BOSTON – The Boston Bruins don’t expect to make a major signing in free agency. A player drafted from a mediocre crop this week likely won’t make an immediate impact.
So general manager Peter Chiarelli plans some small changes to improve the team that exited the playoffs earlier than expected.
“We had a very good team and, with a little bit of tweaking, I feel we’ll be right back where we were in the past,” he said Monday.
The Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2010-11, reached the Cup finals in 2012-13, led the NHL in regular-season points in 2013-14 then eliminated the Detroit Red Wings in a five-game series. But they lost the next round to the Montreal Canadiens in seven games after going up 3-2.
Chiarelli’s big task now is to re-sign Jarome Iginla after he tied for the team lead with 30 goals in his first season with Boston.
“I’m not going to comment specifically on negotiations,” Chiarelli said in a conference call. “We’d like to sign Jarome and that’s what I can say. I mean, he has been a valuable player for us. I think there is a good fit.”
Iginla is one of five Bruins who can become unrestricted free agents when the signing period begins July 1. The others are backup goalie Chad Johnson, defencemen Andrej Meszaros and Corey Potter, both late-season acquisitions, and forward Shawn Thornton, who has been told by Chiarelli he won’t be re-signed.
“There may be one or two more” among those free agents who he won’t re-sign, Chiarelli said.
Forward Reilly Smith and defenceman Torey Krug can become restricted free agents.
Top free agents from other teams include forwards Marian Gaborik, Thomas Vanek and Paul Stastny.
“There are good players available,” Chiarelli said. “We’re not going to go full force into the free agency. We’re probably going to take a step back and look at what may be lesser deals, meaning not high-profile deals, might be available, partially due to (salary) cap reasons, partially due to chemistry reasons.”
A few hours later, Chiarelli announced that the Bruins had signed goalie Niklas Svedberg to a one-year contract. He played the only NHL game of his career in a 3-2 overtime win over the Nashville Predators on Jan. 2.
With the Bruins’ AHL team in Providence last season, he was 25-15-4 with a 2.63 goals-against average. He had 37 wins for Providence the previous season.
The Bruins have the 25th pick in the two-day draft starting Friday in Philadelphia. With four solid lines, a capable defence and young players bidding for playing time, any players drafted aren’t likely to help the Bruins next season.
The draft “is generally considered, and I would agree, a thinner draft,” Chiarelli said. “So there is not as much value, relatively speaking, placed in these picks. So teams will probably be more apt to move those picks around” through trades.
Thornton spent seven seasons with the Bruins, providing toughness and leadership. He might not be the only player to leave who is part of the team’s successful veteran core.
“The decision on Shawn was a very hard one. He’s been here and part of this group for a long time and that would apply to all these guys who have been here and who have given us good service and that have been part of winning teams and Cup-winning teams,” Chiarelli said.
“So there will be hard choices, but it may be that we don’t make hard choices and we keep as many people as we can and we go into the year and maybe we do make those hard choices as the year progresses.”
For now, Chiarelli is focusing on the draft.
“I read about a bunch of (solid) centermen and we’re not in the market for any centerman,” he said. Defencemen also “are becoming a major topic of conversation.”
He might even trade his first-round pick.
“Everything is always available,” Chiarelli said.