June 30, 2011

Leery of market, Chiarelli seeks clarity on value of free agents

Bruins winger Michael Ryder had 17 points in 25 playoff games this spring. (Getty)

With the salary cap jumping up nearly $5 million dollars to $64.3 million for the 2011-12 season, many general managers are rejoicing over their newfound sense of flexibility. Once pressed right up against the ceiling, teams now have a little more wiggle room to retain their core players.

But, for those allowed to free the coop, values are now a giant question mark. GMs have a lot of questions to ask themselves this weekend. Is a 20-goal scorer worth $3 million or $4 million? How about a puck-moving defenseman coming off a breakout season?

At this point in time, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli isn't quite sure what free agents Michael Ryder and Tomas Kaberle are worth. He intends to let them find out for him when they're free to sign with any team on Friday.

"With Tomas Kaberle, we’re doing the same with Michael Ryder is that we certainly haven’t parted ways," Chiarelli said via conference call on Thursday. "I’m wary of the market, where it stands right now and I said look guys go out there and see what’s going on and let’s continue to talk. The risk that we run is that they will get a deal then they can’t come back to us. And I understand that risk. So that’s where those two guys stand."

Meanwhile, the GM offered an update on the status of the team's other UFA, Shane Hnidy, as well as restricted free agent Brad Marchand.

"With respect to Hnidy, we’ve told Shane that we aren’t resigning him," said Chiarelli. "I think he’ll be a good addition somewhere else and I told him that. And certainly I’d help him along the way for that. With Marchand, we’ve qualified him and we haven’t entered into negotiations yet."

Chiarelli has done a fantastic over the last few years to lock up his key cogs and make sure they don't get to test the waters, but he certainly isn't alone. Many general managers have followed suit, leading to what is a pretty unspectacular crop of free agents.

"I see generally older players available and I see very few impact or significant players," Chiarelli said. "And so you have to resist going out and giving these guys the extra term or the extra dollar and that’s what ends up happening. But it’s, and I don’t want to say diluted, because it’s not diluted, there are some good players out there. But I look at it and there’s not a lot of names that jump off the board."

While the thought of adding one of the top free agents out there may be tempting, Chiarelli knows it could easily cost him a player or two down the line. David Krejci and Tuukka Rask are both set to become restricted free agents in 2012 and, if the money isn't there to retain them, the Bruins could face the risk of losing their future No. 1 goaltender or their current first-line center.

"I’m a little wary of the market, first and foremost," Chiarelli said. "The cap is high and the cap is certainly going to come down in some shape or form. So one, generally speaking, I’m wary of the market, where I think it might be going. Two, and a close two, is that we do have guys we want to resign.

"They’re going to command raises so I’m really not in a position to go out and give a guy a big term contract. I think we can find that help elsewhere. Other than those big term contracts and still be in a good position to re-sign our guys as they come up in the next year or two."