- James Murphy, Bruins reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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With free agency under way, we decided to check in with a Bruins mailbag. Most of the focus was on the offseason and what more the Bruins plan to do. On to the questions:
Q: I know Chiarelli has said the B's wouldn't be too active in free agency, but I'm still a little disappointed they haven't done more. Do you think there are still moves to make? And if the B's don't make any real upgrades this offseason are they good enough to win it all? -- Bill (Worcester, Mass.)
A: I can understand the frustration over the Bruins' inactivity thus far in this offseason, especially when Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli said on July 1 that he has the green light to spend on high-profile free agents, but isn't doing so. Instead, Chiarelli is focusing on keeping his young core intact and bringing back the majority of the roster that won the Stanley Cup in 2011. I do think that roster is good enough to contend for the Stanley Cup again and that the Bruins' first-round playoff exit will make them stronger and give them even more desire to win. I also think at some point, whether it be this offseason or during the season, Chiarelli will make a trade or two. Fans also need to remember that Tuukka Rask, Tyler Seguin, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand and Jordan Caron will all be restricted free agents next summer, and Nathan Horton, Andrew Ference and Anton Khudobin will be unrestricted free agents. Factor in the uncertainty of the new CBA and a possible lockout, and that's a lot to juggle. Chiarelli has made it clear that he'd like to keep the core together, but at the same time he hasn't ruled out making moves, so don't be surprised if they end up pulling the trigger on a trade.
Q: Hey Murph, I personally think the Bruins should look at trades this offseason instead of signing free agents. Now that the "Big Two" took their talents to Minnesota do you anticipate seeing a lot of trades? Also, do you think Shea Weber wants to be traded now that Suter and Alexander Radulov are no longer on the team? And if so, do you think the Bruins could trade for him without giving up Dougie Hamilton and/or Tyler Seguin? Lastly, what are the chances the Bruins get Bobby Ryan or anyone else via trade this offseason and what would the trade package look like? Thanks in advance and keep up the great work! -- Michael G (East Falmouth, Mass.)
A: As said above, I think there's a solid chance -- whether during the offseason or during the season -- that Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli makes a trade or two to improve his squad. As for Weber and whether they can acquire him without surrendering Seguin and/or Hamilton, I'm not exactly sure. With Nashville considering itself a contender still, it will do everything in its power to keep Weber. But if the Predators decide that isn't possible, they'll have to try to trade him after watching Ryan Suter walk away for nothing in return. They can't let that happen with Weber. If they decide to trade Weber, they'll want roster players who can have an immediate impact. I think they would target Seguin first because they're an offensively starved team. But I can't see the Bruins making that deal. They might counter with the likes of Lucic or David Krejci, but that's just pure speculation. As for Bobby Ryan, I would imagine the Bruins have called the Ducks, but at this point I believe it's simply at the exploratory stage. Once again, I would think with the Ducks wanting a second-line center, Krejci might need to be a part of that deal.
Q: Do you think the B's will go into next season with Anton Khudobin as the backup, or will they look for someone more experienced? -- Bill (Hartford, Conn.)
A: I think that's a very valid question, and I have posed it a lot over the past few weeks. Khudobin is a solid young netminder, but I'm not sure I'd want to count on him to carry the load if Tuukka Rask gets hurt or struggles. The problem is that Khudobin is on a one-way contract. But I still think bringing in a veteran on a two-way deal would be worth it. You can never have too much experience between the pipes. Ty Conklin, Brent Johnson and Dwayne Roloson could all be worth looks in September.
Q: From what you saw and have heard, do you think Dougie Hamilton will make the team for the upcoming season? And if so, what kind of an impact do you think he can make? (It sure would be nice to get a little more help on the power play.) -- Rick J. (Connecticut)
A: Based on what I've seen and heard from Bruins coaches and management, yes, I do think Hamilton makes the team. I think he is ready to take that next step, and eventually I believe he can help the team and the power play a lot. However, the key word there is eventually, and I think patience by the team, the fans, the media and Hamilton himself will be needed. Claude Julien already has showed with Seguin that regardless of a player's skill set, he must earn his ice time. That involves growing pains for a lot of young players as they learn how to be professionals on and off the ice. But if Hamilton and the team remain on the same page and his development is handled properly, he will follow the same path as Seguin and be a budding young star in the NHL.
Q: Do you think either Ryan Spooner or Jared Knight will end up having an impact this season with the Bruins? Of the two, which is more likely to end up in Boston at some point in 2012-13? -- Matty (Boston)
A: I do believe that one or both could be regulars in the lineup at some point this upcoming season. Spooner had a better development camp, and I think he may possess more offensive skill, but I think Knight is a better all-around player, and I see him having a bigger impact. Knight seems more mature on and off the ice, and his recent playoff success in the Memorial Cup playoffs with the London Knights will benefit him greatly at the pro level. I also think he is more of a Julien-type player with skill and grit.
Q: The deals for Parise and Suter got me thinking about whether the Bruins would ever offer a player that many years. I know it's one way to spread the $ out, but it just seems crazy. That said, maybe for someone like Seguin? -- Bill J. (Stoneham, Mass.)
A: With the way Chiarelli handles the cap, and based on his previous deals with star players like Zdeno Chara, Tim Thomas and Patrice Bergeron, I can't see him making a 13-year commitment like that. Also factor in the uncertainty of the CBA, and that's even more of a reason he wouldn't do that. Chiarelli is a GM who thinks both in the now and toward the future, but never too far into the future, as he seems to want his younger players -- regardless of pure skill -- to prove themselves. I'd have to say I agree with his methods.
Q: With so many players set for free agency following this season (either restricted or unrestricted), which players do you think will be a priority for Peter Chiarelli in terms of working on new deals? -- Carl (Hadley, Mass.)
A: It's refreshing to read your question in the midst of the current free-agent frenzy. You're exactly right that they have a huge offseason coming up next summer and there are plenty of key players to sign. I think Seguin (RFA) and Rask (RFA) -- as long as he delivers as the starter -- will be the top priorities. But after that, I think it's up to Lucic (RFA), Marchand (RFA), Caron, Horton (UFA), Ference (UFA) and Khudobin (UFA) to prove themselves and show Chiarelli that they deserve the kind of deals they'll be looking for. By not going hard after Zach Parise and/or Ryan Suter this summer, Chiarelli is showing those players that he believes in them and wants them to be part of the future in Boston. This is a huge season for all of them.
Q: Does Chris Bourque have any chance to make the Bruins to start the season? Maybe in Benoit Pouliot's spot (assuming the B's don't add other players)? -- JLR (Portland, Maine)
A: I'd be very surprised if Bourque makes the team out of camp. While Bourque has put up solid numbers at the AHL, including a league-leading 93 points last season, he has never been able to stick in the NHL, appearing in just 33 games. He likely will start in Providence, and if he can continue to produce there, maybe he'll be an in-season call-up for the Bruins. I think prospects like Knight and Spooner have a much better chance than Bourque of contributing in Boston this season.
Why hasn't Peter Chiarelli been more active in free agency?