BostonBruins.com - On Wednesday morning, Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli held his annual media availability prior to the NHL's free agency period, which begins this Friday, July 5, at noon ET.
The most notable impending free agent on Boston's roster is restricted free agent, goaltender Tuukka Rask. Heading into the 2012-13 season, the netminder had signed a one-year deal, with an annual cap figure of $3,500,000.
Other impending free agents, Nathan Horton and Andrew Ference, are both set to become unrestricted free agents on July 5. According to Chiarelli, Horton has already informed the Bruins that he is heading to free agency. We found out on the Bruins' break-up day (June 26) that Ference would not be able to be re-signed, due to the lower salary cap for next season.
The Bruins are currently about $5,000,000 below the cap hit for 2013-14 of $64,300,000.
For Chiarelli, the priority it to re-sign Rask.
On his conference call with reporters Wednesday morning, the B's GM reiterated that mindset.
"I feel confident that we will get a deal done on Rask in short order," he said.
Later in the call, Chiarelli added that he thought the deal could get done before July 5, when Rask would officially become a restricted free agent.
"But if it’s after, I’m fine with it to. I know he would enter free agency, but I’m confident, regardless."
As far as the rest of the Bruins' priorities heading into the free agency period, Chiarelli is looking to rebuild the right side. With Horton likely gone, and the B's having parted ways with Jaromir Jagr, there are holes to fill.
Chiarelli didn't dispel the notion that the Bruins could circle back with right wing Jagr, though, now that Horton is expected to move on.
"He’s on a list of a bunch of guys," said Chiarelli of possibly revisiting Jagr. "When I talk about reconstructing the right side, maybe we can get some youth in there too in addition to an older guy."
The GM noted his current right wings, including Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley, Jordan Caron (left shot but often plays the right side) and Jared Knight, but mentioned that the caliber of Horton and Jagr requires him to be open to all possibilities and alternatives.
"You just have to look to try to maintain a standard that will help us to continue to contend [for the Stanley Cup]," said Chiarelli. "I’m not saying that those players that I mentioned aren’t up to that standard, but I just have to look at all options."
Whether Chiarelli signs Rask before the July 5th date or not, the timetable of the signing will not affect his other decisions as he navigates through free agency.
"I have a placeholder number in there to work around as far as cap planning," said Chiarelli, on having the cap planned out with an assumed salary for Rask included.
Still, signing Rask remains a main focus.
"You’d like to get everything done quickly," Chiarelli had said back on the B's break-up day (June 26), before shifting gears into roster planning. "I don’t know if I’ll have that luxury, but certainly I’ll try."
"He’s obviously had a terrific playoff and we’d like to get him done as soon as we can."
Rask compiled a 1.88 goals-against average and .940 save percentage during his 14-8 stretch in the postseason. He saved 715 of 761 shots fired on him, and recorded three playoff shutouts, two against the Pittsburgh Penguins and another against the Blackhawks in the Final. His stellar playoffs followed a solid regular season, in which he compiled a 19-10-5 record, finishing the season fourth in goals-against average (1.96) and fifth in save percentage (.927). He was tied for first with five shutouts.
"That would be an ideal situation, I think, to play here forever," Rask said during his season-ending availability. "I hope we can make that happen."
Khudobin Could Test Market
Bruins' GM Peter Chiarelli has said he would assess Anton Khudobin's situation once the Bruins took care of Rask. Khudobin is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 5.
"I’ve had discussions with his agent, the discussions were contingent on where we’re going to end up with a couple of guys," said Chiarelli.
"My guess is he’ll probably go to [the free agency] market. Anton says he wants to stay here – I’m keeping a close eye on it and constant contact, hoping that he can come back. But, my guess is that he’ll go to market."
"We can still sign him if he goes to market; it will just be a little trickier."