BOSTON — “Wary” of the cost of top-tier talent and not really needing major changes after winning the Stanley Cup anyway, Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said he doesn’t expect to be active in free agency when it begins on Friday.
“I’m wary of the market, where I think it might be going,” Chiarelli told reporters in a conference call on Thursday. “There are some good players out there. But I look at it and there’s not a lot of names that jump off the board. … I feel the need to resist to give them the extra term or the extra dollar, and that’s what ends up happening.”
The Bruins are off to their shortest summer in history, with free agency starting only two weeks after they beat the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals to clinch Boston’s first NHL championship since 1972. Chiarelli told his team not to spend too much time celebrating because training camp starts in less than three months.
“In my exit interviews with our players, I told them, ‘Keep your eye on the calendar. This isn’t a typical summer’,” Chiarelli said. “We’re prepared to face a challenge from the ‘hangover’ perspective to start the year. And we certainly want to deal with it in our preparation of the players and our themes going into training camp.”
The players aren’t the only ones with an abbreviated offseason: Chiarelli has little time to prepare for the market to open.
Fortunately, he has a pretty good roster to fall back on. Of the players who made significant contributions during the Stanley Cup run, only Michael Ryder and Tomas Kaberle are unrestricted free agents.
Chiarelli said he hasn’t given up on Kaberle, the team’s big acquisition at the trade deadline. Billed as a puck-moving defenseman, Kaberle had 38 points with Toronto before the trade, but just nine as a Bruin, and only 11 in 25 playoff games.
Chiarelli said he told Kaberle and Ryder to test the free-agent market, then come back to the Bruins to see if the price was right.
“The risk that we run is that they will get a deal. Then, they can’t come back to us. And I understand that risk. So that’s where those two guys stand,” Chiarelli said. “Those are two guys that gave us good service. So, for the right number, I would like to have them back. But I don’t know what that number is.”
Chiarelli said he expects the salary cap to come down because of the problems in the North American economy, and the lack of top-tier players on the market could also inflate the prices of those that are available. There’s also the fact that the Bruins need to re-sign some of their own, including rookie phenom forward Brad Marchand, who is due for a big raise after their championship sea son.
“So I’m really not in a position to go out,” Chiarelli said, “and give a guy a big-term contract.”
Chiarelli said that he will not be making an offer to Shane Hnidy, who played in just three regular-season games and three playoff games for Boston since signing as a free agent in February. The restricted free agents who were tendered qualifying offers are Andrew Bodnarchuk, Stefan Chaput and Marchand.
Marchand, who had 11 goals in the playoffs, was the only one who played in Boston this season. Negotiations have not yet begun on a new deal.
One player who won’t be back? Forward Mark Recchi, who retired after winning his third Cup. Chiarelli said he won’t try to replace Recchi’s leadership in the locker room, but the hope is that the players who remain have grown through their experience this offseason and will fill that role themselves.
“I’m not rushing out to get that person,” Chiarelli said. “And that characteristic may be in a forward or a (defenseman) that we have. But I’m also prepared to go without that type of player because I do feel strongly about our group.”