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.
Brian Rolston returned to the Bruins eight years after his first stint with the club, rejoining the team at the trade deadline. Much had changed in Boston since his departure before the owners' lockout, with Patrice Bergeron and Tim Thomas the only Bruins remaining from those days and Boston now the reigning Cup champion.
But things also ended in an all too familiar fashion for Rolston, with the Bruins once again falling in the first round of the playoffs just as they did in each of the three postseason appearances during his first tour of duty in Boston. Rolston couldn't be blamed for that, though. Expectations were low when he was the only forward added at the deadline following a frustrating stint with the Islanders, but he showed he still had something left in the tank as he emerged as a surprising source of consistent offense down the stretch.
2011-12 stats: 70 games, 7-17-24, minus-5, 14 PIMs (21 games, 3-12-15, plus-7, 8 PIMs with Bruins); playoffs – 7 games, 1-2-3, minus-2, 0 PIMs
2011-12 cap hit: $5.063 million according to CapGeek.com
2012-13 status: Unrestricted free agent
Season in review: Rolston had a rebirth upon his return to Boston. After managing only nine points in 49 games with the Islanders, he put up 15 in just 21 games with the Bruins, including a 3-11-14 stretch in his final 12 games in the regular season. Rolston even contributed a surprising 86 hits on the season, along with 151 shots, while averaging 14:16 of ice time. That climbed to 14:49 in the playoffs, when he added 17 more hits and another 17 shots.
Rolston contributed in all areas, seeing time on the power play and penalty kill as well as at even strength, where he combined with fellow free agents Chris Kelly and Benoit Pouliot to form Boston's most effective line down the stretch.
That line's solid play continued in the playoffs, with Rolston chipping in a goal and two assists in the first three games, but he was held without a point in his final four games.
Should Rolston be re-signed?: Rolston proved he can still contribute to a contender with his solid play at the end of the season, but he is certainly nearing the end of an outstanding career. He could still be helpful on a short-term deal at a reasonable price, but the Bruins may be better served in turning over a few spots up front to some of the younger talent coming up in their system.
Will Rolston be re-signed?: Rolston will have as much say in his future as any team. He was noncommittal about returning for an 18th season, saying it was "up in the air" at the club's breakup day. He did also note that his return to Boston had rejuvenated him, and playing on a contender like the Bruins made him feel like he "had a purpose again." That may leave him more inclined to come back for another year and it's not out of the question that he could extend his second stay in Boston, but the Bruins are likely to explore other options first. Wherever Rolston ends up if he opts to continue playing, he will have to accept a considerable pay cut. He is coming off a four-year, $20.25 million deal signed with the Devils in 2008 and was technically the highest-paid forward on the Bruins last season. He won't get another payday like that, but his versatility and experience could still be valuable to many teams at the right price.
In Rolston's own words: "I'll look for the right situation, and if it's not there, then we'll cross that bridge," Rolston said at the club's breakup day. "I know I can still produce in this league. Physically I feel great. But it has to be the right situation. That's the biggest key for an older player."
Monday, May 21: Chris Kelly
Tuesday, May 22: Gregory Campbell
Wednesday, May 23: Daniel Paille
Coming Friday: Greg Zanon
Have a question for Douglas Flynn? Send it to him via Twitter at @douglasflynn (https://twitter.com/#!/douglasflynn) or send it here (http://www.nesn.com/doug-flynn-bio.html#mailbag). He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.
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