Only four players from the big club’s roster are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents on July 1, and one of those is Mark Recchi, who has already announced his retirement.
But the Bruins do have to decide what to do with a couple of key players, and the biggest decision to make concerns the future of defenseman Tomas Kaberle.
If it’s up to the veteran blueliner, it would be an easy choice. Kaberle would like nothing better than to extend his stay in Boston with a new contract, but he knows it isn’t strictly up to him.
“I don’t know, that’s up to the organization and the GM what the future plans here are,” Kaberle said at Sunday’s breakup day at the Garden. “But I would love to play here. There’s great guys here in this dressing room and it’s a great hockey team. Why would I want to go somewhere else?”
The bigger question is whether Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli is as eager to re-sign Kaberle as he was to acquire him at the trade deadline. Chiarelli paid a hefty price for Kaberle, sending top prospect Joe Colborne and a first-round draft pick to Toronto, with a conditional second-rounder added when the Bruins reached the Cup Final.
But Kaberle struggled for much of his time in Boston. He wasn’t able to spark the Bruins’ power play as hoped, as Boston struggled mightily on the man advantage throughout the postseason. Kaberle was also prone to some costly defensive gaffes, but did come on strong late in the playoffs and finished tied with Dennis Seidenberg for the most points among Bruins defensemen in the playoffs with 0-11-11 totals and was also a plus-8 in the postseason.
“The start wasn’t that good,” Kaberle said. “I felt better as the playoffs went on. My teammates supported me well and I thought we played real good as a team and obviously it’s a great success for every single one of us.
“I think maybe I tried to do too much at the start,” Kaberle added. “It doesn’t work sometimes when you try to do too much. So I tried to keep it simple, started moving my legs more and just played my game.”
Chiarelli voiced his support of what Kaberle added to the defense when the GM addressed the media on Friday.
“I know Tomas has been criticized,” Chiarelli said. “He brings the ability to both slow down the play and speed it up with his passing and skating. And he freezes guys in the neutral zone. He makes great passes. He skates into the trap. You saw it against Tampa Bay. I think he was our top defensive scorer. So anyways, he was a real important component here and I know he was criticized for a time, but I’ll continue to defend him because he’s a good person and he brought a lot to the back end.”
Still, the Bruins and Kaberle haven’t begun negotiations on a potential new deal yet, and the defenseman’s future in Boston may come down to his contract demands after making $4.25 million a year over the past five seasons on a deal signed with Toronto in 2006.
“Obviously we’re going to talk in the next few days and everything was hectic and like I said the last couple of days,” Kaberle said. “And hopefully we can sit down or [Chiarelli] can talk to my agent and it will be nice to be back here.”