WILMINGTON, Mass. -- With the NHL free-agent market set to begin Sunday, Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli isn't wavering from what he has said for the past two weeks. Chiarelli reiterated Friday he doesn't plan on making a splash in free agency and if he's active at all, it would be via a trade.
"My gut is telling me that we'll be quiet," Chiarelli said. "Now if you look at as to how we've built our team over the years ... we haven't really gone out and hit a couple home runs on July 1.
"And I said this earlier, maybe I look at the trade market after the July 1 but my gut is I'll probably be quiet."
With defensemen Ryan Suter and Justin Schultz and forward Zach Parise becoming unrestricted free agents at noon Sunday, that might not be what Bruins fans want to hear. But they may be happy to know that Chiarelli is doing everything he can to keep the core of a team that won a Stanley Cup together little more than a year ago. And he's keeping the uncertainty of the expiring collective bargaining agreement in mind.
"Believe it or not, I'm trying to be cautious and trying to keep the team together," Chiarelli said. "So I like the flexibility we have going forward. Whether it's these [restricted free agents], these contracts that are expiring, whether it's the young guys coming up that may be good replacement players, whether it's specifically on Tim Thomas' deal -- his deal will be expiring -- so I actually like that flexibility but I try and be cautious. I'm trying to operate under that number and I'm a shade under it now."
According to CapGeek.com, the Bruins are $277,857 under the $70.2 million salary cap, but they can gain $4 million by placing Marc Savard on long-term injured reserve. They also have the $5 million cap hit from Tim Thomas, whom they are trying to trade to a team that needs to get to the salary-cap floor. With those options to gain cap space, Chiarelli may utilize the trade market to improve his squad while still keeping the CBA and future contracts in mind.
"I mean there's seven or eight players every year," Chiarelli said. "I think that's kind of a healthy cycle to go through and while we have some players on longer terms, I don't mind having a cluster of players that we have to make decisions on.
"You saw us this year with -- with the [Rich] Peverleys, the [Johnny] Boychuks -- they're all gonna be unrestricted -- the Peverleys, the Boychuks, [Chris] Kellys, [Gregory] Campbells. ... You'd like to stagger everyone perfectly, and I think we do a pretty good job of it. So we'll have a bunch of RFAs to look at and we'll deal with them appropriately. So it would be nice to know what the new system will be and I think at that point, we will."