WILMINGTON, Mass. — Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli got plenty of business done during his European trip, as he signed both Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron to extensions before Saturday’s season opener in Prague.
“I feel really comfortable in this city and around these guys and with the management of this team,” said Chara after practice at Ristuccia Arena on Wednesday. “So I’m very, very pleased that I could stay.”
Keeping the club’s best defenseman and top two-way center in the fold should please the Bruins as well, but the deals did come with a hefty price. Beyond the combined $60.5 million committed to the two players, the Bruins also agreed to add no-movement clauses to the contracts of both players.
“You want to have some kind of leverage if it’s possible,” said Chara, who signed a seven-year, $45.5-million extension through 2017-18. “A no-trade or a no-movement clause is fine by me, and obviously they felt the same way. It’s a good thing.”
But can there be too much of a good thing? The Bruins now have eight players with some form of no-trade protection this season or next.
The deals for Chara and Bergeron needed to get done. Not only are both players critical to the club’s present and future, but they were each also entering the final years of their deals and didn’t want negotiations to linger into the season and pose a potential distraction.
“It was on my mind,” admitted Chara. “You know it was up after the season and you want to extend it. That was my first priority. That was my goal. So I was just really pleased and happy that we got it done before the season started.
“I’m very happy that I’ll be a Bruin for another seven years,” added Chara. “My first priority is to win a Cup here. That was one of the reasons why I signed here five years ago and I still want to go toward that goal and hopefully we can get that sooner than later.”
The Bruins now have guaranteed that they will keep their core for the foreseeable future, but they’ve also greatly limited their options in adding further pieces in their Cup quest, both in regards to cap space and roster flexibility as Chara and Bergeron join a long list of current Bruins enjoying no-trade or no-movement protection.
Center Marc Savard has a full no-trade clause in effect for this season, though that didn’t prevent him from being the subject of trade rumors all summer long. Savard has just limited no-trade protection for the 2011-12 through 2013-14 seasons, and none for the final three seasons of his seven-year, $28.05 million deal.
Tim Thomas has a no-movement clause in his contract until 2012, which prevents him from either being traded or demoted to the minors without his consent. That expires on July 1, 2012, before the final year of his four-year, $20 million deal. But because Thomas was 35 when that extension kicked in, the Bruins would get no cap relief if they sent him to the minors in that final season.
Dennis Seidenberg has a limited no-trade clause on his new four-year, $13 million deal, while Nathan Horton had a no-trade clause in his six-year, $24 million deal kick in on July 1, 2010. The Bruins can’t be blamed for that one though, as it stems from the deal he signed with Florida in 2007 and explains why the Bruins completed their trade for the high-scoring winger in June.
Marco Sturm and Mark Recchi each have no-trade clauses as well, but each of their deals expires after this season. It’s highly unlikely the Bruins would ever want to move a veteran leader like Recchi, while there’s little market for Sturm as he rehabs another major knee injury.
But the deals covering future years could be more difficult to work around. The Bruins already have nearly $50 million in salaries committed to 17 players next season, with the likes of Blake Wheeler, Mark Stuart and Brad Marchand up for new deals. In 2012, they’ll have Tuukka Rask, David Krejci and Johnny Boychuk entering free agency and in 2013, Tyler Seguin and Jordan Caron will be up for their second deals.
Having Michael Ryder, Sturm and Recchi off the books after this year will help, but it’s still going to take some fancy maneuvering for Chiarelli to keep the core pieces of this club together. And limiting his options with so many no-trade and no-movement clauses just makes his work more difficult.