Chris Kelly and Gregory Campbell reached deals on new contracts to stay in Boston, and Campbell even got to sign his. Kelly will have to wait until July 1 due to some salary cap complications, but will remain in Black and Gold for four more years.
That leaves working out a deal with restricted free agent and new starting goalie Tuukka Rask as Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli's biggest task remaining this summer. He'll also have to oversee the infusion of new talent into the system at next week's draft, make a decision on restricted free agent Benoit Pouliot and kick the tires on some possible additions once free agency opens on July 1, but the roster for next season appears largely set.
That doesn't mean there aren't plenty of questions still surrounding the team. Quite the contrary. There was actually such a high volume of questions this week that in an effort to answer a few more, I will debut a new lightning round in this edition of the Bruins Mailbag. After a couple of answers in the traditional mode, I'll run through a few more in quick succession. Those answers will be briefer than usual, but hopefully will still give you all the information you're seeking while allowing me to respond to a few additional readers.
Even with that, there were still plenty of good questions I couldn't get to. I'd like to thank all the readers who sent in questions and apologize in advance if I wasn't able to get to yours. Please keep submitting your questions and I'll answer as many of them as I can throughout the offseason.
Why would the Bruins be unlikely to make a big splash when they showed inconsistency scoring all season?
– Nolan Gerding via Twitter (@owenthatnolan)
With the re-signings of Chris Kelly and Gregory Campbell, the Bruins have their forward corps largely set. Barring a trade, which Peter Chiarelli has shown no inclination to do — as he has instead looked to keep the core of last year's Cup-winning roster intact — the only questions up front are whether Benoit Pouliot will return, if Jordan Caron is ready to take on full-time duty in a top-nine role and how Nathan Horton will fare in his return from the concussion that sidelined him for the second half of last season.
Those are some significant questions, especially Horton's ability to return to his pre-injury form, but the Bruins don't have a need to make major changes to a team just one year removed from winning it all. Chiarelli stated on Wednesday that he wouldn't rule out still adding a top-nine forward this summer, but he was confident in the lineup as constituted, calling it "as solid a forward group as you can get."
I also think the Bruins' scoring inconsistencies last season are being a bit overblown. This is a team that finished tied for second in the league in scoring, averaging 3.17 goals a game. That was up from sixth in the NHL at 2.98 the previous season when they went on to win the Cup. While they showed an ability to explode for some huge games (scoring six or more goals 14 times), they also put up solid numbers on a pretty consistent basis, with at least three goals in 50 games and less than two just 17 times. With the kind of defense they play in Claude Julien's system, that's a pretty sound formula for success.
The inconsistencies they suffered through their midseason swoon after the dominant run from the start of November through mid-January were more a result of defensive breakdowns and poor goaltending than any offensive issues. After not allowing more than four goals in any of their first 42 games, the Bruins surrendered five or more eight times in the final 40. The offense went through one bad slump in February when they were shut out five times in 13 games. They had just two other shutouts all season and bounced back from that slump to average 3.29 goals a game the rest of the way, including a 3.67 average in the final 12 games while going 9-2-1. While there's always room for more talent and scoring punch, offense was not a major weakness for Boston last year.
Do you foresee the Bruins trying to trade [David] Krejci to free up cap space to go after a scorer such as [Zach] Parise? [Tyler] Seguin could go to the center position.
– Darren S., Weymouth, Mass.
I don't see the Bruins trying to deal Krejci. They just signed him to an extension last year, which goes into effect this coming season, and I don't see them wavering from that commitment at this point. While he struggled at times last year and had a disappointing playoff showing, he has a much longer record coming up very big at the most important time of the year, including leading the league in playoff scoring during the 2011 Cup run.
And if they were to deal Krejci, they better make sure they have Parise signed first, which I don't see happening. Parise will have a ton of suitors, and will likely be choosing between chasing a Cup in Detroit, returning home with a much bigger bank account in Minnesota or sticking with familiar surroundings in New Jersey. I don't see the Bruins blowing up their team to get into that kind of bidding war.
Also, Chiarelli has stated the team's intention to keep Seguin on the wing for the foreseeable future, which I believe is in the best interest of both his development and the team's offensive production at this point.
Did any of the Providence Bruins that were called up last season earn a spot up in Boston?
– Paula K2012 via Twitter (@pitchblack60)
I don't think any of those guys will be handed a job for what they did last year, but Lane MacDermid, Max Sauve and Carter Camper will have an opportunity to earn a spot in camp. With 12 veterans returning up front and prospects like Jared Knight and Ryan Spooner, plus the recently acquired Chris Bourque also in contention, it won't be easy for any of those guys to crack the lineup to start the season, but plenty of them should see opportunities with call-ups during the course of the season. Of that group, I thought MacDermid looked the most comfortable in his role at the NHL level and could be a solid depth option.
On defense, Torey Krug wasn't a Providence guy, as he came straight from Michigan State to Boston, but assuming Dougie Hamilton cracks the top six, Krug, Matt Bartkowski and Andrew Bodnarchuk will compete for a job as the seventh defenseman. Of course, the Bruins could still add a veteran through free agency for that role.
And obviously, Anton Khudobin will be the backup in goal with Tuukka Rask taking over as the No. 1 with Tim Thomas on his sabbatical.
And now, on to the lightning round …
Of the RFA prospects, do you think [Matt] Bartkowski and [Andrew] Bodnarchuk will be re-signed?
– Alison Alison via Twitter (@ali_foley82)
I expect the Bruins to qualify and re-sign both along with MacDermid, who is also a restricted free agent. Bodnarchuk and MacDermid were both recalled late in the year, with MacDermid seeing some action and acquitting himself well. Bartkowski made the team out of camp each of the last two seasons but has struggled to stick with the big club. He's shown enough to keep in the organization, though, so I expect all three to be back battling for jobs in camp this fall.
Why don't the Bruins put [Tim] Thomas on LTIR to circumvent the cap hit?
– Rob Carmel via Twitter (@rcarm73)
Well, LTIR stands for long-term injured reserve and Thomas isn't injured, so that kind of kills that plan. Plus, the NHL takes a pretty dim view of cap circumvention (see the fines and draft picks lost by the Devils for their first attempt at signing Ilya Kovalchuk), so the Bruins won't be going down that road.
Do you see the Bruins making a push to sign a top six forward? Not Zach Parise, but someone like a Dustin Penner?
– Steve Simonelli via Facebook
Unless Nathan Horton isn't able to return to his pre-injury form, I don't see Penner cracking Boston's top six even if he were to sign with the Bruins. He'd be more likely to round out a third line with Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley, with the Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Horton and Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Tyler Seguin units remaining intact for the top two lines. That would make for three pretty potent and balanced lines, but the cost for Penner after his playoff performance may be a little high for a third liner.
When do you see Niklas Svedberg becoming a part of the Boston team? We have Tuukka Rask, but do you see Svedberg or [Anton] Khudobin as his backup?
– Jake Reiser via Facebook
The Bruins have made it pretty clear that they are comfortable going into the season with Khudobin backing up Rask in Boston. That leaves Svedberg, Michael Hutchinson and Adam Morrison to battle for playing time in Providence. Svedberg will first have to prove himself at the AHL level as he makes his adjustment to the North American game, so I don't expect to see him in Boston any time soon unless there's a very unfortunate set of circumstances that force the issue. That would entail something like the string of injuries that forced Hutchinson to come up to Boston briefly before Marty Turco was signed to play while both Rask and Khudobin were injured last year.
Do you think that we should cut [Joe] Corvo loose?
– Michael J Rollet via Facebook
Well, at this point it doesn't really matter what I think on this subject, as Peter Chiarelli has already gone on record to say that the Bruins won't be bringing Corvo back next year. You can read about that in this story from earlier this month. For the record, though, I do agree with that decision. I think Corvo was worth taking a shot on. It cost the Bruins just a fourth-round pick and part of the appeal going into that deal was knowing that Corvo had just one year left on his deal if things didn't work out, as opposed to the multi-year deal Tomas Kaberle was seeking and got from Carolina.
Have questions for Douglas Flynn’s mailbag? Leave them in the comments section below, send them to him via Twitter @douglasflynn or send them here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week. Be sure to check back to see if your question was answered.