No matter what the owners and NHLPA agree to on certain player contract issues, such as term limits and salary variance, it will be business as usual for Chiarelli when the work stoppage concludes.
If the league is successful in getting the players to agree to a five-year term limit on all new contracts, including a seven-year limit on player re-signing with his current team, it won't change how the Bruins have operated over the last seven years.
The Bruins have done a remarkable job managing the salary cap and not giving out contracts that limit Chiarelli's flexibility in the trade and free-agent markets.
Boston has no players with a salary cap hit of $7 million or more, and probably won't need to trade any players when the salary cap ceiling goes down as a result of the new CBA due to the one-year transition period, as Chris Johnston of the Canadian Press explains:
NHL was proposing a salary cap of $60 million, with one season at $70 million to help teams transition down.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) December 7, 2012
If the new cap ceiling in the second year of the next CBA is around $60 million, the Bruins will need to clear about $9 million in cap space between the end of the lockout and the start of the 2013-14 season.
How will the Bruins clear this space and adequately replace any departing players? The organizational depth Chiarelli has done a wonderful job building is the answer.
|Upcoming UFA/RFA||2012-13 Cap Hit||Who Can Replace?||Notes|
|Andrew Ference||$2.25 million||Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug|
Ference is a good player who contributes at both ends of the ice, but the Bruins have a wealth of quality defensive prospects who should see some NHL action over the next two years.
Dougie Hamilton will likely be with the team this season, but Torey Krug and Tommy Cross could be ready for a third-pairing role after this season.
|Tim Thomas||$5 million||Tuukka Rask|
Rask is already going to replace Thomas as the starting goaltender this season.
If the Bruins don't trade Thomas before his contract expires next summer, they will likely let him walk in free agency.
|Nathan Horton||$4 million||Anthony Camara|
Horton will have to prove he can be healthy during 2012-13 to earn a new contract with the Bruins. If the team doesn't want to take a risk and re-sign him, Anthony Camara might be ready to replace him.
Camara is a winger for the OHL's Barrie Colts, and has scored 36 points (20 goals, 16 assists) in 29 games this season. He's a good offensive player with impressive size, just like Horton.
|Anton Khudobin||$875,000||Malcolm Subban|
It's unlikely that Khudobin won't re-sign since he's a quality backup and just 26 years old.
If for some reason he does not return for 2013-14, 2012 first-round pick Malcolm Subban might be ready for the backup role. Subban is 15-7-3 for the Belleville Bulls of the OHL this season.
|Jordan Caron (RFA)||$1.1 million||Jared Knight|
This is an extremely important season for Caron as he attempts to prove that he deserves a permanent spot on the third or fourth line.
If he struggles, impressive prospect Jared Knight could challenge for a roster spot in 2013-13.
Boston can clear over $13 million in cap space by letting these players go (although it's unlikely that all of them are not re-signed), and still have enough depth to compete in the Eastern Conference.
Chiarelli will need the additional cap space when the new contracts signed by Tyler Seguin, Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand begin.
The Bruins foolishly allowed their top free agents to test the market following the previous lockout seven years ago by choosing not to re-sign them.
Failing to re-sign these players, or any other stars on the free-agent market after the lockout left the team with a weak roster that included just one major star in captain Joe Thornton. As a result, Boston finished 13th in the Eastern Conference during the 2005-06 season.
Chiarelli made sure that the team's approach heading into this lockout was much different. He made sure the Bruins locked up young stars such as Lucic, Marchand and Seguin to multi-year contract extensions, and also re-signed multiple veterans to maintain the team's quality depth.
His impressive drafting has also given the Bruins enough talented prospects to replace aging or underperforming veterans if the team doesn't have a lot of cap space following the lockout.
Regardless of what the new CBA includes, Chiarelli and the Bruins have a solid roster for the future after signing several of the team's important players to contracts with manageable cap hits over the last two years.
This lockout has been tough for Bruins fans, but they can take comfort in the fact that their team has a solid foundation for many years of future success.