It's no secret that the Bruins are going to struggle to bring back everyone on their roster for the 2012-13 season. But at this point, figuring out what the most important pieces to re-sign are is getting a bit tricky.
Still unsigned heading into 2012 are Forwards Chris Kelly, Benoit Pouliot, Zach Hamill, Gregory Campbell, Shawn Thornton and Daniel Paille. Defensemen Johnny Boychuk and Joe Corvo are also set to become free agents at the end of the year. And there's the little matter of one Tuukka Rask, who's also looking at RFA status once July 1st arrives, with his value only increasing with every minute he plays.
But that's not all. While there are key pieces of the Stanley Cup team in flux for 2012, the summer of 2013 will see Nathan Horton, Milan Lucic, Tyler Seguin, Andrew Ference and Tim Thomas enter into free agency, as well. Each of these players, if they continue their current play (with maybe Thomas being the exception due to age) will be due a serious extension/raise before they're back in Black and Gold.
Of course, losing some of these pieces won't be a huge, huge deal; the Bruins have lots of talent coming up in Jared Knight, Ryan Spooner, Craig Cunningham, Alexander Khokhlachev, Dougie Hamilton, Tommy Cross, Anton Khudobin, and on and on.
How much of that talent is still around come opening night in 2013 remains to be seen, but all of those names will be eligible to play in Providence by then, so their ability to get plugged into the Bruins lineup will make it easy on Chiarelli to put a good team on the ice.
Still, with so many question marks, we have to wonder how the GM's desire to keep top talent in the fold come 2013 will affect his willingness to sign the guys who helped get the team here in the next six or seven months.
Presumably, Thornton, Campbell and Paille could all command modest raises. Ditto for Kelly and Boychuk. Corvo could probably be kept around at the same price.
But Pouliot and Rask, both of whom should be extended and given healthy raises, will be the lynchpins.
There's no doubt that Chiarelli and Julien will want to keep the merlot line together, but it would be a bad move to do it at the cost of Pouliot - who's finally beginning to realize his potential - or Rask - who's the goaltender of the next ten years on this team.