BOSTON -- By extending the contract of Peter Chiarelli through the 2017-18 season, the Boston Bruins lock up one of the top general managers in the NHL and keep the rest of the organization's hockey operations staff intact.
And that's exactly what Chiarelli wants.
With a new contract in hand and job security for the next five seasons, Chiarelli, sporting his 2011 Stanley Cup ring, sat between Bruins principal Charlie Jacobs and team president Cam Neely during a press conference Friday morning at TD Garden.
In his opening statement, Chiarelli credited the organization and his staff. He specifically mentioned the great hockey minds of Neely and assistant GMs Don Sweeney and Jim Benning.
"I am a firm believer, and I said this before, in that you are only as good as the people around you and the key in this business is to get good people around you and be well informed to make these decisions," Chiarelli said. "I've talked about challenges; that is a challenge, to get people and it's imperative in hockey. It is a fleeting business and things change quickly. And to have good people, smart people, aggressive, proactive thinkers, that is how you are going to succeed."
Chiarelli allows his staff to do its job and he accepts input freely on matters of scouting, drafting, signing and developing. Without that team effort, the Bruins would not be where they are as an elite team in the NHL, and Chiarelli wouldn't have a new contract.
During his first seven seasons as GM, Chiarelli and the Bruins have enjoyed success. Interestingly enough, when asked what his most satisfying accomplishment has been, most would think he'd have said winning the 2011 Stanley Cup. But that wasn't the case.
"I've got to say the single biggest thing was hiring Claude [Julien]," Chiarelli said. "He came off of being fired twice [Montreal and New Jersey] and there were a lot of questions about him so I knew he would be receptive to things. So obviously I knew what he was like -- receptive to things so he could evolve with the rest of us."
The relationship between Chiarelli and Julien has evolved and the synergy has become strong enough to the point where Chiarelli was comfortable making a public statement after last season, saying as long as he's the GM in Boston, Julien would be the coach. There have been times during Julien's tenure in Boston when some thought he would be fired: during the 2011 season when the Bruins trailed the Montreal Canadiens by two games in the first round of the playoffs, and again this spring when the Toronto Maple Leafs forced a Game 7 in the first round. But the Bruins responded by winning each series and reaching the Stanley Cup finals in both seasons.
Chiarelli credits the communication between ownership, the management staff and hockey operations for the team's success the last few years. It hasn't always been easy in Boston for Chiarelli. When he first arrived, the hockey culture was struggling. The Bruins had shown flashes of success, but it wasn't consistent.
Chiarelli hired Dave Lewis to coach the Bruins in 2006-07, but it didn't turn out well as the Bruins finished 35-41-6. To his credit, Chiarelli quickly made a change. He fired Lewis and hired Julien.
"I never tried to make it my organization," Chiarelli said. "You come in and there were some terrific people on the ice already here, off the ice. So you just have to rely on your judgment when you're meeting these people, making assessments, trying to figure out how to improve the current state of affairs. There were some hard decisions and there were sleepless nights, especially that first year. But you know, I talked about delivering a message, Cam talked about the plan, that stuff has to be consistent and to stick by your standards and to stick by your principles, eventually that trickles down and you start seeing the fruits of your labor. So you just stick to it, recognize trends and move quickly where it's needed."
The Bruins have already accomplished the ultimate goal in hockey -- winning the Stanley Cup in 2011 -- but Chiarelli believes there is room for improvement. It's a strong mindset to have, especially given the fact the Bruins have reached the Cup finals twice in the last three seasons and the team is built for another deep run in the playoffs.
Those improvements include the continued development of the organization's young talent. The Bruins' recent homegrown talent has already proved crucial to the team's success, including goaltender Tuukka Rask, forwards Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic and defensemen Johnny Boychuk, Adam McQuaid, Dougie Hamilton, Matt Bartkowski and Torey Krug.
There's more coming, too.
"We're going to see an influx of young players this year. They're going to get a chance; not just the ones that we have seen last year but the other guys are going to get a chance," Chiarelli said. "We're going to have to make room and find players because to make the commitments that we did to our core, although the cap is going to go up, you have to have flexibility, you have to have the other players coming. So that scenario I would like to improve on. We've made some changes this summer and we're going to be proactive about it, be on top of it."
Chiarelli has proven he's not afraid to make bold moves to improve the team. Some have worked, and others have not. More often than not, however, he has been right.
"If you're doing the right things you become more confident and you also actually recognize where your weaknesses are, you better recognize where your weaknesses are," Chiarelli said.
At the time the Bruins hired Chiarelli in the summer of 2006, he was still under contract with the Ottawa Senators, and there was a grace period when he wasn't officially working for Boston. Bruins interim GM Jeff Gorton officially signed defenseman Zdeno Chara as a free agent that summer. Knowing Chiarelli would be the GM made Chara's decision an easy one.
Chiarelli orchestrated some other deals that aided the Bruins' Cup title in 2011. The acquisitions of defensemen Andrew Ference and Dennis Seidenberg, along with forwards Mark Recchi, Nathan Horton, Gregory Campbell, Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley have been extremely important.
Chiarelli also wasn't afraid to pull the trigger on a trade that sent forward Phil Kessel to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for a pair of first-round picks in 2010 and 2011, which resulted in Tyler Seguin and Hamilton, respectively.
This offseason, Chiarelli made significant deals by trading Seguin and Peverley to the Dallas Stars in exchange for forward Loui Eriksson and three prospects. Chiarelli also signed forward Patrice Bergeron and Rask to long-term contracts. Then, when Horton signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Chiarelli landed future Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla.
And he's done it all while handling the salary cap masterfully. The Jacobs family has often been criticized for a lack of spending when it came to the Bruins, but Chiarelli has been given all the necessary resources to put a winning team on the ice.
Charlie Jacobs, the son of owner Jeremy Jacobs, is pleased with Chiarelli's money management skills.
"Well, the cap was a relatively new concept when Peter came on board, and with the additions of Jim Benning and Don Sweeney and of course Peter, I thought we navigated that pretty closely," Jacobs said. "We navigated that cap number. It has put constraints on us in terms of player personnel ... and I know Pete and Cam both share this vision, we should have a little bit of space when we begin the year. Just a crunch factor space in case we need to pick up a player or you know, we might see a possible acquisition to improve our club.
"I will tell you that the 2013-14 season is going to be tough in that regard due to the lowering of the salary cap to $63 million. So we're up against and it's not an ideal situation, but I expect once we come out of this one single year of $63 million and get back to what I think is a more manageable number, we should be in good shape. We've done a very good job with the help of Peter and his hockey operations department to find the right hockey personnel at the right numbers. You have to find core players and supplement them with some value. And that doesn't necessarily mean average players, it means value players. And I think there is a subtle difference there. Guys who can contribute on the third and fourth line that might not be making $2 or $3 million. You're going to need to find those kids that can contribute for value."
Chiarelli has done that. He has found the right mix of personnel and players, and it has equaled success in Boston. Bruins hockey is back, and it doesn't appear to be going downhill anytime soon. Chiarelli and his staff are to thank for that, so in turn, the Bruins thanked Chiarelli with a much-deserved extension.