BOSTON -- For the second time in this young season, Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli has locked up a key player on his roster, signing center David Krejci -- who would have become a restricted free agent July 1 -- to a three-year extension worth $5.25 million per season.
Chiarelli did the same with forward Rich Peverley on Oct. 11, inking him to a three-year extension worth $3.25 million per season. This has been the Chiarelli trademark in the past two seasons: He handed multiyear extensions to forward Patrice Bergeron and defensemen Dennis Seidenberg and Zdeno Chara before the 2010-11 season, preventing all three from entering unrestricted free agency last summer.
"I try and be fair and equitable in doing these things and sometimes other players may be left out by not having their deal done now and then having to wait," Chiarelli said Thursday. "That's a fine balance, that's tough. I find that tough, because I know especially after you've won a Cup, you like your players even more. I don't worry about the free agency that much. I feel that I don't really need a deadline like that. If I do end up getting to that point, then we've got the tools to address it."
Chiarelli realizes he might not be able to make these pre-emptive strikes as frequently as he has in the past two years. Six of his players become unrestricted free agents in July, and backup goalie Tuukka Rask will become a restricted free agent. In July 2013, Milan Lucic, Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand and Jordan Caron will become RFAs.
Add in the facts that the current collective bargaining agreement is up in September and the salary cap is expected to go down from this season's $64.3 million mark, and Chiarelli realizes he will have a juggling act on tap. It won't be easy preserving the young core of his team while keeping the veterans around them to continue contending for the Stanley Cup.
"We do have a preliminary kind of framework we try and fit our roster under," the Bruins GM said. "That's impacted by the uncertain future. So again, [it's] a balance I'm trying to find. In an ideal world you'd like to have everybody back and have everybody happy, but I don't know if that's going to happen. I'd like to try and make it happen, but we'll see how the rest of the year unfolds and what happens with the CBA."
With the Bruins currently carrying six potential centers on the team in Krejci, Bergeron, Seguin, Chris Kelly, Rich Peverley and Gregory Campbell, the common question in the media and among fans is, who will eventually be the odd man out? There were plenty of trade rumors surrounding Krejci during his slow start. With Seguin emerging as a star, how much longer will the natural center remain on the wing? Will a body be moved in a trade to slot Seguin in at center?
But while Chiarelli understands those questions, he scoffed at the idea of solving the perceived logjam up the middle.
"Who perceives it to be a logjam? The blogs?" Chiarelli said. "I feel a team gets built from the back end and down the middle. To have a strong middle is obviously an asset in my mind, and David is part of that. David has shown that he can play different types of games; Bergy has shown that he can play different types of games and we've seen Chris Kelly now, Tyler can play center and he can play wing. We've got a lot of options here -- Chris Kelly can play wing -- we've got some good centers coming. I think a logjam is probably not the proper word. I think it's an excessive supply that I'm happy to have."
As for eventually switching Seguin back to center, it appears the Bruins are in no rush to do so.
"We really haven't made that determination yet," Chiarelli said of where Seguin fits in long-term. "He's shown he's having success on the wing, he's played well in the middle and he's happy at either place. So I look at it as if you can get a lot of good players together, you look at it as you'll find a way to make them all fit."
Chiarelli doesn't necessarily believe Krejci's extension will prevent the Bruins from retaining upcoming restricted free agents such as Rask, Seguin, Lucic and Marchand.
"I consider David an important RFA, so one piece at a time," Chiarelli said. "When we make these decisions, we look at the big picture. I haven't lost sight of the big picture and I would anticipate that the players that we want to re-sign, that we're going to try and re-sign them. But David's an important piece of this puzzle, so that's how we look at that."
When that time comes, Chiarelli is hoping that those players consider winning to be as important as money, if not more so -- just as Krejci, Chara, Bergeron, Peverley and Seidenberg did when they signed extensions.
"The winning thing is big," Chiarelli said. "I think David will say, and other players will say, that when they see that a team is committed, when an ownership is committed to winning, to try and build a winning team, that it's a fun workplace, so that's big.
"It's a tremendous sports town, a passionate fan base and it's a real nice city. So those are all things players look at when they choose a place to work and to live. We all, myself included, make good money in this business and I think we see that time can be fleeting when it comes to winning and players recognize that. There's probably always a team out there that will pay more, but I respect players that want to stay and want to win."
James Murphy covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.