’s a big part that’s missing.”
Barring a major turn of events, Chiarelli will be bringing back that same D corps and pretty much the same entire team that won the Eastern Conference in the regular season in 2008-09. Obviously, however, things have a way of making a 180-degree turn once noon July 1 passes.