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With Rich Peverley extended, who’s next?

10.11.11 at 4:48 pm ET

Call this a generalization, but one could argue that in the Peter Chiarelli regime, if the Bruins like a player and want to keep them, they won’t let the player go to unrestricted free agency. It’s happened with Andrew Ference, Marc Savard, Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and now Rich Peverley. In some cases, the Bruins don’t even let the player enter their deal’s last season before extending them, and with Peverley, they extended the extended the speedy winger just three games into the last season of his two-year deal.

That’s why the signing of Peverley brings up the obvious question of who’s next, because the B’s have a very long list of players set to become unrestricted free agents at season’s. Third-line center and alternate captain Chris Kelly will see his deal expire at the end of the season, as will all three members of the fourth line in Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton. On the blue line, Johnny Boychuk‘s deal will be up, as will that of newcomer Joe Corvo.

And those are just the unrestricted guys. The biggest money the B’s will have to dole out next summer (if not earlier) will go to first-line center David Krejci and goaltender Tuukka Rask, both of whom will be restricted free agents.

Chiarelli was asked Tuesday whether he was in talks with any of the other players and declined comment, but he figures to be a very busy man. It’s hard to imagine the Bruins would put a letter on Kelly’s sweater without the intention of keeping him around, and the team’s fourth line played an integral part in the Bruins’ Stanley Cup run last season, with its shining moment coming with a shift in Game 7 that gave the Bruins momentum after a sluggish start.

Yes, the Bruins have around $2.6 million in cap space and can have about $6.6 million in space if they put Savard on long term injured reserve, but going forward the Bruins have a lot of budgeting and planning to do as far as who comes back. With all of the aforementioned deals expiring (including Krejci and Rask) and Benoit Pouliot also being restricted, the Bruins could have about $17.5 million* ($21.5 million if they go the LTIR route with Savard) to work with. While that’s a big number, it probably isn’t going to be enough for them to be comfortable chasing other team’s high-priced free agents. That’s because next season sees some huge names expiring for the Bruins. Milan Lucic (restricted), Brad Marchand (restricted), Tyler Seguin (restricted) and Nathan Horton (unrestricted) will be up, with Tim Thomas‘ $5 million cap hit coming off the books.

Long story short, the Bruins are going have to spend a lot of money in the next couple of years to make sure the core group that won them the Stanley Cup will stick around in Boston. Whether that means the B’s will announce more extensions in the coming days, weeks or months remains to be seen, but expect Chiarelli and the front office to be busy managing it all.

*Salary cap calculations done with numbers from, future salary caps subject to change.

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