The sting of last Friday's devastating 4-3 loss in Game 7 to the Flyers and the epic collapse in the Eastern Conference semifinals will hurt the Bruins and their fans for a long time. But while it's hard to fathom right now, life goes on, and if you're Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli, you need to decide which players you keep and which players you move on from regarding the team's impending free agents.
Here's a quick look at the team's list of unrestricted free agents and who may be back. Keep in mind that the 2010-11 NHL salary cap is expected to remain right around the $56.8 million cap from this past season. The Bruins are committed to $46.8 million for next season.
Unrestricted Free Agents (2009-10 salary listed)
Mark Recchi, forward, $1 million
Despite being 42 years young, Recchi played 81 of 82 games this past season, finishing fourth in team scoring with 43 points and then leading the team with six goals in the playoffs. Everyone knew that he would bring leadership in the dressing room, but his production on the ice and his work ethic that led to it has Bruins fans and the media clamoring for his return. The question now is whether the Bruins can fit him in their plans with the money they have left to spend. Yes, they appear to have approximately $10 million to spend next season, but they have six restricted free agents to sign and will also get hit hard on an entry-level deal for whomever they draft with the second overall pick.
Recchi's performance this season, specifically in the playoffs, may have raised his value, but the classy veteran loves it here and may settle for the same salary as this past season. Recchi told NESN.com he wants to stay in Boston and planned on talking to Chiarelli on Tuesday to hopefully get "something going."
Steve Begin, forward, $850,000
Steve Begin, a thorn in the Bruins' and many NHL teams' sides over the last few seasons, didn't exactly come in and become the pest that the Bruins expected him to be. Still, he was valuable on the penalty kill and brought a veteran presence in the dressing room. If the 31-year-old is willing to take the same salary or maybe a bit of a pay cut, he could return.
Shawn Thornton, forward, $550,000
People look at Shawn Thornton as simply an enforcer or fourth-line grinder, but he is much more than that, according to his teammates. Thornton is one of the major voices in that dressing room and sets an example when it comes to work ethic. The Bruins have preached that they want to be hard to play against and give their all every game, Thornton does and is that every game. The hard-nosed winger hinted to reporters recently that he is not looking for a raise and would love to stay in Boston. At the same price, Thornton's leadership may be worth keeping, given that the team appeared to lack team-wide work ethic against the Flyers.
Miroslav Satan, forward, $700,000
Miro Satan became a cult hero with his play in the first round of the playoffs, but once David Krejci went down with a broken wrist in Game 3 of the second round, Satan disappeared. Satan only had nine goals in 38 games after signing with the Bruins just after the Winter Classic, and his sporadic and streaky play may help in a playoff series but can also hurt a team. That's why he may not be worth bringing back for a whole season, even at a reduced price.
Johnny Boychuk, defenseman, $500,000
Despite what many believe, Johnny Boychuk's age (26) combined with games played at the NHL level means he doesn't qualify for any of the restricted free-agent requirements under the current CBA. That means that this blue liner, who made a name for himself in the playoffs with six points and a rugged style, is an unrestricted free agent on July 1 if he doesn't come to terms with the Bruins. That would leave him as fair game for any NHL team to sign, and rumor has it that unless the Bruins step up with a hefty raise, he may test the free-agent waters. Boychuk would love to stay in Boston, but while the Bruins don't have to break the bank, they have to show respect with their offer or Boychuk could be playing elsewhere next season.
Dennis Seidenberg, defenseman, $2.25 million
In only 17 games with the Bruins after coming over from Florida at the trade deadline, Seidenberg amassed nine points and proved to be a viable No. 2 D-man in the top pairing with captain Zdeno Chara. The German rear guard was a perfect fit in the dressing room, and even after he tore tendons in his forearm, he remained around the team and fit right in. He is still in his prime at 28 years old, and both sides would love to make something happen, but as always, money will be the case. The Bruins may need to choose between Seidenberg or Boychuk.