BOSTON -- When Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli acquired Dennis Seidenberg at March's trade deadline, he couldn't have been as presumptuous as to expect he'd definitely re-sign the veteran defenseman, who was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent July 1.
However, it was pretty evident -- and Chiarelli pointed this out Saturday during a conference call to discuss Seidenberg's four-year extension (worth a reported $13 million) -- that with the package the Bruins shipped to Florida (rugged forward Byron Bitz and a high second-round pick in '10) in exchange for Seidenberg and prospect Matt Bartkowski, Chiarelli wasn't looking at the 28-year-old native of Germany as a rental player.
And when Chiarelli zeroes in on a player he wants to make part of his club's foundation for an extended time, he usually does just that. Whether it was Mark Recchi last year or Dennis Wideman or Marco Sturm in past seasons, Chiarelli usually gets the deal done. In fact, an argument can be made that Phil Kessel is the only player whom the Bruins' GM has made a concerted effort to keep but didn't -- and there's obviously some question about Chiarelli's true enthusiasm for retaining the winger in the first place.
"You don't know that going in," Chiarelli said about the odds of re-signing Seidenberg at the time of the trade. "You have to speculate that before you acquire him. But he was on a one-year deal and my assumption was that because Florida was trading him, that if we made a good impression and put him in a good position, that we'd be in a good position to sign him."
Speculation is putting it mildly. But Chiarelli obviously does his homework, talks to agents and other GMs, and knows which players would be solid long-term fits for Boston and which he should shy away from. Armed with the security of his own long-term contract, Chiarelli has the luxury of looking beyond one particular season or stretch of games and projecting what his team would look like. That he's made Boston a favorable destination for free agents again is just part of the equation. It's also the astute work of his team and his coaching staff that can gauge when a guy will be more than a one-month solution.
Seidenberg proved just that in his 17 games with the Bruins. He was paired with Norris Trophy-winner Zdeno Chara from the time he pulled on a black-and-gold sweater. Seidenberg proved that matching up against other teams' top offensive performers wouldn't eat into other aspects of his game, as he posted 2-7--9 totals. Were it not for the wrist injury that ended his season April 3, the Bruins may have been able to avoid their historic collapse against Philadelphia in the second round of the playoffs.
While the Bruins going forward can load up their top pair with Chara and Seidenberg and put the clamps on the league's most dynamic players, perhaps down the road Seidenberg will be able to lead his own duo and give the Bruins the type of balance championship teams enjoy.
"Dennis is more than that," Chiarelli said when asked about Seidenberg's shutdown ability. "He has the ability to do that and more, which is what made him attractive to us. [He] is strong, defensively sound, moves the puck well from a good defensive position. But I think you've also seen his ability to make a very good pass, he's got a very good one-timer, he sees the ice well, he pinches in the offensive zone. So he has the ability to play that role and that's first and foremost why we got him. We knew there were other facets of his game."
Added Seidenberg when asked about his own improved game: "Everybody's striving for perfection. I want to be a better consistent player, to work well every game. I think that's the hardest thing to do as a player. And also just my game … maybe just be more consistent, and everything else comes with that."
Seidenberg could have waited to become a free agent and tested the market. With his stock up, he almost definitely would have received a similar offer from a team not coming off a momentous meltdown. But he learned the hard way last summer how fickle the market could be. He didn't sign with Florida until September, and said after his arrival in Boston that the goal was some long-term security to put an end to his nomadic ways (four teams in seven years through last season).
"I'm excited to be part of a great organization," Seidenberg said. "I think Boston's a great town, a great hockey town, the guys are great and think the future for the organization will be really good."
The future will be dotted by questions about what happened this spring and how the Bruins are going to move on from the collapse. Seidenberg's not shying away from that.
"I think it's a motivation to improve our results from this year and just be part of a more successful year this year and the years to come," he said.
That players, including Shawn Thornton, who agreed to a two-year extension Friday, are willing to return after the fall to the Flyers is even more a testament to what Chiarelli & Co. have built. Players want to stick with the Bruins through thick and thin once they're part of the culture. While he's made some mistakes since coming on board in 2006, Chiarelli has created a comfortable home for the bulk of his players -- and that is probably his greatest accomplishment.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.