Editor's Note: The Bruins are facing a longer offseason than they had hoped after their title defense was ended early with a first-round loss to Washington. The extra time could come in handy though, as the Bruins have plenty of decisions to make this summer. At the top of that list is what they will do with the many pending free agents on their roster. Each day over the next two weeks, NESN.com Bruins beat writer Douglas Flynn will look at one of the club's veteran free agents.
Daniel Paille has been through this before. He wasn't tendered a qualifying offer by the Bruins two years ago, making him an unrestricted free agent. He didn't have to wait long, or stray too far in free agency. On the opening day of free agency, Paille was re-signed to a two-year deal for slightly less than what the qualifying offer would have cost the Bruins, and has remained in Boston since.
Paille rewarded the Bruins' faith with some solid play over the course of that contract, and has been a valuable role player on the fourth line and penalty kill throughout his stay in Boston. But now that latest deal has also come to an end, and Paille enters another summer uncertain about his future with the club.
2011-12 stats: 69 games, 9-6-15, minus-5, 15 PIMs; playoffs – 7 games, 1-0-1, minus-1, 2 PIMs
2011-12 cap hit: $1.075 million, according to CapGeek.com
2012-13 status: Unrestricted free agent
Season in review: Paille battled through an injury-plagued season, missing nine games in all with a broken nose that required surgery after being hit in the face with a slap shot, a mild concussion and an upper-body injury. He was also a healthy scratch for four games late in the season, but returned to play the final four games of the regular season and all seven games against Washington in the playoffs.
Paille continued to be a mainstay on the penalty kill, with two of his nine goals coming shorthanded. He creates chances with his speed and ability to anticipate plays and force turnovers, but still struggles to finish many of those opportunities.
Boston's fourth line wasn't as strong as it was the previous year when Paille, Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton all made valuable contributions in Boston's Cup run, but it remained an effective unit providing energy, toughness and reliable two-way play to the Bruins.
Should Paille be re-signed?: Paille has been a valuable role player in his time in Boston. Almost immediately upon his arrival from Buffalo back in 2009, he helped turn the Bruins' struggling penalty kill into one of the top units in the league. He adds energy on the fourth line and is a popular teammate in the room, where his leadership is reflected in his role as the club's NHLPA representative. But role players like Paille tend to be expendable in the NHL, and with limited cap space available the Bruins may have to look at younger, cheaper alternatives for the fourth line next year.
Will Paille be re-signed?: The Bruins will have a tough time retaining all their veteran free agents up front, and Paille could be a cap casualty if Boston is able to re-sign Chris Kelly and Gregory Campbell. Paille did note after the season that he did have some talks with the Bruins during the season about a possible extension, but they were "very minimal, there wasn't much negotiating just kind of a feeling out." Paille may have to wait a bit for the Bruins to sort out their other business if he wants to remain in Boston, but the Bruins may not be able to wait too long as Paille could garner interest from other clubs in the meantime.
In Paille's own words: "I've been here three years and it's been three great years," Paille told NESN.com at the club's breakup day. "I find that I can play my style here and play the style suits the system and the team here as well. For me, I've enjoyed every minute here and I hope it keeps going because it's definitely an exciting atmosphere here."
Monday, May 21: Chris Kelly
Tuesday, May 22: Gregory Campbell
Coming Thursday: Brian Rolston