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BOSTON -- After the Boston Bruins players had their exit meetings with general manger Peter Chiarelli and coach Claude Julien, the majority of them packed only a gym bag full of things as their equipment remained in their locker stalls at TD Garden.
That's because the majority, if not all, of the players on the 2010-11 Stanley Cup champs' roster will be back for the 2011-12 campaign.
|Patrice Bergeron likes what he sees when he looks at the Stanley Cup and at the Bruins' future.|
Defensemen Tomas Kaberle and Shane Hnidy, along with forward Michael Ryder, are the only unrestricted free agents. The newest Boston cult hero, Brad Marchand, is a restricted free agent and likely will enjoy a nice pay raise.
Other than that and the retiring Mark Recchi, pretty much the entire team figures to be back.
The exit meetings for each player took only a few minutes because, as Julien said jokingly, each guy wouldn't remember much because of the weekend-long celebration.
But Julien and the rest of the Bruins, as well as their fans, have to be pumped that this team is returning.
"Personally, I like that as a coach," Julien said. "You're getting your team back and every year you don't know what is going to happen with the free agents and unrestricted free agents and so on and so forth. So I am going to kind of leave it up to Peter for now and I am sure we're going to have our discussion.
"As a coach, when you win the Cup and you know that a big majority of your team is coming back, you have to be happy. If you ask Chicago, last year they would have loved to have kept their team together -- they couldn't, but if they could they would have. When you build a championship team, you like having those guys back."
Of course, the future of Marc Savard is in question due to his multiple concussions. His contract would come off the books if he does not return. He was in town last weekend for the Cup celebrations and wouldn't say whether he would return.
"It's really the furthest thing from my mind right now, to be honest with you. I just want to enjoy it here and let the boys take the spotlight here because they earned it," Savard said.
While Savard's services were missed, the Bruins moved on and won the Cup.
It's a special group. And it's coming back in full force.
"This is exciting," Patrice Bergeron said. "It's a lot of fun. Yes, we've won the Cup, but once you taste it you want more. It's been a good feeling in the room, on the plane and on the ice. We want to do this again. It's amazing, almost surreal. It's almost the same team next year, so it's very exciting and the future looks very bright."
Believe it or not, the majority of the current roster is 25 or younger, including Bergeron, Milan Lucic, Marchand, David Krejci, Adam McQuaid, Tuukka Rask and Steven Kampfer. That youth and experience, combined with the veteran presence of the rest of the roster, is impressive.
"This is a special group, a good bunch of guys," Cup celebration ringleader Shawn Thornton said. "It's good for the city. Peter has done a good job and the team is still young. Other than myself and a couple of guys, everyone is in their mid-20s or early 20s. We're just hitting our stride and [players] are locked up for a few years, so it could be exciting for years to come."
Bergeron and goaltender Tim Thomas have spent the longest tenure in Boston. Bergeron's not going anywhere, and neither is Thomas.
Asked about winning the Cup at such a young age, Bergeron said: "Very lucky. I feel blessed and, you know, that's what you fight for your whole career. And being able to do it so early, it's special.
"But that being said, once you taste it you want more. I'll enjoy this one right now, but this summer I have to regroup and get back and get ready for next season."
Bergeron's sentiments likely speak for Bruins fans too. They feel very lucky, but also want more.Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.