Don’t look now, but five different members of the Boston Bruins are going to be in search of new contracts soon. When this season ends, the team is going to need to decide on futures for Andrew Ference, Nathan Horton, Anton Khudobin, Lane MacDermid and Tuukka Rask (above). Each player is a different man with different records and different needs, but if general manager Peter Chiarelli wants to keep riding his strategy of keeping the team’s core together, he now has many chances to do so.
The most imperative signing, and the first one the team should make, is for Rask. He’s on a one-year deal right now that was partly motivated by a desire to see how he would play this year and partly based on salary concerns–more about that later. Of equal importance, perhaps, is getting Khudobin on a new deal. Khudobin is set to become an unrestricted free agent while Rask will be restricted.
Unless the Bruins start to shop for a different backup between now and this summer, which feels doubtful to me, they’ll want to stick with the Rask-Khudobin tandem and get them both locked down for some years to come. Both of them are young–Rask is 25, Khudobin is 26–so unlike how it is other teams (the New Jersey Devils with their 79-year old tandem), age isn’t really a factor.
Then the team needs to take a long look at Horton and Ference. Each man has an issue that might affect their desirability: Horton has a history of concussions and Ference is a little older now. However, neither of them will allow themselves to be defined so simply.
Both are big parts of the team. Ference has been in the Bruins dressing room since 2006-07 and has his wife and two school-age daughters living with him in Boston. Horton has a knack for scoring those dearly-needed, timely goals and his smile could probably light up an entire city block.
Another concern a little further down the lineup involves MacDermid, a restricted free agent at the end of this season. He follows in his dad’s footsteps by being a gritty guy unafraid of dropping the gloves, but he also actually scores every once in a while too, though he spends most of his time down in Providence. In the future, he might become more regularly a part of Boston’s lineup. Only time will tell.
Trading away Tim Thomas to the New York Islanders actually helped both teams in terms of cash money. The Islanders were able to hit the salary floor while the Bruins, who were straining the salary ceiling, get a little breathing room.
It’s breathing room that the Bruins are going to desperately need as Chiarelli and his team start to calculate what they can do. I’m not worried, though. Chiarelli majored in economics at Harvard and has a good head on his shoulders. He’ll steer the ship well.