Picking up the pieces
I've been putting of writing a eulogy, if you will, for obvious reasons. Since the Flyers put an end to the Bruins season I've had every single emotion possible about the team, the season and the playoffs. I was able to enjoy the Stanley Cup Finals, but it still stung.
But with two weeks until the draft it's time to regroup and look ahead to the 2010-2011 season. The Bruins have already made some moves with free agents to-be, including a two year deal worth $812k for Shawn Thornton (ew), a three year deal worth too much for fragile Andrew Ference, and a solid four year deal worth $3.25 mil to defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, who emerged as a perfect partner for Zdeno Chara after the Bruins acquired him from Florida at the deadline.
Mark Stuart (RFA), Johnny Boychuk (UFA), Vladimir Sobotka (RFA), Blake Wheeler (RFA), Mark Recchi (UFA) and Miro Satan (UFA) are the key members of the 09-10 group whose statuses are still up in the air. Recchi has expressed his interest in re-signing for a similar one year deal for around $1mil, and there is a good chance that he will be back with the team next year. Wheeler and Sobotka will likely be used as trade bait around the draft and I would not be surprised to see either moved in a deal to move up from the No. 15 overall pick or a similar deal to move up from No. 32.
Thanks to a complete disappearing act that made Joe Thornton blush during the final weeks of the regular season and postseason, many Bruins fans (including this one) would be willing to drive Wheeler to the airport after a trade. But it's hard to ignore the size and raw tools, including a willingness to go to the net and get deflections, that made him a top-5 pick. However, if you put Stephen Hawking on skates he would be a more physical player than Blake Wheeler, and that's unacceptable if you're A) 6'4 and B) a Boston Bruin. The guess here is he's packaged with the No. 15 pick and Zach Hamill for a pick in the 6-10 range, or possibly to Columbus for No. 4.
Speaking of the June 25 draft, it's certainly not hyperbole to say that this is the biggest draft in the history of the Bruins franchise. The only thing keeping many fans who are ready to jump ship after blowing two 3-0 leads to the Flyers interested is the thought of Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin donning the 8-spoked B next year. The consensus among Bruins fans seems to be that it's Taylor Hall or bust for the Bruins, but after Seguin's performance at the combine many people are beginning to realize either is just fine. I'm of the thought that you just take whoever Edmonton doesn't take, and that moving assets to go up one pick doesn't make much sense. Seguin has the ability to play wing, so Hall being a winger, therefore fitting the Bruins more is a moot point. Both aren't afraid to throw the body around, and both can score in the dirty areas. I'm still not fully committed to either, and probably won't be until one is actually a member of the Bruins.
The Bruins also pick at No. 15, and there are rumblings that Peter Chiarelli is interested in moving up. Columbus GM Scott Howsen said he would "certainly" consider moving the No. 4 pick, and Florida is sitting at No. 6 with a need for tangible assets, so a combo of players and No. 15 for either isn't totally out of the question. Keep an eye on the Bruins on draft day, it could get interesting.
There isn't much room for the Bruins to bring in any high profile free agents, and especially not a Marleau or Kovalchuk. But someone like Alexander Frolov might make sense if the Bruins are able to unload one of (if not two or all of) Tim Thomas, Michael Ryder and Dennis Wideman. Scoring on the wing has been an issue for Boston, and a guy like Frolov paired with David Krejci could be an instant cure. Other names that could be of interest: Jere Lehtinen, Jamal Mayers, Arron Asham, Manny Malhotra. None of those names are exciting, but they could all bring different things to next year's Bruins that the 09-10 version was sorely lacking, including heart and an actual desire to win.
So while the countdown is on to October, the next 8-10 weeks will be crucial in determining what to expect from next year's Bruins. Hopefully it's something other than the usual heartbreak and frustration.