Bergeron/By S. Bradley

There’s a vocal minority of folks expressing the opinion that the Bruins overpaid for Patrice Bergeron and gave Zdeno Chara too many years last week when they re-signed both veterans last week.

While you could argue these points until you’re blue (or is it black and gold?) in the face, the best justification for Boston’s decision to commit to their best two-way center and one of the league’s premier blueliners for the long haul resides in next summer’s unrestricted free agent class.

Or rather, it doesn’t reside there — as in, there are no quick fixes to be found among potential UFAs. As Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun pointed out today, with Joe Thornton re-upping this weekend with San Jose on the heels of Bergeron and Chara re-signing in Boston, “GMs looking to remake their teams will be shopping in a shallow pool of talent” next summer.

Imagine a world where the Bruins lose lucrative bidding wars for Bergeron and Chara on the open market. If they don’t win the Bergeron bidding, they probably don’t get the job done with Brad Richards, who’s truly the only would-be UFA center comparable to Bergeron. Would you want to see the Bruins spend their freed-up money on Tim Connolly or Michal Handzus?

Then you look at the back end, where Chara is 100 percent irreplaceable. Tomas Kaberle, Andrei Markov and Ed Jovanovski could be available. Good luck maintaining one of the league’s stingiest defenses with one of those guys plugged in as a No. 1 at the top of Boston’s depth chart filled with third and fourth Ds.

This is the trend that has become more prominent every year since the second summer after the lockout. Teams keep retaining their home-grown stars and even agreeing to long-term extensions with their acquired veterans. In their minds, they’re willing to risk some major cash and give a player the security of multiple¬† guaranteed years in order to avoid the uncertainty of importing talent from other organizations.

The free agent classes of 2012 and beyond should be even thinner than 2011, as this trend intensifies and pretty soon the only way for a major name to change teams will be via trade. A trade, of course, requires giving up assets to add some. That can be a tough way to build up an organization.

If I’ve written it once, I’ve written it 100 times (or at least 50 times) — in order to maintain the legitimacy of the franchise and guarantee its position as a top-tier team for the better part of this decade, the Bruins had to get those deals done with two of their most valuable all-around players. You cannot blame the Bruins for being proactive and generous with Bergeron and Chara, you can only pity teams that are hoping to land a big fish or two next summer and beyond.