Tight-Knit Bruins Excited to Have Bulk of Team Under Contract to Defend Title Next Season


Tight-Knit Bruins Excited to Have Bulk of Team Under Contract to Defend Title Next Season The Bruins are still celebrating their Stanley Cup win, enjoying their final days together as a full team before heading their separate ways this offseason.

That parting won't be as bittersweet as most championship teams, however, because almost this entire Boston roster is under contract for next season when they'll have a chance to defend that title together. The prospect of getting a chance to play together again next year is almost as exciting as winning this spring was to the Bruins.

"It's great," Bruins forward Milan Lucic said. "We were talking about it after we won, almost everyone is coming back. That's a really good feeling. The great thing is we're still a young team. We shared the best thing together as a group, and I think when you do something like that and you get to go back out there and play with the guys you just won with, there's always going to be that excitement playing with each other."

The only Bruin from the main roster that played in this year's postseason that will definitely not be back is veteran Mark Recchi, who retired on top after winning his third Cup. Forward Michael Ryder and defensemen Tomas Kaberle and Shane Hnidy are the only other unrestricted free agents on the team, and even they could be re-signed if the terms fit into Boston's salary cap and future plans. The other 12 forwards, five defensemen and both goalies who dressed in the playoffs will all be back, along with rookies Steven Kampfer and Jordan Caron, who saw extensive action in the regular season and stayed up with the big club in the postseason.

"It's so important that when you win championships, the main core stays together," captain Zdeno Chara said. "I think it's a very positive thing that we have most of the guys coming back under contract. We have the same tools. We just have to bring the same attitude and hard work that we did this year."

It's not just the players who are happy to be coming back with the roster largely intact. Coach Claude Julien is equally pleased with the fact that he won't have to work many new faces into his system next season.

"I personally like that as a coach," Julien said. "You are getting your team back and every year you don't know what is going to happen with the free agents and unrestricted free agents and so on and so forth. So I am going to leave it up to [general manager] Peter [Chiarelli] for now and I am sure we're going to have our discussions. But as a coach, when you win the Cup and you know that a big majority of your team is coming back, you have to be happy."

Julien knows how rare that is, especially in the salary cap era. After winning last year's championship, the Blackhawks were forced to part with nearly half their Cup-winning roster because of cap issues, and Chicago ended up barely squeaking into the playoffs as the eighth seed and lost in the opening round to Vancouver.

"If you ask Chicago, last year they would have loved to have kept their team together," Julien said. "They couldn't, but if they could they would have. When you build a championship team, you like having those guys back."

That continuity may be even more important for the Bruins, whose success stemmed in large part from their strong chemistry on and off the ice.

"You can't overlook the fact that the team has to get along," forward Gregory Campbell said. "We all enjoy each other's company. You can say all you want about the talent of a team, but the way you come together as a team and wanting to be around everybody in this room and wanting to play for each other, that's what really matters."

With that knowledge, Campbell was also excited about the prospect of playing with this group of teammates again.

"It's an awesome feeling," Campbell said. "This team was built a lot on draft picks. I came in here and it took one year [to win a Cup], but a lot of these guys have been through some not-so-good times here, but they've built up together and have grown together. We've become a tight team. As much as we're excited about the on-ice product, it's cool to be back with these guys. Everybody has created such a bond and everybody likes each other so much."

The Bruins are tight enough that they can even joke about the few players whose futures in Boston are uncertain.

"I'll be glad to get rid of Hnidy," forward Shawn Thornton said with a smile. "I'm sick of that guy. No, he's my boy.

"This is a special group, a great bunch of guys," Thornton added. "The unfortunate part is that you're not probably going to see everybody back next year, but the majority of guys are coming back and are under contract."

That's good for the Bruins and their hopes of enjoying another Cup celebration next year, though they know that won't be easy to accomplish.

"It's going to be a challenge, not many teams repeat," Campbell said. "Everybody measures themselves against the champions. But I think we'll have a great team next year."

Having some familiar faces will be good for the fans as well, who won't have to bid adieu to many of their new heroes. There are more pragmatic reasons for maintaining continuity though, as this team is young enough, talented enough and cohesive enough to have a chance to remain a top contender for a while.

"It's good for the city too," Thornton said of having so many of the same players back. "Peter's done a good job. The team's still young. Other than myself and a couple of other guys, everybody's in their mid-20s or early-20s, just hitting their stride and they're locked up for a few years. So it could be exciting around here for years to come."

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