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Thursday, June 26, 2014
Question: Rely on yougsters improving?

By Joe McDonald

Editor’s note: With free agency starting on July 1 and the window for teams to interview free agents starting on June 25, we’re taking a look at some the questions facing the Bruins.

Will the Bruins be active in free agency and the trade market or will they be content to rely almost solely on players already under their control?

The Bruins should keep their offseason blueprint simple: re-sign forward Jarome Iginla, add a veteran on the blue line and expect improvement from their less-experienced players.

General manager Peter Chiarelli admitted he’s not going “full force” into the free-agent market, mostly because of the team’s salary-cap constraints. If Chiarelli stays true to his plan of just tweaking his roster, that by default means he is prepared to rely on their up-and-coming youngsters.

That doesn’t mean he’s opposed to making a trade, it just means he is confident in the organization’s depth and youth.

The Bruins’ inexperience, specifically on defense, was one of the primary reasons they were upset by the Canadiens in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Nevertheless, there is reason to believe the young d-men -- Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug, Kevan Miller and Matt Bartkowski -- are poised to rebound.

With two seasons of experience, Hamilton should have a major impact for Boston. Krug dealt with his growing pains last season, but he should be more consistent in 2014-2015. Miller played well during the regular season, and besides a few mental miscues in the playoffs, he’ll add force and strength to the blue line. Bartkowski could be the odd man out if everyone is healthy and might be a candidate to be dealt.

Offensively, the Bruins will likely create some healthy internal competition during training camp. The offensive youth infusion could include Ryan Spooner, Justin Florek, Matt Fraser and Alexander Khokhlachev.