- Joe McDonald, ESPN Staff Writer
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The players were given Tuesday off but need to return to work Wednesday for their annual exit meetings with management and the coaching staff before packing their bags and heading home for the summer.
Owner Jeremy Jacobs and team president Cam Neely will hold their annual season-ending press conference on Friday and general manager Peter Chiarelli will be in New Jersey this weekend for the NHL Draft.
So, with the new season just 13 weeks away, here are the issues on top of Chiarelli’s to do list this offseason:
1. It’s Tuukka time (to cash in): Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask proved he can be a No. 1 goaltender in this league with the way he performed the entire season, especially in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The 26-year-old netminder is a restricted free agent and is expected to get a big payday from the Bruins this summer. Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne currently has a seven-year, $49 million contract, while New York Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist has a six-year, $41.25 millon deal. Rask should earn more than both, with the lowest figure starting at $8.5 per year and a longer-term contract. A seven-year, $60 million deal isn’t out of the question.
2. Bring back Horton?: Bruins forward Nathan Horton is an unrestricted free agent and is also looking for a big contract. He would like to remain in Boston but the Bruins probably wouldn’t offer him the kind of contract he’s looking for. If he’s comfortable here and wants to remain here, he would have to accept a discounted deal to stay in a Bruins sweater. Horton played the entire postseason with a shoulder injury, and with his concussion history, it could be a tough sell for any organization to give him a lucrative, long-term deal. What the Bruins should focus on, however, is Horton’s chemistry with linemates David Krejci and Milan Lucic as a reason to re-sign him.
3. Ference’s future: Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference is the only other UFA on the roster, and like Horton, he also wants to remain in Boston. He’s a leader and a big part of the community. Given his experience and leadership, other organizations would like to sign a player like Ference. Don’t be surprised if the Bruins let him sign elsewhere, especially with the young core of defensemen in the Bruins organization to take his place.
4. Locking up Bergeron: If there’s one player in the NHL today that should remain with one organization his entire career, it’s Patrice Bergeron. Ever since he began his pro career with the Bruins as an 18-year-old in 2003, he’s been a leader on and off the ice. The 27-year-old forward becomes a UFA after next season, but the Bruins need to lock him up with a long-term deal (don’t rule out an 8-year extension). He does have a history of concussions, but the guts he showed in the Stanley Cup finals by playing with a broken rib, torn rib cartilage and a separated shoulder just added another level to an already impressive career for the team’s assistant captain. He should remain a Bruin for the rest of his career and his No. 37 should someday hang from the rafters at the Garden.
5. Youthful blue-liners: The young blueliners for the Bruins made a name for themselves this season. Former first-round pick Dougie Hamilton played well in his rookie season in the NHL. The 19-year-old defenseman honed his skills and gained valuable experience while playing alongside veteran Dennis Seidenberg for the majority of the season. Hamilton was a healthy scratch for the majority of the Stanley Cup playoffs but it was an opportunity for him to watch and learn what it takes to win at this level. Expect more from him during his sophomore season. Joining Hamilton on the blue next season will be Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski. Both players showed skill and ability to compete at this level, especially in the postseason. Their emergence could make it easier for the Bruins to not re-sign Ference if Chiarelli believes that’s the right move.
6. Should Bruins deal Seguin?: Tyler Seguin, the Bruins former No. 2 overall pick in 2010, just completed his third season in the NHL. From an offensive standpoint, he has not produced consistently and admitted after Game 6 of the Cup finals that doctors would exam him Tuesday for a hip condition he’s had since he was a kid. There’s been chatter around the league that the Bruins would consider moving him, maybe even on draft day. There’s no denying his talents but he needs to add more to the mix in Boston and earn his massive contract. Yes, he’s only 21, but he needs to mature in a hurry.
7. Peverley and Kelly in focus: When the Bruins acquired Rich Peverley at the trade deadline in 2011, both he and Chris Kelly were major factors in the team’s Cup run that spring. The Bruins locked up Peverley through the 2014-2015 season and Kelly through 2015-2016. Both struggled with consistency during the regular season but improved as the team went deeper in the playoffs. While both are important veterans in the room, Chiarelli could be tempted to move Peverley this summer.
8. Julien is key: Bruins coach Claude Julien also should receive the credit he deserves and should be the coach here for a long time. The players respect him, play for him and have bought into his system. The Bruins should make sure his in place for a long time. He got an extension before this past season, but the term of that contract was not revealed.
9. Don’t forget the GM: Chiarelli has managed this organization deftly, too. He’s kept the core of this team in place since winning the Cup in 2011 and he’s built a perennial winner. He and Julien should be a package deal and remain in Boston for the long term. He’s under contract through the 2013-14 season and should be in line for an extension as well.
10. Who backs up Tuukka?: Once Rask is locked up, Chiarelli needs to determine whether Anton Khudobin will be the backup goalie. He’s a restricted free agent and proved his worth this season. But the team also has P-Bruins goalie Niklas Svedberg, who also had a phenomenal year in Providence and impressed management.