The Bruins' early exit from the playoffs gave fans some time to fill our Bruins mailbag -- and us time to answer your questions.
Q: If you could sign only one guy (and taking into account the contract it would likely take), would you re-sign Chris Kelly or Greg Campbell? Kelly obviously is a more skilled player, but Campbell would be cheaper (and maybe for less years too). -- Bill (Natick, Mass.)
A: You make some valid points, but I think if forced to make a decision, money or skill wouldn't be deciding factors. The "A" on Chris Kelly's sweater would be.
Numerous players told me during the 2011 Stanley Cup finals that they were very impressed with the way Kelly became an instant leader and that they were confident that Kelly's leadership would grow stronger in the 2011-12 season. That is one of the main reasons that Kelly, along with Andrew Ference, was given the vacant "A" left by Mark Recchi's retirement. According to one player, Recchi voiced a vote of confidence in Kelly when the team was deciding on who would get the "A."
From all accounts, Kelly lived up to the letter on his sweater, and I can't see GM Peter Chiarelli giving up that leadership -- along with the skill you referenced. That is not to undervalue what Campbell brings. Chances are Chiarelli will sign both, but if forced to choose, I think Chiarelli would pick Kelly.
A: There's a reason I am not a GM, but if I had to choose whether to sign Zach Parise or Ryan Suter, I would choose Suter and fill my scoring needs with one or two cheaper solutions.
To me, the one thing this team is truly missing, and has been for a while now, is a defenseman who can be that power-play quarterback but isn't a liability on the blue line. Dennis Wideman in 2008-09 was the closest thing they had to that, but we all know how the next season went. Joe Corvo was a bust.
Even if he doesn't sign Suter, Chiarelli needs to solve this problem this offseason. The lack of power-play production clearly was an issue against the Capitals. If the Bruins had this type of defenseman, then they likely would be playing in the second round.
As to whether the Bruins will be players in the Parise and Suter sweepstakes, I think they will definitely be in the mix of teams pursuing these prized free agents, but my guess is they eventually will get outbid as the price tag rises. I also believe Chiarelli wants to keep his young core in place. But he could acquire that power-play quarterback and legit puck-moving defenseman via trade if he gets creative enough.
Q: What's the biggest area the Bruins need to focus on improving this offseason? -- Larry J. (Cape Cod)
A: As mentioned above, I think somehow finding the right defenseman to run the power play is essential, but I also think -- and Chiarelli said this would be a focus in the break-up news conference -- depth scoring is right up there.
If Chiarelli isn't fibbing and he is approaching the offseason the same way he did the trade deadline, under the assumption that Nathan Horton will be 100 percent ready for the start of the season, I believe that could be a major mistake -- again. While the market was thin at the deadline, the fact Chiarelli approached it as if Horton would definitely return was, in my eyes, the wrong way to go. If any team should appreciate the uncertainty of concussions, it should be the Bruins, and the safer and smarter approach would be to move forward knowing there is a solid chance we may never see the same Horton again. If he does come back and you have a logjam at power forward, so much the better.
Q: Assuming the Bruins look into trading Tim Thomas this offseason, what kind of return do you think they could get? Also, I think Tuukka Rask is going to be good, but don't you think it's still risky given his lack of experience? -- Jerry (Springfield, Mass.)
A: I think the Bruins could net a second-round pick and/or multiple picks or prospects. I have been told by a reliable source that the Lightning have expressed interest in Thomas before and will be a suitor should the two-time Vezina Trophy winner become available.
Thomas still has value, and as he has shown in the past, when the critics start to doubt him, as they did this season and in the playoffs, he usually proves them wrong. As for Rask, I definitely think he is ready. He was a starter in 2009-10 and helped the Bruins win a playoff round. Yes, he has had some hiccups but the learning curve is pointed in the right direction. It's time for the Bruins to hand over the reins to the 25-year-old Rask.
Q: The rumors regarding Tim Thomas's future didn't take long to get started, which doesn't surprise me. My question regards Anton Khudobin. Looking at CapGeek.com, it appears that his contract is a one-way deal for next season. Is he a viable backup for Tuukka Rask in the event of a Thomas trade? If Thomas isn't traded, would Khudobin need to pass through waivers in order to be assigned to Providence? -- Russ (Reading, Mass.)
A: You are correct that Anton Khudobin is on a one-way contract. With regard to Khudobin being ready, I guess only time will tell. He would have to pass through waivers, so my guess is that in the offseason, the Bruins will see if they can get a veteran goalie to come to camp on a tryout or sign him to a two-way contract. If that veteran goalie outplays Khudobin, then the Bruins can take the risk of trying to pass Khudobin through waivers. Of course, this is all contingent on Thomas being traded.
Q: Do you think David Krejci can ever take another step and become a legit star or is this his ceiling -- really good, but maybe not quite as good as Bruins fans hoped he'd be? Maybe I just need to resign myself to the fact that he's more a 60-point-a-year guy and not an 80-point-a-year guy. That's still really good, but not as good as I had hoped. -- Anthony (Boston)
A: Prior to this season, and even as Krejci and his linemates struggled at the start of the season, I stuck to the belief that he could be an 80-point player, maybe even better. While I still think he could, I believe the 2012-13 season and more specifically the playoffs will be crucial for Krejci's future in Boston. He is entering only the second season of a four-year deal, but the Bruins are deep at center and if he can't be the Krejci we saw in the 2011 Cup run, then I believe the Bruins will trade him before his value gets lower.
Q: Now that the Bruins are out, what's your prediction for the Cup finals? -- Nate (Connecticut)
A: Honestly, after what we saw in the first round, I have no clue. At this point, one would have to go with the top seed that survived, but as the playoffs again have proven, anything can happen. If forced to choose right now -- and this is just a gut feeling -- I like the Los Angeles Kings over the Philadelphia Flyers. An 8-seed to win the Stanley Cup over a 5-seed? Why? Because it's the Cup.
Q: Do you think Tyler Seguin can make another leap forward and turn into a legit superstar (I'm talking 80-90 points)? -- James F. (Portland, Maine)
A: As long as Tyler Seguin doesn't let the fame go to his head, I think we will see him reach that level of success. Seguin is set to become a superstar and the scariest thing about that is that he also is set to become a restricted free agent on July 1, 2013. If I were Chiarelli, I would look into extending Seguin during next season if he comes flying out of the gate and proves that he is only going to get better.