Nathan Horton will not return. The Bruins informed Jaromir Jagr they do not intend to bring back the future Hall of Famer.
So with their top two right wings from the Stanley Cup run set to sign elsewhere, the Bruins will use free agency or the trade market to rebuild the position.
“With Nathan gone, we’ve got to assess how we’re going to reconstruct the right side,” general manager Peter Chiarelli said during a conference call Wednesday. “We’ve got some players from within that may be able to fill it. I want to do a sweep of the players that will be available in trades and free agency. I’d like to think we’re a destination for an older player, older relatively speaking, who wants a chance to win. So I’ve got to canvass that. It’s about turning over all the stones, going through the free agent list player by player.”
The Bruins and their competitors are in the interview period. It is an ease-in segment, part of the new collective bargaining agreement. The window opened at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday. It will remain open until Friday, when teams will be free to sign free agents. The interview period gives teams and players time to consider transactions instead of rushing to sign contracts when the market opens.
“I think it’s a good period to have,” Chiarelli said. “It’s a bit of a reverse cooling-down period so we can go into it with our eyes wide open.”
The Bruins were not successful in one of their first casts into free agency. On Tuesday, Vincent Lecavalier agreed to a five-year, $22.5 million contract with Philadelphia. The Bruins interviewed the former Tampa Bay captain Saturday before the draft.
The Bruins pitched Lecavalier on the strength of their roster. They believe they can pursue another run because of their core: Tuukka Rask, Zdeno Chara, and Patrice Bergeron, supplemented by Dennis Seidenberg, David Krejci, Milan Lucic, and Brad Marchand. During the meeting, Lecavalier said he was open to switching from center to wing.
But the Bruins were not willing to trump the Flyers’ offer.
“It was something I wasn’t prepared to do,” Chiarelli said.
It is a scenario that might be repeated. The Bruins have just under $60 million committed to 2013-14 for 12 forwards (including Marc Savard), seven defensemen, and no goalies. Rask is in line to double his $3.5 million salary from 2013. The Bruins also must sign a backup or give the No. 2 job to Niklas Svedberg.
The Bruins could exceed the $64.3 million cap by placing Savard on long-term injured reserve. But the Bruins still would be in a position in which they would be hard-pressed to outbid other clubs.
The next player to say no could be Daniel Alfredsson. According to ESPN, the Bruins placed a call to Alfredsson’s camp. They have numerous ties to Ottawa, including Chiarelli (former assistant GM), Chara, and Chris Kelly. The Bruins also could re-sign ex-Senator Wade Redden, who was also teammates with Alfredsson.
But Alfredsson is a lifelong Senator. The 40-year-old has played all of his 1,178 career games in Ottawa. If Alfredsson wanted a bump from his previous deal (four years, $19.5 million, according to www.capgeek.com), the Senators could afford to give him a raise.
Also, the Senators should be competitive next season. Goalies Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner are returning. Erik Karlsson (Achilles’) and Jason Spezza (back, knee) will be healthy for the start of the season. Paul MacLean is the reigning Jack Adams Trophy winner as the NHL’s top coach.
“He’s a pretty principled guy in the sense that he’s a very focused guy,” Chiarelli said about Alfredsson. “If he wants to go somewhere and play, or stay in Ottawa, it’s not about the money.”
David Clarkson would fit the Bruins’ rough-and-tumble approach. But Clarkson will have multiple suitors, who will drive his price up to Lucic-like levels. The Bruins do not have that kind of money to spend.
Cheaper alternatives could be Dan Cleary and Vinny Prospal. It’s also possible the Bruins could talk with Jagr once more, although re-signing the 41-year-old is unlikely.
“We have thought of circling back,” Chiarelli said. “We told him we were moving on, so he may have moved on also. It’s something we may revisit.”
Internally, this could be Jordan Caron’s best opportunity at regular playing time. Caron, the team’s first-round pick in 2009, is coming out of his entry-level contract. The Bruins tendered a qualifying offer to Caron, who carried a $1.1 million cap hit.
The Bruins were satisfied with the 22-year-old’s performance in the AHL playoffs. In 12 games for Providence, Caron scored two goals and had seven assists. The left-shot can play the right side.
“He played a strong playoff,” Chiarelli said. “So he’s part of the equation, without question.”
The Bruins will not pursue any defensemen.
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All six of the Bruins’ most recent draft picks will participate in the organization’s annual development camp. Linus Arnesson, Peter Cehlarik, Ryan Fitzgerald, Wiley Sherman, Anton Blidh, and Mitchell Dempsey will be part of the 24-player group. The camp will start next Wednesday at Ristuccia Arena and run through July 15. All on-ice sessions are free and open to the public.