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Bruins go by the numbers

Big additions trump free agency moves

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / June 30, 2010

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When free agency opens tomorrow, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli does not expect to land any big-name players. But part of that reason is because of the addition of the two men he introduced yesterday at TD Garden.

Tyler Seguin, the second overall pick from last Friday’s draft, and Nathan Horton, acquired from Florida June 22, visited Boston yesterday, stopping at the Garden to debut their new jerseys. Seguin, who cites Steve Yzerman as his idol, will wear No. 19. Horton has chosen No. 18. The last two Bruins to wear the respective numbers were Joe Thornton and Stephane Yelle.

“Going to a team like Boston, if I made the team as a rookie, already being on a contender for a Stanley Cup team, I think that would be awesome,’’ said Seguin, who wore No. 9 (Johnny Bucyk’s retired number) in juniors. “But right now, my expectations are to have an opportunity here. All I want to do is hopefully earn my spot on this team and be an impact player in my rookie year.’’

Seguin and Horton are just two of the pieces that have landed in an already busy offseason. On Monday, the Bruins officially re-signed Mark Recchi to a one-year, $1.7 million extension. The week before, they rewarded Johnny Boychuk with a two-year, $3.75 million deal. Earlier this month, they also extended Dennis Seidenberg (four years, $13 million) and Shawn Thornton (two years, $1.625 million).

“I have taken care of a lot,’’ said Chiarelli. “I really wanted to get Nathan’s trade completed before going to the draft. There is a lot of activity and a lot of chatter. But what tends to happen sometimes is that things get bogged down or tabled until after the draft. So it was good to get that deal out of the way. And of course, to add a potential impact player like Tyler is good. So we’ve added one definite top-three forward. Who knows what Tyler will become in the short term? We know what he’ll become in the long term. We’ve taken care of a good part of our business.’’

Although Seguin has yet to sign the three-year entry-level contract ($900,000 base salary) that is all but a formality, the Bruins already have approximately $54 million committed to 2010-11 salaries. With the ceiling recently set at $59.4 million, the team has approximately $5 million in cap space if it wants to spend to the max — something Chiarelli said the organization has yet to decide upon.

The Bruins still must negotiate new deals for Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell, Blake Wheeler, Mark Stuart, and Adam McQuaid. Paille, who was not qualified by Monday’s deadline, will become unrestricted tomorrow, but Chiarelli said he’s negotiating with the fourth-line forward on an extension. Of the remaining restricted free agents, Wheeler and Stuart could earn raises via arbitration. Chiarelli said he hopes not to have arbitration cases with either player.

So with available funds minimal, the Bruins will be looking at trades instead of signings to round out their roster. If they sign any free agents in the next few days, it would be a No. 3 goalie or a depth defenseman, according to Chiarelli.

“We’re going to work the trade market,’’ he said. “We’re not going out and signing anyone, unless we have someone we really want, and/or we have the cap space. Right now, we don’t have the cap space to sign big deals. But that could happen. We could make a trade and there could be cap space. It doesn’t mean we have someone in mind. We’ve got a list. The list is small.’’

The two trades that could clear cap space include Marc Savard ($4.083 million annual cap hit) and Tim Thomas ($5 million). Even though David Krejci is coming off a dislocated right wrist, the 24-year-old has the potential to be a No. 1 center with a more well-rounded game than Savard, who turns 33 July 17. Patrice Bergeron, tied with Krejci for the team lead in points last season (19-33—52), can play a two-way role in the No. 2 slot, leaving Seguin to adjust to the NHL as the third-line center.

Savard, who has a full no-trade clause and has not requested to be moved, has approved potential deals to Toronto and Ottawa. However, with the Senators most likely retaining Jason Spezza, Ottawa GM Bryan Murray would not be in the market to add another offense-first center.

The logical fit would have been Toronto, where old linemate Phil Kessel needs an upgrade at center. Savard’s three children live in nearby Peterborough. But yesterday, a source with knowledge of conversations between the clubs said talk of Savard going to Toronto is dead.

In Los Angeles during the draft, when Tomas Kaberle’s no-trade clause was lifted, the Bruins inquired about the defenseman for Savard. With Boston short a puck-moving defenseman after sending Dennis Wideman to Florida, Kaberle ($4.25 million cap hit) would have been the ideal return for Savard. Before the draft, Toronto GM Brian Burke was seeking a first-round pick and a forward for Kaberle.

The more challenging piece to move is Thomas, who has three years ($5 million annual cap hit) remaining on his deal.

The Flyers continue to hunt for goalies, but they might look to Evgeni Nabokov or Marty Turco upon the opening of free agency. While Paul Holmgren wouldn’t have to give up assets to sign Nabokov or Turco, the Philadelphia GM could ask Chiarelli to take back a hefty contract for Thomas.

But as of yesterday, trades didn’t seem imminent for the Bruins.

“I am surprised,’’ Chiarelli said of the lack of movement upon the draft’s conclusion. “I’ve talked to a bunch of general managers, and they’re saying the same thing.

“As you approach July 1, you assess those players available through trade and compare them to who’s available in free agency. In the free agent market, you usually have to give more term and more premium on the price. So you make those comparisons. I’m doing that and looking where the market is.’’

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