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Unraveling at the Seems

Posted By Matt Preston On Jul 5 2013 @ 12:13 pm In Boston Bruins | No Comments

Aeschylus could not have written a better ending.

Ultimately, with the dust having settled on the 2013 Stanley Cup Final, maybe it is true the Boston Bruins had no business beating the Chicago Blackhawks based on the respective bodies of work throughout the season. The Bruins, however, did just enough throughout the course of their playoff run to get the collective hopes up of the Black-and-Gold faithful and then got a 2-1 lead in the series. Yet, as the series progressed, Chicago aged like a fine whine, while Boston skunked like a beer and it all came crashing down in just 17 seconds.

A good old fashioned Bruins heartbreak.

And like any good Greek tragedy, with the off-season set to begin with the opening of free agency this afternoon, just when you think the pain is over, the story comes with the sweet twist of irony at the end. Hurtful for Bruins fans, but justice for hockey fans as Jeremy Jacobs is getting his just due yet again and the Bruins championship contender is being blown up.

Before the 2004 lockout, Bruins ownership prepared for the forecasted low salary cap by having as few big money contracts as possible. This left them decimated when the cap number was not as low as projected, bringing about a period more credible writers have referred to as the Dark Ages and a four-year rebuilding project.

This time around, the Bruins loaded up before this season’s lockout – a lockout Jacobs drove – signing core players to big money deals throughout the year before last winter’s lockout, some coming in the days just before. Unlike 2004, this newest collective bargaining agreement game with a cap reduction for next season, meaning one of the league’s best teams that has been build with precision and has been to two Stanley Cup Finals over the past three seasons is in the process of being dismantled.

Unlike the past few off-seasons when all Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli had to do was find a few role player to bring in for the backend of the lineup and work on contract extensions with his core players, he will have a lot to do between now and October, and he is not off to a great start.

Mere days after their Game 6 loss to the Blackhawks, the team said goodbye to impending unrestricted free agent Andrew Ference, the first cap casualty. As bitter of a pill as it may be to swallow, given his importance to the franchise the past seven season, but having known all season the cap would be reduced, his age, his struggles throughout the season and the late season emergences of Matt Bartkowski and Torey Krug, it is a move that should not come as much of a surprise.

Onto itself, not the kind of move that should derail a franchise. Unfortunately, Ference was merely the tip of the iceberg.

The same day as Ference, Jaromir Jagr was also informed by the team he would not be re-signed. Again, not a huge surprise. It was not until last Friday when things started getting fun as Nathan Horton told the Bruins he would be taking full advantage of his unrestricted free agency and would not be re-signing in Boston.

To cap off their run to free agency, the Bruins came up with the biggest fireworks of all on the Fourth of July, trading franchise building block Tyler Seguin, along with Rich Peverley and prospect Ryan Button, to the Dallas Stars for Loui Eriksson and prospects. A move that Chiarelli has since come out and said was a means of dumping salary.

Not only did Jacobs’ lockout cost his loyal customers half the season, but now it has claimed the Bruins’ clubhouse leader, top four right wings and his team’s offensive future.

Initially, the Bruins stood about $8 million under the projected $63.4 million cap for 2013-2014. The popular rumors see the majority of that money going to restricted free agent, goaltender Tuukka Rask as early as today, and – depending on the final numbers – deservedly so. The Bruins are also said to be working on a lengthy, and pricey, contract extension for Patrice Bergeron. Also well deserved, but with one year left on his current deal, that is really more of an issue for next year’s cap mess. Re-signing Bergeron is important, but Chiarelli has nearly a full offense to reconstruct for next season.

Why Chiarelli decided it was a better idea to dump the 21-year old Seguin’s $5.75 million a year deal instead of the severely overblown $6 million a year price tag of the 25-year old Milan Lucic, who comes with far more questions about wasted potential than Seguin? That is a question for another post. For now, the GM needs to find some comfort in the $9 million in cap relief he received by moving Peverley and Seguin, and begin wondering how he will effectively use that money.

Seguin should have been the plug-in along side Lucic and David Krejci, but Chiarelli is now going to have to search for a bargain top six winger. Vincent Lecavalier or Daniel Alfredsson would have been the perfect, short-term answers for replacing Horton, but Lecavalier signed earlier this week with Philadelphia and it looks as though Alfredsson is going to choose Detroit over Boston. Not on par with those two, but Danny Briere would have also been a decent top six addition to the Bruins, but he has signed with Montreal.

What’s left?

David Clarkson will garner too much money as will Jarome Iginla. Michael Ryder has already proven he is not a top six forward playing for the Bruins. Is it possible Peter Mueller is really the best option? Could Jagr be lured back to Boston for one more year?

Eriksson will likely take Seguin’s spot alongside and Bergeron and Brad Marchand, while Carl Soderberg and prospect/low-level veteran pick up to be named later will join Chris Kelly on the third unit. A veteran defensive pick-up, possibly in the form of Wade Redden, should also be expected just in case the young defensemen struggle throughout the season. That top line spot is the key to the offseason for Chiarelli. It might even be argued, with their cap issues and his restricted status, filling their top line right wing spot becomes an even more important focus for Chiarelli than the Rask deal.

Chiarelli has had a fairly easy time assembling teams in Boston thus far in his tenure. This summer, however, it will be determined who the real brains behind the Black-and-Gold’s recent success are.

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