No matter what happens tomorrow night in Boston or Wednesday night in Buffalo, the Boston Bruins front office has work to do. You see, whether the Bruins win this series or not is kind of irrelevant. This team might have what it takes to get past these Sabres but probably not Sid the Kid and Pittsburgh, and certainly not Ovie's Capitals. At least not in 2010. But armed with the 2nd overall pick in this June's NHL Entry Draft, Peter Chiarelli has the chance to take a solid hockey club and make them spectacular. Here are just a few of the decisions Chiarelli, Cam Neely and Co. will have to make to turn the 2011 Boston Bruins into Stanley Cup contenders.
Boston currently has slightly under $40 million worth of contracts locked up for next year. Among the players already signed are most of the team's nucleus. Captain Zdeno Chara, and forwards Marc Savard, Patrice Bergeron, and David Krejci are all signed through at least next season. And young players Vladimir Sobotka and Blake Wheeler, the fifth overall pick in the 2004 Draft, will most likely be back with the Black and Gold as well, as they are both lower level Restricted Free Agents. The Bruins will have a chance to at least match any offer to either player, and almost certainly will do so if presented with the opportunity.
In addition to the vets already on the roster, Chiarelli has some young guns ready to play at the NHL level. While former first round picks Joe Colborne and Jordan Caron will almost certainly begin the year in the AHL with Providence, young center Zach Hamill appears poised to make the leap to the big club.
With some tweaking, maybe a deal for a top-6 defenseman or a scoring winger, the Bruins could be in really good shape come next training camp. They have a young, strong core of players, and reinforcements coming from the minors. Throw in either Tyler Seguin or Taylor Hall, and Boston seems ready to make a run.
So no matter what happens against Buffalo, or Pittsburgh or Washington in the coming months, just remember that Boston is on the rise. B's fans get ready: 2011 is going to be an exciting year.