Mailbag answers: Part I

Ference/By S. Bradley

Well, no one can accuse my readers of sitting back and ignoring the Bruins, even in the dog days of July.

I put out the call for mailbag questions and received enough to fill two entire posts – or even more. Most of you want to know about Blake Wheeler, Michael Ryder, Tuukka Rask, Tim Thomas and Marc Savard. Even in the middle of summer, these topics are hot. So without further ado, here’s Part I of my mailbag.

Jonathan S. writes:

I don’t understand why Chiarelli constantly wastes valuable cap space on mediocre players (Ference, Thornton, Thomas etc.). The Ference contract is beyond bad. Not only is the guy always hurt, he is not a good player yet he gets a raise plus a 3-year extension. Mind boggling. Where is the cap management?

MK: Jonathan, I would disagree about lumping Thornton and Thomas in with Ference. When Thomas signed, he was on his way to the Vezina and still had a solid season last year. Thornton is a perfect fourth-line player and enforcer, and he makes less than a million dollars.

By the same point, the Ference deal boggles my mind as much as it does yours. Even if the Bruins value him as a top-four defenseman and believe that he’ll be healthier the next few years, to jump the gun and sign him to a deal that rich for that long without seeing how the offseason market would play out was maybe Chiarelli’s most bizarre and unexplainable act. At least you could make an argument that the Thomas deal made sense because of the way he was playing and the questions about Rask’s ability to play in the NHL. Ference has had stretches where he has been Boston’s best defenseman. But he was a guy I thought they could bring back on the cheap, or even on a tryout, based on the fact he was going to get surgery this summer.

Your questions about the Bruins’ cap management abilities are valid. While there are a few other teams in similar situations, Boston seems to be in deeper because while Philadelphia can go and move a Simon Gagne, Boston doesn’t seem to be able to move any of its bad deals because those contracts, and the players, are that bad.

Keith writes:

Who in your mind is more important to sign to a long-term deal before the end of next year, Bergeron or Chara? I say Bergeron due to his age and three-zone play. I would like to see Chara back at a cap hit of around 5 million. I am sure Bergeron will command a raise and years. With him at such a young age, it seems like it would have to be something in the 10+ years to make it a cap friendly deal.

MK: The way the Bruins are currently built – with Savard, Seguin and Krejci in the fold – Chara is the more important re-signing to me. Some of my readers give Chara a bad rap, but they fail to think what the Bruins would look like without one of the league’s best defensemen back there to clean up others’ mistakes and shut down some of the top snipers in the league. You can knock his offensive production this season, but considering his busted finger and everyone else’s struggles, you have to look more at what Chara does with his defensive skills and with his intimidation.

Throwing out the fact that his conditioning level probably would allow for him to play five or six more years at a high level, for at least the next three years, he’ll be one of the top five blueliners in the league. The Bruins cannot afford to let him to play those years in another uniform. They haven’t drafted anything resembling a future backline star, and with most of the league’s top young stars signed to long-term deals with their current teams, it’ll be impossible to add another No. 1 defensemen, let alone someone to replace everything Chara provides.

As for Bergeron, he’s a great two-way center who probably has more offensive abilities than he has shown the last two years. All indications are the Bruins want to re-sign him as much as Chara. But when you add Campbell, Colborne and Hamill into the mix of centers, obviously Bergeron would be the easier of the two players to replace – although I wouldn’t want to be Chiarelli if he has to try to do that.

Matt writes:

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