VANCOUVER, BC - JUNE 15: Tomas Kaberle #12 of the Boston Bruins celebrates in the locker room after defeating the Vancouver Canucks in Game Seven of the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Rogers Arena on June 15, 2011 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The Boston Bruins defeated the Vancouver Canucks 4 to 0. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Between Toronto and Boston, Tomas Kaberle made 4.25 million dollars last year. If he makes that money with the Bruins next year, he'll be the second-highest paid defenseman (Zdeno Chara, 6.9 million) and fourth-highest paid player (Tim Thomas and Patrice Bergeron, 5 million each) on the team.
But after his production declined and his conditioning obviously dropped following the trade from the Maple Leafs to Boston in February, Kaberle made himself into a commodity of sorts - sure, his presence helped the Bruins to win their first Stanley Cup in 39 years, but it wasn't the player himself as much as it was the style of play that got them there.
With free agency just over 72 hours away, the Bruins have options; Peter Chiarelli has reportedly been in talks with Kaberle's agent, but it isn't likely that he's going to come back at nearly the cap hit he once had, especially since there's other talent out there that could be had for less than that cost. While marquee free agents don't dot this offseason's landscape, there are a fair amount of (younger) puck-movers that could be had for less than Kaberle earned last year. Among them (with age and last year's cap hit):
- Joni Pitkanen (CAR) 27, $4,000,000
- Kevin Bieksa (VAN) 30, $3,750,000
- James Wisniewski (MTL), 27, $3,250,000
- Christian Ehrhoff (VAN) 28, $3,100,000
- Marc-Andre Bergeron (TBL) 30, $1,000,000
Of course, MAB is a turnstile, and Bieksa proved himself to not fit the Bruins mold during the Stanley Cup Final. Wisniewski would be a solid add as long as he keeps the histrionics to a minimum, but of that group, Pitkanen definitely has the highest ceiling. It was reported last week that Carolina might not be able to afford to retain him, but over the weekend was revealed that the Whalercanes are in talks to keep him around.
Of course, we can't have a puck-moving defenseman post without mentioning Phoenix's Keith Yandle, who's an RFA this year and who will command way more than the $1.2 million he earned in his first two NHL years.
Yandle - a Boston native - would be an ideal add for the Bruins - at 24 and 6'1", 195 pounds, he fits the Bruins mold. He hasn't missed a game in the past two seasons, putting up 100 points and a plus-28 in those two season. He also figures to benefit from the added presence of home cooking and quality ice in Boston, something which he doesn't see much of in Phoenix.
His playoff performance (2-8=10, minus-6) in 11 postseason games hasn't been anything to write home about, but he'd have much less pressure if paired with Andrew Ference or Adam McQuaid on the Bruins' second pairing, assuming that Chara and Dennis Seidenberg are playing together on the first pairing.
The Bruins are most likely to re-sign Kaberle; they're second-most likely to go out and get a puck mover (Ehrhoff or Wiz) in free agency. After about 294 other scenarios, including Vancouver fans acting with dignity and Montreal becoming a first-class city, they might land Yandle (I'll note here that a Tuukka Rask-plus-for-Yandle's rights deal would have been a decent move for both teams if the Bruins really believed in Thomas, but there simply wasn't enough time to negotiate it with the B's going so deep into the playoffs), but they probably won't.
There is, of course, the off-chance that Dougie Hamilton makes the team out of training camp, and this entire conversation becomes a moot point. But even if he excels and wows everyone at camp, it's beyond likely that Boston sends him back to Niagara.
Of course, there are other options out there. These are just the most logical. If you were Chiarelli, what path would you take?