Boston Bruins: Taking an Early Look at Their Free Agents for Summer 2013

Al DanielCorrespondent IISeptember 11, 2012

Boston Bruins: Taking an Early Look at Their Free Agents for Summer 2013

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    As of Tuesday morning, Tyler Seguin has joined Brad Marchand in signing a new contract with the Boston Bruins set to take effect in the 2013-14 season.

    With Seguin’s contract following Marchand’s re-signing this past Friday, the Bruins are now assured the rights to nine active returning forwards plus four of their veteran defensemen for at least the next two years.

    Three other strikers, each of the organization’s top three goalies, one seasoned blueliner and a dense portion of the NHL-AHL borderline have until the conclusion of this season to garner a new pact with the Bruins.

    The state of those pending free agents, position by position, and their most realistic contract scenarios between now and July 1, 2013 are assessed as follows.

Forwards

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    Like Seguin, Jordan Caron is entering the final year of his entry-level contract. Off-and-on linemates Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic are due to hit unrestricted and restricted free agency, respectively.

    Based on the way general manager Peter Chiarelli and head coach Claude Julien have leaned on him for five years, Lucic is all but assured an extension a la Marchand well in advance of July 1, 2013.

    Chiarelli might hold back on Horton if his health does not regain stability, but the odds of him being offered an extension are still fairly promising.

    Caron is the odd man out, having split his first two professional campaigns between Boston and Providence and now entering the next season with Jared Knight and Ryan Spooner posing competition for a third-line slot.

    Caron could be left unprotected if he does not make significant strides and the likes of Knight, Spooner and the at least temporarily KHL-bound Alex Khokhlachev all amplify their long-term outlook.

    It is not an irrational proposition to envision Caron being dealt at the 2013 trade deadline if he is deemed to require a change of scenery and a desired piece of compensation is offered. On the other hand, signing a contract extension at midseason if he erupts on the stat sheet is also within his sphere of possibility.

Defensemen

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    Of those who are either established in The Show or stand a realistic chance of seeing NHL action in the coming year, four of the Bruins blueliners are fighting for an extended stay.

    Andrew Ference is the only returning veteran who is not locked in beyond next summer. In his company are minor league mainstay Matt Bartkowski and two recent free-agent imports in Garnet Exelby and Aaron Johnson.

    Bartkowski’s Bruins hourglass is rapidly running short on sand, and his pool has deepened a few feet with the veteran likes of Exelby and Johnson, plus rookie Torey Krug, coming into the equation. While he earned a one-year extension this summer, he will need to make an impression this season more than Caron does if he hopes to one day play a full year in Boston.

    One or both of Exelby and Johnson can replenish the seasoning on the Providence blue line previously provided by Andrew Bodnarchuk and Nathan McIver. Their hopes of supplanting Ference for a full-time NHL roster spot, however, are between brittle and nonexistent, which means the best bet has only one of them sticking around beyond 2013.

    The greatest threats to Ference’s security are a sprinkling of wild cards, namely the development of Bartkowski and Krug and the possibility of Chiarelli finding an enticing NHL import. But the fact that he is one of only six skaters and two defensemen remaining from Julien’s first season in 2007-08 points to him inking a new contract by the coming winter or spring.

Goalies

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    All three of Boston’s top rostered netminders―Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin―are due for either an extension or an exit by next summer.

    The self-idled Thomas is all but a lock to never don a Spoked-B again. If he is not traded to a team looking to inch closer to the cap floor within the next 10 months, he will be impelled to retire or try his luck overseas.

    The crease should be Rask’s indefinitely from here on out. The fact that 2012-13 is the final year of his contract bodes well for all parties concerned as his previous seasons in the same situation, 2009-10 and 2011-12, have been his best.

    With the presumptive AHL tandem of Michael Hutchinson and Niklas Svedberg likely a while away from the top level and Malcolm Subban going back to major junior, Khudobin has every reason to return for 2013-14. Although odds are, barring a surprise breakout on his part, he will only be extended for the short term while the Bruins continue to monitor Subban’s development.