There really is no offseason in the NHL. Free agency started just over a week after the Boston Bruins lost in the Stanley Cup Final to the Chicago Blackhawks, and Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli is already working the phones to try and improve his roster and work his way around the salary cap.
For the Bruins, there are certain needs that need to be met during the summer of 2013 to prepare for next season. Jaromir Jagr, 41, won't be coming back, and all signs point to the departure of Andrew Ference as well. Nathan Horton has already informed the team that he'll be testing the market, and most likely won't be a Bruin next year.
So what can the Bruins do to fill these holes? What players need to be targeted?
There were rumblings about Boston wanting to sign center Vincent Lecavalier, but those are dead after the 14-year veteran signed a five-year deal with the Flyers this week.
There have also been rumors about the potential of Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson jumping ship and signing in Boston to try and win the Stanley Cup that has eluded him his entire career. But that is a long shot that he would leave the only franchise he's ever played for, especially with the strong foundation Ottawa has built the last two years under Paul MacLean.
Here are the five ways the Bruins can ace the free agency period this summer.
With the departure of Horton and Jagr, the Bruins will need to sign a high-calibur right wing that can complement the strong centers they have in Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. There is no better forward on the market than former Bruin Michael Ryder.
"I want to do a thorough sweep of those guys," Chiarelli said. "With Nathan gone we've got to look to our right side and see and assess how we're going to reconstruct our right side. We've got some players from within that may be able to fill. I want to do a sweep of these players that will be available in trade and free agency. I'd like to think that we're a destination for an older player—older relatively speaking—that wants a chance to win. So I've got to canvas that. It's about turning over all the stones, going through the free-agent list player by player. ... So general overview, I'm going into it with the approach that we're going to be diligent in talking to these guys and seeing what the trade opportunities are also."
Chiarelli's top priority should be targeting Ryder.
Ryder, who won the Cup with Boston in 2011, was traded to Montreal last season from Dallas and contributed mightily. The smart thing for both sides would be to reunite. He proved to be a clutch scorer in the playoffs for Boston, and after not being in contention for a Stanley Cup the past two years, he'll be itching to get back to a winning organization.
Rask solidified himself as the franchise goalie this season after Tim Thomas took a year off.
He had a .929 save percentage and a goals against average of 2.00 in the regular season, and stepped up his game in the playoffs. Rask finished with .940 save percentage and a 1.88 GAA in the playoffs.
He is set to become a restricted free agent on Friday July 5th, but NHL.com's Matt Kalman reports that the Bruins' GM is confident he can get a deal done regardless if it's before Rask becomes a RFA.
"I feel confident that we'll get a deal done on Rask in short order," Chiarelli said. "So I've got a placeholder number in there that I can work around as far as cap [space]."
"I would think before [Friday]. But if it's after, I’m fine with it too," he said. "I know he would enter free agency, but I'm confident regardless."
CBSSports.com's Adam Getz writes that a long-term deal with Rask looks to be in place, somewhere in the neighborhood of eight years and $56 million, according to Hockey Night in Canada's Eliotte Freidman.
If the B's get Rask locked up, it'll allow them to focus on players they weren't as confident would be theirs anyway.
This seems obvious, and it is. But signing Bergeron will be enticing for free agent forwards. They will want to sign with Boston knowing that the franchise player is locked up.
Wingers will want to play with a strong center like Bergeron, and penalty killers will want to sign to play alongside him when Boston is a man down.
CSN New England's Joe Haggerty reports that the B's and No. 37 are close to a long-term extension.
If a deal can be done quickly, it will be one less matter the Bruins have to worry about before turning their attention to other players.
David Clarkson is an intriguing player. He emerged as a goal scorer with the Devils, and with New Jersey re-signing Patrik Elias to a three-year deal on Thursday, he could be on the move. Brian Stubits of CBSSports.com wrote that Clarkson turned down a deal from the Devils and will test the market. He could be a great player that would fit in with the Bruins style of play. He's tough, gritty and scores big goals.
With Zdeno Chara continuing to age, he could become a strong leader in the locker room for Boston in addition to Bergeron.
If the Bruins are unable to ink Ryder, signing Clarkson would be an exceptional back-up plan.
Chiarelli has said his team isn't looking for defenseman, but he should be.
Sure, the emergence of Torey Krug was great, but he showed some immaturity in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final that led to a Dave Bolland goal.
There are plenty of veteran free agents that should be looked at. And a veteran defenseman in a lineup for the playoffs is never a bad idea.
Michal Rozsival, Ryan O'Byrne and big Douglas Murray are all UFAs, and any would fit in with the Bruins. Murray is a menace in the corners and in front of the net, and O'Byrne is solid at moving the puck up to his forwards in the neutral zone. Rozsvial is coming off a Stanley Cup championship and was a solid addition for the Blackhawks last year.
The best part is that they will all sign for less than what Andrew Ference is going to covet in the market, which is why he won't be re-signed.