Commentary

Where do Bruins go from here?

Re-signing Recchi, Boychuk, Thornton should be among top priorities

Updated: May 18, 2010, 10:25 AM ET
By Joe McDonald | ESPNBoston.com

It will be a long offseason for the Boston Bruins. Unless you've been living under a Zamboni, you know what happened in the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Philadelphia Flyers. In case you forgot, here's a reminder of the historical collapse.

The Bruins led the series 3-0. The Bruins had a three-goal lead in Game 7. The Bruins lost.

That's the CliffsNotes version.

So now what?

The focus turns to the offseason, and there are many questions surrounding the black and (blue and) gold. Here's a quick look at some concerns:

Unrestricted free agents: Mark Recchi, Dennis Seidenberg, Johnny Boychuk, Shawn Thornton, Miroslav Satan and Steve Begin

[+] EnlargeClaude Julien
AP Photo/Charles KrupaClaude Julien has yet to advance past Round 2 of the playoffs in his seven years as an NHL coach.

Recchi, 42, is a true leader on and off the ice. The future Hall of Famer and two-time Stanley Cup winner would like to etch his name onto the sacred chalice once more before he hangs up the blades. It would be to the Bruins' benefit to keep him around, especially with a talented group of young players in the organization.

Seidenberg and Boychuk will be needed on the blue line. Seidenberg suffered a lacerated tendon in his left forearm during the final week of the regular season and missed both rounds of the playoffs. He will be looking for a big payday after he earned $2.25 million this season. Boychuk began the season as the No. 7 blueliner and finished the playoffs as the No. 2 while being paired with captain Zdeno Chara. Boychuk is a solid two-way player, and Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli will need to find a way to re-sign the talented defenseman. Thornton, the team's pugilist, is a major presence in the locker room and on the ice. He wants to stay, and the Bruins likely will re-sign him.

Satan and Begin could be the odd men out as far as UFAs.

Restricted free agents: Blake Wheeler, Vladimir Sobotka, Daniel Paille, Mark Stuart and Adam McQuaid

In March, the Bruins signed defenseman Andrew Ference to a three-year extension worth $6.75 million, which seemed odd at the time given his history of injuries, especially with Stuart being a restricted free agent. Stuart is considered a solid defenseman and a leader for the Bruins. He needs to be on Chiarelli's offseason to-do list. Sobotka came into his own this season and seemed to be playing through an injury during the playoffs.

Paille showed his versatility during the season but struggled offensively. Wheeler has ability but needs to be more consistent moving forward in his career. McQuaid's services were needed in a big way down the stretch with injuries to Ference, Seidenberg and Stuart. McQuaid was solid before he was injured in Game 3 of the semifinals.

Goaltending: The Bruins got solid goaltending from rookie Tuukka Rask during the regular season and for the majority of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The 23-year-old outdueled the Sabres and their world-class goaltender, Ryan Miller, in the first round, but it became clear that Rask struggled with fatigue as the second round against the Flyers wore on.

Here's the problem for Chiarelli: What to do with Tim Thomas?

The 36-year-old veteran is set to earn $6 million ($5 million cap hit) in 2010-11 and will have two more years and $8 million remaining on his contract after next season. Rask proved to have the ability and demeanor to handle the starting job at the NHL level, but it remains to be seen whether he can be a true No. 1 with the ability to log the majority of the games. The rumors of the team trading Thomas could be a little premature. A tandem of both could help Rask continue his development.

Coaching: Bruins coach Claude Julien did an excellent job with his team in 2009-10, especially through all the adversity and injuries. Still, he has yet to advance past the second round of the playoffs in his seven years behind the bench in the NHL, including the past three seasons in Boston.

Draft: This year's NHL entry draft could be a major turning point for the Bruins organization. Boston has the No. 2 overall pick and is likely to end up with either Tyler Seguin or Taylor Hall. The Edmonton Oilers have the first pick. Both players are NHL-ready, according to Chiarelli, and both are highly talented forwards who could have an impact in their rookie seasons. Either one will be a franchise-type player for the Bruins.

Joe McDonald covers the Bruins and Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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