Just one year removed from winning the Stanley Cup and the wild celebrations that followed, Boston has focused on retaining the core of that championship team rather than shaking up the roster with any major trades or free-agent signings.
But the Bruins recognize not all teams have adopted that approach, and they have kept a close eye on the moves their Eastern Conference rivals have been making. That includes the Rangers' blockbuster deal to acquire forward Rick Nash from Columbus and the $110 million offer sheet the Flyers signed defenseman Shea Weber to in the past week.
While Nashville announced late Tuesday afternoon that it would match Philadelphia's offer and retain Weber, Nash's addition to an already formidable New York squad could change the landscape in the Eastern Conference. Still, the Bruins aren't going to panic and overreact to the arms race in the Atlantic Division.
"He's a real good player, good goal scorer, a big, strong player," Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said of Nash. "The fact that the Rangers got him, I think it's going to help their team and they're obviously in our conference. We play them more than we would play a team in the Western Conference."
Chiarelli did confirm that he kicked the tires on a potential deal for Nash himself, but added, "I won't go into details about our negotiations with Columbus."
Instead, Chiarelli sought to combat the perception that the Bruins were simply standing idly by and letting their conference rivals pass them with bolder moves.
"We're going to continue to improve," Chiarelli said. "I don't want it to be misconstrued that just by keeping the core intact that we're standing pat here. When rivals make moves like that, when Philly has the offer sheet on Weber, I don't lose sight of that stuff. These are good teams that are getting better."
But Chiarelli is confident the Bruins are just as good, and getting better with the internal development of the young players already in place in the system. The Bruins GM also wouldn't rule out making moves at a later date if help is indeed needed.
"Our foundation of our team right now is quite good," Chiarelli said. "We've got some things that we may do at a later point. We may wait until into the season, but we're not standing still. The Weber thing, the Nash thing, those are things that we don't ignore. We don't react right away, but we certainly don't ignore them."
Chiarelli was speaking at a news conference to formally announce an extension for coach Claude Julien. The veteran coach is also well aware of the new challenges he'll face in the conference, but isn't convinced that rivals like the Rangers will automatically be better simply by adding some new big names.
"Well, at the end of the day, when you look at it, it's about team," Julien said. "And whether certain players come in your lineup, it doesn't mean that it's always going to work. I think you've seen teams in the past that have loaded up with extremely skilled players and yet nothing was accomplished that they had hoped for."
Julien pointed to how his first team in Boston in 2007-08 overachieved by playing as a team, getting the Bruins back in the playoffs after back-to-back last-place finishes and pushing top-seeded Montreal to seven games. There was more talent in place in 2011, but it was again that team concept and camaraderie that drove the Bruins to their first championship in 39 years.
Julien is not sure the Rangers or Flyers — who did add Luke Schenn to their blue line even if their attempt to land Weber failed — will mesh so quickly with their new parts, but he is confident that the Bruins' chemistry remains strong with the core of that championship squad remaining intact.
"So they can do that, and there's no doubt they improve," Julien said of the Rangers and Flyers moves. "But they still have to show it, and my confidence right now is that this team is capable of playing against any team in this league and still is with this lineup that we have right now. And if there's improvements to be made, I have full confidence that Peter and his group have always gone out and made the appropriate changes that needed to be made for us to keep staying competitive."
Just don't expect those changes to come this summer. Chiarelli is prepared to go into the season with the lineup he has already put together. That decision stems from both his confidence in the current group and the uncertainty about how things could change league-wide once a new collective bargaining agreement is put into place.
"I think there's a good chance that this will be our roster going into camp," Chiarelli said. "There's a lot of the summer left, there's a lot of stuff that has to happen on a macro basis too. So, I really, if anything right now, in my mind there's more uncertainty as far as the global landscape and us in the global landscape. I guess what I'm saying is, I think anything can happen depending on how things unfold, but there's a good chance that this will be our roster going into the training camp."
Whether that lineup is still good enough to beat the clubs that have been more active in their pursuit of upgrades this summer will be decided once the team get back on the ice, whenever that may be.
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