With training camp, amazingly, right around the corner (it opens Sept. 16), we dig into your pressing questions. Don't forget to send in your questions here:
Q: Hey guys, I love David Krejci as a player, but I still feel like he hasn't reached his potential yet. Do you think he can ever be a consistent 80-90 point a year guy? If so, what does he need to do to reach that level? -- Rick (Natick, Mass.)
A: Rick, David Krejci's past three seasons have been up, then down and then up again, with the Czech center totaling a career-high 73 points in 82 games in 2008-09, then 52 points in 79 games in 2009-10, and then rising back up to 62 points in 75 games this past season. So we know that he can produce and he has proven that he can handle the load of being a No. 1 center when asked to be. But I think the biggest test isn't necessarily whether he can reach that 90-point plateau every season. Don't get me wrong, that would be nice, but the Bruins really just need the David Krejci of the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs, when he had 23 points in 25 games. His recent playoff performance was reminiscent of that 2008-09 season. He has the potential to reach the numbers you discussed, but even the 73-point Krejci year in and year out would be just fine for the Bruins.
Q: Assuming Marc Savard doesn't retire and his contractual salary becomes available under the cap to the Bruins, beyond the determined efforts to re-sign their own valuable players for the future, what areas do you think the Bruins need to invest in? And who might some of the players be that the Bruins could target (given their current contractual situations)? Brian (Boston)
A: I am glad you brought this topic up. Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli is starting to get some criticism for his rather quiet summer but as you point out, he has plenty of in-house business to take care of next summer with 10 potential free agents (seven unrestricted and three restricted). Chances are he will focus on bringing many of those players back to keep what is now a Cup-winning core together. But with Savard's $4 million hit now gone, the Bruins will have $11.7 million in cap space this season, so should Chiarelli decide he needs to fill some holes during the season or even shake the team up, he has the cap room to do so. He also has the cap room to sign a marquee unrestricted free-agent next summer if he opts to go that route instead of trying to bring back all of his own free agents. He could still keep his core together signing 2012 restricted free agents Krejci and Tuukka Rask, and if he shed some salary elsewhere, he could dip into what will be a solid unrestricted free agent market with the likes of Alexander Semin, Zach Parise and Jiri Hudler. The Bruins need a bona-fide scorer on the wing and any of those three players would fit that role.
Q: After his up-and-down season, do you think Johnny Boychuck can settle down some this year and be more consistent. When he's playing well, I really like his game but he seems to get flustered and lose his confidence. -- J.J. (Boston)
A: I was recently discussing Johnny Boychuk with another Boston hockey scribe and we both agreed unless he has a solid camp and/or start to the season, he very well could find himself being shipped off the Bruins' blue line. Boychuk is an unrestricted free agent next season, and with young defensemen like Matt Bartkowski and Steven Kampfer, it is time for him to step up if he wants to keep his spot. I completely agree with your assessment. I love the booming slapshot he brings and the physical element of his game, but he was less than average on too many nights last season. That needs to change or he may be traded. Do I think he can prevent this? Yes. But I think his work ethic needs to improve.
Q: Would Brad Marchand become a UFA after next season? I could see him signing a one-year deal if he can't get the deal he wants and then go out on the open market after the season. Your thoughts? -- Jeff (Manchester, N.H.)
A: Brad Marchand cannot become a UFA until he is 26 years old. To be honest, if he wants to hit paydirt then, he best settle for less right now. True, he was a major part of the Bruins' Cup run and was a solid player, but it was one season. He needs to sign a deal before camp and show he can do this on a consistent basis. He is not going to get the deal he wants right now, and if he holds out, he will hurt himself and the team. Marchand needs to take what he can get and prove he can consistently be the player he was in the playoffs. Then and only then will he get the megadeal he and his agent Wade Arnott appear to think he deserves.
Q: Just wondering if you think Ryan Spooner has a shot at sticking with the team this year. To me, he stuck out the most in the one rookie development camp session I attended last year. He was one of the last cuts last year. I think he could be a steal as a second-rounder last year. -- Frank (Watertown, Mass.)
A: I agree with you on Ryan Spooner's performance last summer. I really like his potential and I thought he had a solid training camp as well last year. I see him making some noise again this training camp and I think with a solid performance in Providence this season he will be with the big club next season.
Q: I know the B's are fairly deep at center, but what are the chances Zach Hamill gets a fair shake at making the squad this year? Or will the B's try to move him at some point? Having watched him play in the WHL in Everett, I hate seeing him sit in Providence without much of a true opportunity in the NHL -- especially having been a first-round draft pick. -- Jeremy (Washington)
A: I think it's now or never for Zach Hamill. He needs to come into training camp and show he belongs with the Bruins. If he doesn't make the team this season, I do see him being traded or never really getting a shot with the big club again. The Bruins are just too deep at center throughout the organization and Hamill needs to make a statement now. He has produced somewhat in Providence, but he just has never materialized into the player he showed signs of being when you saw him play in Everett. I'll be honest, I don't see much of a future for him in Boston, and you have to think the Bruins wish they'd drafted Logan Couture instead of him in 2007.
Q: With the great penalty killing of Daniel Paille in the playoffs, do you think he will get more playing time and not be the healthy scratch as much as he was last year? -- Eric (Dighton, Mass.)
A: I think Daniel Paille's spot in the lineup is now his to lose. He has proven, as you said, to be a strong penalty killer, but his speed has shown he can be even more valuable at even strength. He's a smart veteran and has a spot unless he comes in and doesn't work hard, which would be a shocker. Paille has been one of the hardest workers on the team.
James Murphy covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.