Some B's were beginning to accept it, others still couldn't believe it yet - but altogether, one thing they could all reflect on was the close-knit nature of this group, and how they enjoyed being able to share this experience with one another, battle for one another, and ultimately, bring their group closer together.
Soon, though, news would spread around that a member of their team for the past seven seasons, Andrew Ference, would be unable to re-sign for next season, given the new salary cap restrictions for 2013-14.
Currently, the Bruins sit just about $5 million under next year's cap hit of $64,300,000.
Ference becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 5, when the NHL's free agency period begins. Nathan Horton also becomes a UFA on that date, along with Jaromir Jagr, Anton Khudobin, Jay Pandolfo and Wade Redden. Tuukka Rask will become a restricted free agent.
"With the current cap, Peter isn’t going to be able to keep me," Ference told gathered reporters, likely speaking to them in the Bruins' dressing room for one of the last times. "So you know, he’s got to re-sign Tuukka, and obviously do his side of the business. Also, unfortunately with the new CBA, he’s restricted. He said ‘wish it wasn’t so,’ but that’s the way it is."
"I spoke with him and told him that we wouldn’t be re-signing him and we kind of rehashed our history with the Bruins. If you can recall, we brought him in my first year," said GM Peter Chiarelli. "He’s been part of this, what we’ve built here. The warrior-type of attitude and playing style for his size, the leadership."
"He’s been through seven years, basically, and you can’t say enough about his leadership and what he’s brought to our organization. It was a tough conversation to have."
From the trade deadline through the end of a playoff run, the business aspect isn't often focused on as much. The emphasis is on the teams at hand, making a push towards the Stanley Cup.
To be reminded of that reality is often difficult, but as any players or staff members who work for an NHL team would tell you, 'it's just part of the business.'
"That’s never easy," said veteran center Chris Kelly, upon learning of Ference's situation. "We’ve become a very close group here. In professional sports, it’s a rare thing to have the same group back and I think Peter has done a great job of keeping as many guys back as he can."
"Whoever doesn’t come back, I know will do great wherever they go because they’re great people. We’re very fortunate to have great people in this locker room and that’s the reason we’ve had success."
It's been rare, to say the least, in the salary-cap era, that a team such as the Bruins, who recently won a Stanley Cup, have been able to retain so many players from a playoff-caliber, championship team, Ference included.
"I think obviously, with the team that we’ve had the last few years, I mea.n I’ve been around the sport long enough to know that six straight years of playoffs and to do it with a bunch of guys that get along with a coach that we’ve been able to work with for as long as we have – it’s been an absolute blessing," said Ference.
"I’ve got to say, one of the most underrated things is the fact that this team has made the playoffs several years in a row. It’s very, very difficult to do. Whether it’s through adversity, or injuries or hot streaks or cold streaks, but for that length of time I think the guys are very, very proud of that."
"Once you get to the playoffs, the results are obviously going to be varied, sometimes dramatically. But the fact to get there is a really good accomplishment. And it really solidified this team."
Still Keeping Core
Despite the tough loss of Ference, Chiarelli expects to keep as much of his core together as he can.
"Well, that’s my mandate. I would expect to ice a team or build a team that would be a perennial contender every year. That doesn’t change," said Chiarelli. "There’s a challenge with the lower cap and I think you’ll see that challenge throughout the league. We’re no different than anyone else, but we feel confident that if we have to move a player or two or not sign somebody, we feel confident with the core we have that we’ll be able to find players or have players in the mix already that can fill that spot."
For the Bruins, that core does include several locked up players.
"You look at those guys we have, Looch [Milan Lucic], Krech [David Krejci], Marchy [Brad Marchand], they’re all 23 to 26 years old," said Shawn Thornton. "Even Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] is only 27. So I think the core of the team, the young talent, I think they’re headed in the right direction. Obviously going to have to get Tuukka [Rask] done, and try and get a couple guys back, but I think this team is very fortunate that they have those guys locked up at that age."
And for Chiarelli, knowing he has those key cogs in place, he'll exercise his options to keep a contending team.
One of those options offered to teams with the new lower salary cap - two compliance buyouts - Chiarelli said he will not be using.
"I’ve got some work to do," said the GM. "We’ve got some decisions to make in short order and we’re confident that whatever decisions we make, the team that we have at the end of the day will be a contending team that has a real good chance to win again, so we’ll find the right mix."
"There’s so many balls in the air this year, and then with the cap going down," Chiarelli added, before later reiterating, "I’ll try to ice a competitive team that will contend for a Stanley Cup."
Jagr, Pandolfo to Depart
First, the departures. Two additional players who will not be back on the Bruins' roster next season are soon-to-be restricted free agents Jaromir Jagr and Jay Pandolfo.
"I told Jaromir that we wouldn’t be signing him. I told Jay that we wouldn’t be signing him. I told Redds that I’m not sure," said Chiarelli, when asked about the futures of Jagr, Pandolfo and defenseman Wade Redden, with the Bruins.
"I thought it was really good," said Chiarelli of Jagr's short, but impactful time with the Bruins. "I don’t think Jaromir would say that because, you guys have talked to him, he always felt that he could have given us more. I told him today, I said, ‘Jaromir, what you did to wear D down was very impressive.’ I said, ‘I know you didn’t score, but the plays that you made, the timely plays that you made, I thought were terrific.’ I thought he spread out our power play, which helped our power play. I was real happy with Jaromir. I thought he really helped the cause."
Jagr said he wants to continue playing in the NHL - it just won't be in the spoked-B next season.
Redden, who served a depth role on the back end, played a role in the first-round series, before sustaining a shoulder injury and seeing the young D corps of the Bruins step up significantly.
"I for sure would love to be back, I had a great experience here," said Redden. "They're going to be a team that is going to be good for a while and definitely next year is going to another big year for them. So we’ll see what the summer brings."
Pandolfo didn't play a postseason game for the Bruins, but had his dream experience in his hometown Black & Gold and being a part of a special group.
""I haven’t 100 percent made that decision yet. To be able to finish here is pretty special for me. I’m not sure I’d really want to go play somewhere else at this point," said the 38-year-old. "I’m definitely probably leaning towards retiring."
Hopeful that Horton Will Stay
Soon-to-be UFA Nathan Horton wasn't putting his cards on the table Wednesday morning as the Bruins addressed the media, but he's expressed many times before how much he enjoys this team, his linemates, the city.
"I have enjoyed my time here obviously. Two out of three years I’ve been here we’ve been in the Stanley Cup and we’ve won one time," said Horton. "I said a million times, the guys in the room are amazing. It’s been a lot of fun and I really enjoy everyone and every player on the team."
"I hope so," said Chiarelli, on if there is a good hope that Horton would return for next season. "I’ve told him that I’d like him to come back. We’ll see how it goes."
In addition to Horton, Chiarelli has another UFA come July 5 in backup netminder Anton Khudobin.
"I told him let me figure out Tuukka first and we’ll get to you," said Chiarelli. "He's one of many balls in the air right now."
Rask All But Locked Up
Prior to the 2012-13 season, Tuukka Rask was about to take on the starting role for the first time, and as such, he signed a one-year deal with the club.
He would be a restricted free agent on July 5, but the netminder and his GM are determined to not let it reach that point.
"Well, you’d like to get everything done quickly. I don’t know if I’ll have that luxury, but certainly I’ll try just so you have your certainty on your team and cap and all that," said Chiarelli. "He’s obviously had a terrific playoff and we’d like to get him done as soon as we can."
"That would be an ideal situation I think, to play here forever," Rask told reporters. "I hope we can make that happen."