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Chiarelli: We Still Have a 'Very Strong, Contending Team'

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

JERSEY CITY, NJ - After a lengthy postseason, there is no rest for the weary as the Bruins' brass traveled to New Jersey this weekend for the 2013 NHL Draft, commencing on Sunday afternoon at the Prudential Center.

The Bruins currently have six picks in the draft, beginning with pick No. 60 in the second round. Their first rounder (29th overall) is owned by the Dallas Stars. When the Bruins traded for Jaromir Jagr, Dallas acquired a conditional second-round pick that became a first-round selection if the Bruins reached the Eastern Conference Finals.

As such, the B's have a pick each in rounds 2-7 (60, 90, 120, 150, 180, 210).

On Saturday morning, as General Manager Peter Chiarelli and his staff were hard at work in meetings, he took a moment to address media from the team's hotel prior to Sunday's Draft.

"Well, lengthy postseason run, I’m tired, as I’m sure you guys are," a smiling Chiarelli quipped to reporters gathered around.

The B's GM went on to assess his organization's strategy when approaching this weekend, which includes the Draft, but is also affected by the upcoming free agency period and the lower salary cap for 2013-14.

"Deep team, it’s good to have players and assets. When I say assets, I mean those non-NHL players. It’s kind of impersonal, but that's what they call them. It helps you when you are looking at moves," he said, referencing the organization's system, from prospects up through the Boston roster.

"We had to let Andy [Andrew Ference] go, and we probably have to do something else too, just to get kind of cap compliant."

"So you have assets and you’ve got some activity, so maybe we get a couple things done."

Remaining Cap Compliant

With the cap dipping down to $64,300,000 this year following the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Bruins currently sit less than $5,000,000 under the cap.

General Manager Peter Chiarelli has already expressed, in his season-end press conference on June 26, that the Bruins would like to re-sign Tuukka Rask "as soon as we can." Rask is set to become a restricted free agent on July 5, when the NHL's free agency period begins.

Rask also expressed his own desire to re-sign. "That would be an ideal situation I think, to play here forever," the goaltender said earlier this week. "I hope we can make that happen."

Forward Nathan Horton is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 5.

"I’ve told him that I’d like him to come back," Chiarelli said of Horton during his end-of-season press conference. "We’ll see how it goes."

Outside of re-signing players, Chiarelli was asked by a reporter during his pre-Draft morning availability on Saturday if any teams had interest in acquiring negotiating rights for Andrew Ference, who is set to become a UFA on July 5. Chiarelli and Ference both announced on Wednesday during the team's break-up day that the defenseman would not be back with the Bruins next season, due to the lower salary cap.

"I’ve got a couple of teams on Andy - and I’ve spoken with Andy’s agent in order to help out, and I’ve actually given Andy’s agent permission to talk to teams and then come back," Chiarelli told media during Saturday's availibility. "I’m not going to stand in his way, as I said it at my press conference before, he’s been a warrior for us, and I want to help him as much as I can."

When assessing his roster and options moving forward, Chiarelli and his staff look at all possibilities.

"What I see is that there’s going to be a lot of players available. And it may not be right now, but with the cap going down, just out of doing simple math, there's going to be players available," said Chiarelli.

"I think there’s going to be players that want to play for less [because of supply and demand].That’s where, if we have to mix and match a little bit, I think we will be pretty good, because we still have a very strong, contending team and I think there’s going to be players that will want to play for us - if we have to get to that point."

Process Culminates

The scouting process preparing for the Draft (and free agency) is extensive to say the least. Amateur and pro scouting blend to form the current roster, as well as the future.

"It's a little harried a little bit because we just finished playing," said Chiarelli, giving insight into the process that leads to this weekend.

"We had our amateur and pro scouts in during the Pittsburgh series. Those kind of were tailoring up the lists and kind of the interest groups, the interest lists, the players of interest for pro."

"Now they’re back and we’re meeting right now. We had our amateur scouts, I just came out of an amateur scouting meeting. And then we'll go into our pro meeting a little bit later. We’re refining our list a little bit because, in the time, in the two weeks, guys have some different thoughts and then we'll interview some players a little later on, and then I’ll hit the phones."

From his point of view, there seems to be more activity with the draft taking place on just one day - Sunday - this year, versus the usual set-up used in the past, with the first round on Friday night, followed by rounds 2-7 on Saturday.

"Maybe there’s a little more activity because Sunday comes and goes and everyone goes on their way back to hunker down for free agency. So it’s probably a little more activity."

2013 Draft Class

As referenced above, the Bruins currently do not have a first-round pick, with their first selection coming in the second round.

When Chiarelli was asked by a reporter if he had interest getting into the first round, he said, "I think any GM who went into the draft without a first round would have to do that. So - of course I would. Yes."

As far as approaching the draft and their picks, a member of the media asked Chiarelli if his thought process is always "best player available."

"That is always is the overriding thought and objective," said the GM. "When you get into the nitty-gritty of who’s at [number] 10 or 11 and why, you've got to look to need a little bit. But the overriding tiebreaker and the overriding mentality is 'best player available.'"

Trade Talk

The "activity" Chiarelli mentioned regarding the NHL's 30 teams trying to form their rosters and depth, also involves talk of trades, the GM told reporters.

"It’s actually pretty active," he said of trade talk this weekend. "I think when Lecavalier [Vincent Lecavalier] got bought out, it's kind of thrown some teams for a loop. It had a trickle-down effect and it just kind of gives everybody pause for thought. But it’s been fairly active."

"I think a lot of teams are trying to figure out who they may buy out so they’ve got some time before July 4th, July 5th [free agency start date]. And then, they’ve got assets that are available tomorrow in the draft. So it’s picking up steam."

Bruins' Restricted Free Agents

During his media availability, Chiarelli said that the team has qualified restricted free agent Tuukka Rask, in addition to prospects Jordan Caron and goaltender Michael Hutchinson.

"We haven’t qualified Kaspars [Kaspars Daugavins] yet. We might. We’ve talked to him. We want to see where we fit here. We’ve got a few days here. He has the right to arbitration."

"The major roster one is Tuukka, and we’ve qualified him."

"I don't want to go to arbitration with [Tuukka]. I’ve talked to his agent, and we’re trying to work something out."

Icing a Contender

No matter how the the weekend and ensuing weeks play out, General Manager Peter Chiarelli and his staff will be focusing on building a championship-caliber team.

"I’ve got some work to do," the GM said earlier this week. "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."

"I’ll try to ice a competitive team that will contend for a Stanley Cup.
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