Peter Chiarelli, center, held strong for the second consecutive offseason, resisting a major roster shakeup for better or worse.
Clamor on Causeway is a weekly column that will appear every Sunday night throughout the year. It will address some of the most frequently discussed topics and issues surrounding the Bruins.
While the Los Angeles Kings celebrated the franchise's first Stanley Cup, the New York Rangers landed Rick Nash and the entire National Hockey League offered Shane Doan too much money, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli remained circumspect as ever.
Bobby Ryan rumors came and went. A late report that Bruins were involved, at least a little, with the Zach Parise negotiations filtered down while Parise and Ryan Suter were being fitted for their new Wild jerseys. All the while, Chiarelli, the Bruins' patient architect, focused on keeping his club the same. Chris Kelly and Gregory Campbell re-upped with the Bruins. Claude Julien received a nice, long extension and some additional parts came to add some depth. A pretty tidy offseason, neglecting, of course, the situation with everyone's favorite Tea Party supporter Tim Thomas.
For many, Chiarelli's refusal to make significant additions to a team that failed to advance past the first round and looked ordinary for an abnormally long portion of the season has been borderline infuriating. Again, while every other Eastern Conference contender actively looked to upgrade their rosters, Chiarelli was perfectly content with his club and worked hard to keep it intact. In the short term, the decision to avoid new, big money commitments may seem misguided, but a quick look at the offseason of 2013 makes Chiarelli's inactivity the smart play for the long-term viability of the Bruins.
Even without any major improvements, the Bruins are already in tough, yet manageable, position regarding the salary cap, with about $1.3 million still available on top of the relief from Marc Savard's cap hit. Meanwhile, there are a few important contracts set to expire whenever the 2012-13 season ends. On the unrestricted free agent front, Andrew Ference, Nathan Horton and Anton Khudobin, all of whom should be part of the every day 20, are up. Then there's the RFA situation, where Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, Tyler Seguin and Tuukka Rask will all be in play. Assuming each skater improves upon his production from a season ago and Rask becomes the No. 1 the world thinks he can be, Chiarelli will have some creative accounting to do to keep these guys in Boston if that's the route he hopes to pursue.
All signs point to each wanting to remain on Causeway Street, but making it work is another issue altogether. The expiration of Thomas' contract simplifies the situation. Still, Chiarelli seems determined to avoid any other commitments that could jeopardize retaining any of his young core.
Even with new deals for the group looming, the talk of Ryan to Boston for some sort of something centered around David Krejci continues to spark debate. The Ducks are known to be in the market for a center to run their second line, and Ryan is said to be the bait. However, it'll take a bit more to strike an accord with the Ducks that lands Ryan in Boston. The remaining demands are unclear, but the rumors and scenarios inevitably involve Dougie Hamilton, draft picks and any other assets whichever expert deemed expendable that day.
Moreover, the unknown that is Nathan Horton's health makes Ryan an even more attractive option. Despite being cleared to play recently, two concussions in the last 13 months put Horton in a difficult position. At 27, with a wife and two young children, another setback could and should force Horton to reconsider his future entirely.
So, yes, Ryan is an attractive option, but adding a piece like that doesn't instantly improve the Bruins given what it will subtract. Ryan instead of Krejci is an upgrade after some tinkering of the top six that carried Boston through last season. However, the loss of Hamilton and whichever other parts Anaheim would demand severely handicaps Boston down the road. With Zdeno Chara hitting the bad side of 35, Ference's contract expiring and the roster as whole aging, including Hamilton a deal with Krejci is a risky play. Assuming Hamilton makes the Bruins roster out of camp and begins his NHL career, the prospect of him playing alongside Chara, Ference or Dennis Seidenberg means a pretty good tutor for the 19-year old. Even if they opt to send him back to Niagara, Chiarelli and the Bruins' braintrust project Hamilton, more or less, as Chara's replacement in the long term and a top four defenseman in the short.
The Ryan rumors aren't going anywhere, and they'll inevitably crop up again should Anaheim struggle as it did a year ago. At that point, Chiarelli and his staff will certainly be among the teams listening should Anaheim call. Only then, though, will Chiarelli budge from his current stance. Even then, a package including both Krejci and Hamilton will likely prove a non-starter.
Looking at the Bruins' roster with the regular-season opener about two months away, there are a few uncertainties. Horton's health, the sixth defenseman and the projected third line left wing spot next to Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley are the most obvious from a personnel standpoint. No matter the outcome of the 2012-13 season for the Bruins, though, next offseason will come with more questions.
Questions that a trade for Ryan or Nash or whichever other star you wanted was never going to answer.