After their stunning loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Finals, the Bruins have some important decisions to make going into the 2013 offseason. While many of the key players from this past Stanley Cup run (Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, etc.) are not going anywhere, there are others that are not under contract whom Bruins management will need to determine whether to bring them back into the fold next season. Here’s a look at some of the players Bruins president Cam Neely and GM Peter Chiarelli have to decide on whether to keep or let go. Next
Tuukka Rask (Restricted FA)
Undoubtedly the Bruins’ biggest free agent, restricted or not, is goaltender Tuukka Rask. After watching from the bench as Tim Thomas saved his way into Bruins lore, taking home the 2011 Conn Smythe trophy en route to Boston’s first Stanley Cup in almost 40 years, the 26-year-old Rask was thrust into the starting role for 2012-13 when Thomas decided to take the year off. Rask more than exceeded expectations in the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign, with a record of 19-10-5 and a goals against average of 2.00 in his first full season as the undisputed starting goaltender.
Come playoff time, he was even better, proving once and for all that he could close out big games. Rask went 14-8 in the playoffs with a league-leading save percentage of .940. All being said, it is clear to Bruins management that now that he has performed as one of the best goalies in the league. Rask is going to expect to be paid like a top goalie, so Boston will have to see what it will take to bring back their talented leader in net.
Kaspars Daugavins (Restricted FA)
Another restricted free agent the Bruins have is winger Kaspars Daugavins. Known to Bruins fans as the Ottawa Senators player who tried to hold the puck with the top of his stick and spin-o-rama around Tuukka Rask during a shootout (and failed to fool Rask), the 25-year-old Daugavins was claimed by the Bruins off waivers on march 27, and tallied one assist in six games during the regular season for the B’s. Come playoff time it was expected that Daugavins would not be a part of the picture, but following a season ending injury to Gregory Campbell in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Daugavins was inserted into the Bruins lineup where he looked strong at times in Game 4 against the Penguins, including a shot off the post that could have ended up being the game-winner in a game the Bruins pulled out, 1-0.
But Daugavins struggled in the Stanley Cup Final, in which the only game he saw more than nine minutes of ice time was in Game 1, a triple overtime defeat. After taking some bad penalties, recording no points, and carrying a -1 rating for the first four games, Daugavins was benched for Games 5 and 6 in favor of Swedish forward Carl Soderberg. Looking forward, it is not clear what the Bruins plan to do with him in the foreseeable future.
Jordan Caron (Restricted FA)
One piece of the Bruins future that the club thought they had secured in 2009 was forward Jordan Caron. Taken with the 25th overall pick, the 22-year-old Caron has seen limited playing time up in Boston, spending the majority of his time in Providence. After playing 48 games in Boston in 2011-12, and scoring 15 points, Caron only came up for 17 contests in 2012-13, mostly filling in when players were injured or needed a day off. He tallied one goal and two assists this past season and did not play in the postseason with Claude Julien opting to go with Carl Soderberg to replace the ineffective Kaspars Daugavins. It is now up to Bruins management to figure out whether to extend the contract of Caron and give him one more chance to prove his worth, or to cut their losses and let him start fresh elsewhere.
Nathan Horton (Unrestricted FA)
Of the Bruins unrestricted free agents heading into the summer of 2013, the most notable is forward Nathan Horton. Since coming to Boston in a 2010 trade with Florida that also included Gregory Campbell, the 28-year-old Horton has been one of the most productive players on the club, teaming up with David Krejci and Milan Lucic to form one of the more formidable lines in the entire league. After a relatively slow start to the lockout-shortened 2013 season, in which he scored 13 goals and nine assists in 43 games, Horton caught fire in the playoffs, helping the Bruins run that went all the way to Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Despite suffering a shoulder injury in Game 1 of the Finals that left him limited for the rest of the series, Horton finished the postseason tied Lucic and Chicago’s Patrick Kane for second in playoff points with 19. Horton made $4.3 million this past season, but, according to the Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa, it is likely that Horton would accept a hometown discount to stay with the Bruins, favoring security, due to two of his past three seasons ending with concussions and his likely need for shoulder surgery during this offseason. Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said he wants Horton to return.
Anton Khudobin (Unrestricted FA)
Since taking over as backup goalie behind Tuukka Rask at the beginning of this season, Anton Khudobin has shown to be a perfectly capable goaltender in the NHL. The 27-year-old goaltender started 14 games in the shortened season for Boston, posting a record of 9-4-1, with a goal against average of 2.32 and a save percentage of .920. Watching Rask take the Bruins to Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals, Khudobin now seems ready to lead his own NHL team after proving this past season he has starting-goaltender material.
With the Bruins likely resigning Rask to be their long term goalie of the future, it looks like Khudobin will leave Boston to try and find a team he can start with. The Bruins have a very good third string goalie in Swede Niklas Svedberg, who started for Providence this past season. Svedberg could easily move up to Boston to backup Rask for the near future.
Wade Redden (Unrestricted FA)
In looking to shore up a tired defense at the trade deadline, the Bruins made a trade with the St. Louis Blues for veteran Wade Redden. After joining the B’s, Redden scored one goal and one assist in six regular season games for Boston. He originally started in the first round of the playoffs against Toronto in front of rookie Dougie Hamilton, and showed very solid play against the Maple Leafs, scoring a goal and an assist in five games in the quarterfinals.
An injury in Game 5, however, opened the door for young defensemen Matt Bartkowski to start the rest of the series against the Leafs and all of the semifinals against the New York Rangers, leaving Redden to ride out the rest of the playoffs as a healthy scratch for each game. With his contract expiring, and the Bruins very deep on defense, it doesn’t look like Redden will be returning to the Bruins.
Aaron Johnson (Unrestricted FA)
Aaron Johnson was signed by the Bruins before the regular season as insurance in case the team decided to send Dougie Hamilton back to juniors. However, due to an injury to Dennis Seidenberg in the first game of the season, Johnson saw his playing time increase right away and he ended up playing about a fifth of the season for the Bruins. The 30-year-old played 10 games for the Bruins over the course of the lockout-shortened 2013 season, recording no points and a plus/minus rating of 0. Now that the Bruins have several high performing defensive prospects, including Hamilton, Matt Bartkowski, and Torey Krug, it seems very unlikely that Johnson will be back with the Bruins next season.
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