Since the 2013 Bruins season didn’t officially end until Monday night’s stunning 3-2 loss to the Blackhawks in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final that means that Boston’s front office has already hit the ground running because the NHL Draft is on Sunday (3-8 pm, NBC Sports) and then free agency starts on July 5. Beginning with yesterday’s exit interviews at TD Garden, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli opened the process of deciding what to do with Boston’s nine impending free agents (7 unrestricted, 2 restricted).
Jaromir Jagr’s brief time in Black and Gold is over while steady defenseman Andrew Ference was also told he won’t be back after spending parts of seven seasons in the Hub. Kaspars Daugavins, Wade Redden, Jay Pandolfo and Aaron Johnson likely won’t return either, not that anyone will notice. That leaves both goaltenders-Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin-along with winger Nathan Horton. Expect Rask to get a huge deal possibly before free agency even starts. It’s harder to say what will happen to Khudobin (9-4-1, 2.32 GAA, .932 save percentage, 1 shutout) who looked good in limited action during the regular season. Since he’s young (27), he could get a chance to be a starter somewhere else that’s desperate for goaltending. The B’s will worry about Horton’s injury history but you can’t debate his importance when the postseason rolls around which is why I think they’ll keep him.
One of the ways that the B’s can work around the salary cap is by putting Marc Savard on long term injured reverse. Underachievers like Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley could be dealt after they were mostly invisible this past season. Around the NHL, teams have started buying out bad contracts leading to guys like Vincent LeCavalier (Lightning) and Danny Briere (Flyers) now being available. Younger and more attractive free agents out there include forwards Valeri Filppula (Red Wings), David Clarkson (Devils), Ryane Clowe (Rangers) and Stephen Weiss (Panthers) among others. Boston is more set on defense with rookies Torey Krug, Matt Bartkowski and Dougie Hamilton all showing their value at various times during the playoffs but Ian White (Red Wings) and Ryan Whitney (Oilers) are two veterans to keep an eye on.
The Bruins are in very good shape heading into this shortened offseason, assuming that they do what is expected by re-signing Rask and giving Patrice Bergeron an extension which would put themselves in good position to make another run at the Stanley Cup when the 2013-2014 regular season begins in October.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate