Bruins best unsigned players won’t come free

Stuart should be in for a raise/Photo by S. Bradley

If you want some return on your investment, you shouldn’t turn to Wall Street. You should buy a piece of the Bruins’ free-agent defensemen. Two are headed to unrestricted free agency and one is going to be restricted.

Dennis Seidenberg, Johnny Boychuk and Mark Stuart all made strides this season and should be in line for healthy raises. Bottom line, the Bruins will be hard-pressed to keep all three, if they’re so inclined. All three seem like perfect fits for head coach Claude Julien’s defensive system, but that pesky salary cap always gets in the way.

As per the numbers at nhlnumbers.com, the Bruins have 12 players that spent the majority of the 2009-10 season in the NHL under contract for next season at a total of around $46 million. That leaves around $10 million to fill the roster with six forwards and two defensemen. When you add in the player Boston will draft at No. 2 (probably a forward), Boston would have around $9 million left for the seven extra players (depending on what happens with the bonus buffer that allows teams to keep players at their base salary and count bonuses toward the following season).

Here’s a capsule look at the Bruins’ scheduled free agents and the likelihood they’ll be wearing black and gold again next winter:

Unrestricted

Player, Pos., 2009-10 salary, Stock direction

Steve Begin, C/W, $850,000, Steady

Begin proved a prescient pickup for his toughness and penalty-killing ability. But it’s not likely he’ll be back because of the Bruins depth down the middle – when healty – and the need to promote from within. Boston’s going to have to make way for Brad Marchand, Zach Hamill and others to ascend to the NHL. Trent Whitfield, who is under contract for next season after a cup of coffee in Boston this year, could also fill Begin’s role.

Johnny Boychuk, D, $500,000, Rising

No player did more to earn himself a raise than Boychuk, who provided the Bruins with sound positional play and some game-changing open-ice hits while working next to Zdeno Chara against other teams’ top lines after the Seidenberg injury. He’s not going to break the bank, but he should be cracking seven figures this summer. I’d expect the Bruins wouldn’t let a player they helped develop (after trading for him) to get away.

Mark Recchi, RW, $1 million, Rising

You can count on one hand the nights Recchi looked 42 on the ice, all the way until the bitter end of Boston’s season. The reason his stock is rising is because teams like Pittsburgh, Washington and Philadelphia have to be looking at the future Hall-of-Famer as the type of player and leader every championship team needs. Considering even a slight raise would still make Recchi a bargain, Boston might have to do some bidding this summer. I think they’ll do so, within reason, and should do all they can to make sure the de facto voice of the locker room stays in the fold.

Miroslav Satan, RW, $700,000, Rising

While Satan was little help to the Bruins as the Flyers series was slipping away, his contributions obviously were a huge boost to Boston’s playoff push and first-round upset of Buffalo. For a guy that didn’t sign until January, Satan exceeded expectations. However, the Bruins can only devote so many roster spots to inconsistent veterans (see Michael Ryder and the injured Marco Sturm). You factor the inconsistency in with the raise Satan’s possibly due after sitting out half of this season and you figure he’s a goner.

Dennis Seidenberg, D, $2.25 million, Rising

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