Ultimately, Chiarelli is already a success, winning a Stanley Cup and advancing to another final will do that. The club's status as a legitimate championship threat for the foreseeable future is an additional testament. Chiarelli's managed to pull off a few more moves in his time that positioned the club to win. On March 3, 2010, Chiarelli traded for Dennis Seidenberg and Matt Bartkowski, landing the defensemen from the Florida Panthers for Craig Weller, Byron Bitz and a second round pick that turned into Alex Petrovic.
Since arriving in Boston, Seidenberg, 32, has become one of the league's most consistent defensemen after bouncing around early in his career. He played for four different teams in his first seven years in NHL before landing in Boston and establishing himself as a significant piece of a team with the loftiest of expectations. Thursday night, Seidenberg began his fourth full season as a Bruin by signing a contract that will keep him here for another four years. The Bruins also picked up a victory in their opener with a typically-unremarkable but relatively thorough 3-1 win over new division rival, Tampa Bay.
Seidenberg's deal includes a modest raise from $3.25 million to an even $4 million, a full no-trade clause through the middle of the 2016-17 season and a limited NTC thereafter.
Chiarelli declared extending Seidenberg a "high priority" earlier this week and nailed the deal down without much of an issue it seems. By no means is Seidenberg among the NHL's best defensemen. He's the clear No. 2 behind Zdeno Chara in Boston, and he performs well leading the club's second pairing.
With the salary cap expected to rise after this season, Seidenberg's annual $4 million cap hit should look like a steal. Inevitably, testing the free agent market after this year would've landed him a larger contract. After bouncing around like he did at the start of his career, it seems like Seidenberg appreciates the stability he's enjoyed in Boston. Furtheremore, the club's defensive style suits him especially well. Obviously, this is the deal Seidenberg wanted in the place he wanted to play.
For the Bruins, the deal is similarly strong. Seidenberg's extension now has him under contract through the 2017-18 season, the same year Chara's contract is scheduled to expire. With this duo intact, Chiarelli's made it clear he expects to compete for, at least, the next four years. The Bruins, as currently constituted, can't do that without players like Seidenberg.
He's never been a perfect player, falling victim to faster forwards and letting his desire to murder anyone near a Bruins' goaltender overcome him a bit too frequently. Regardless, he's seen major minutes on teams annually among the NHL's best. Sustaining that level of play through his mid-30s isn't guaranteed. This is a legitimate concern. The Bruins enter the season as the sixth-oldest team in the NHL with an average age of 28.7 years.
Chiarelli frequently receives criticism for handing out contracts to players the club could replace or improve upon for similar financial commitments. As he said on Thursday, though, Seidenberg's ability to play major minutes effectively without significant damage to his conditioning factored into the decision. Essentially, like Chara, he didn't mind committing to Seidenberg for another four years because the defenseman is clearly determined to be the same player at the end of the deal that he is now. With the development of Adam McQuaid, Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski, the club's blue line has plenty of youth coming along to complement the elder skatesmen in the role.
Becoming a team that annually competes in the modern NHL isn't particularly easy. Even with the salary cap likely to reach $80 million in the next three years, keeping players under contract before they can test the free agent market -- where they'll almost always get more money -- can't be underrated. Despite Chiarelli's propensity for giving away a bit too much to players for qualities we can't exactly quantify, there's no doubting that his teams are among the NHL's best.
Seidenberg's become a major part of that reality, and Chiarelli has little reason not to preserve it.