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B's Prep for Start of Free Agency

by Jess Isner / Boston Bruins — After a busy week at the NHL Awards and the NHL Draft, the Bruins have one more big event to prepare for: The opening of the free agency period, which begins on Tuesday, July 1 at 12 p.m. ET.

While some teams around the league have been fairly active in anticipation of Tuesday, Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli insists that Boston isn’t looking to make any blockbuster moves. That doesn’t mean that the team won’t make any personnel changes for the 2014-15 season; it just means that they may not be immediate.

“If we can’t do anything July 1 to July 5, that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to do anything,” Chiarelli said prior to the NHL Draft in Philadelphia. “You got to be patient. You got to pick away at this stuff, as far as team building. So it may happen July 5. We may try to do something in September. We may try to do something in November. This kind of stuff — we’re always trying to improve our team. I know I always say that, but we actually are, and we’ve got alternatives that are good hedges if we don’t get something done right away.”

The Bruins remain primarily focused on finding a way to re-sign Jarome Iginla, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, his 37th birthday. The winger signed with Boston upon becoming an unrestricted free agent last summer, agreeing to a one-year, $1.8 million deal with another $4.2 million in potential bonuses.

Boston has been engaged in ongoing discussions with Iginla and his agent, but because the Bruins are tight against the salary cap, Iginla has met with other teams during the pre-free agency shopping period as well.

Iginla submitted a stellar season with the Black and Gold in 2013-14, leading the team (along with Patrice Bergeron) with 30 goals and 31 assists for 61 points in 78 games with a plus-34 rating. It marked the 12th 30-goal season of his career. He also brought some much-needed consistency to Boston’s first line, meshing seamlessly with David Krejci and Milan Lucic.

“I’d like to have Iggy,” Chiarelli said at the draft. “I’d like to have that right shot. Iggy’s right shot is good. So if you look on our right side, we’ve got two lefties right now. You see how he plays. He plays a Bruins style of game.

“Jarome wants to stay, and we’re trying to find a spot for him, but we’re both big boys. If we can’t, we can’t, but certainly we’re both trying to work at it.”

Chiarelli added that he has already fielded trade proposals from other GMs but has been reluctant to pull the trigger.

“When they see all this talk about Iginla, it’s like, ‘Yeah, Chiarelli’s going to have to move someone,’” he said with a laugh. “They want to help out. They want to help the Bruins. I’d be doing the same thing if it was going the other way.”

While Chiarelli’s preference is to retain Iginla, he is confident that in the event a deal cannot be reached, the Bruins still have viable options to fill Iginla’s spot on Krejci’s right side.

“I’m concerned,” he said of the prospect of re-signing Iginla, “but I think it’s a challenge we can overcome. If we can’t sign Jarome, we’re going to find a good player. We feel all our young guys are going to get better.”

In addition to Iginla, goaltender Chad Johnson, defensemen Andrej Meszaros and Corey Potter and forward Shawn Thornton will enter free agency on Tuesday at 12 p.m. The Bruins extended a one-year, one-way contract to Providence goaltender Niklas Svedberg on June 23, suggesting that Johnson is not expected to re-sign.

Thornton also will not re-sign with Boston. Chiarelli met with the seven-year Bruins veteran on June 16 and told him the B’s would not be bringing him back.

Four players who broke out with the Bruins last season will become restricted free agents at Tuesday’s deadline: defensemen Matt Bartkowski and Torey Krug, as well as forwards Jordan Caron and Reilly Smith. Matt Fraser -- who scored the overtime game-winner versus Montreal in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals -- will also become an RFA.

No matter what happens over the next several days — or even months — Chiarelli feels confident about the team he will put on the ice in 2014-15.

“In a broad sense, I feel good,” he said at the draft. “With Jarome, or that type of player, it would obviously be better, but we’ve got some players that are going to come up and bubble up, and I always like that energy and enthusiasm those guys bring. So I feel good. Our younger guys are getting better, and we’re still in a real good spot as far as contending.”

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