Tomas Kaberle and Michael Ryder will be testing the free agent market, Boston general manager Peter Chiarelli confirmed Thursday, but the Bruins would welcome either player back at the right price.
Chiarelli made it clear in a media conference call on Thursday, one day before the NHL's free agency period got underway, that bringing the players back had to make economic sense for the Bruins.
The GM said he's not sure what the market will bear with respect to the two veterans.
"Those are two guys that gave us good service so for the right number I would like to have them back, but I don’t know what that number, I can’t tell you what that number is," he said
Kaberle earned $4.25 million US in the final year of his contract. Ryder made $4 million.
Chiarelli said that because this year's free agent class isn't particularly deep and several clubs still need to spend a considerable amount of money just to get to the salary cap floor, he expects inflationary pressures.
The club also has to be flexible to have money aside for younger players like Brad Marchand and David Krejci, he said.
Indicators like that would seem to spell the end of Ryder and Kaberle in Boston, but Chiarelli said he wouldn't be surprised by any development, given the unpredictability of the market this year, which is one year before the NHL's collective bargaining agreement with the players expires.
The salary cap is going up to just over $64 million US, with a floor of $48 million.
"I’m a little wary of the market, first and foremost," said Chiarelli. "The [salary] cap is high and the cap is certainly going to come down in some shape or form [in the future]."
It was reported the Bruins offered the rights to exclusively negotiate with Kaberle to other NHL clubs earlier this week.
Kaberle finished with a goal and 19 assists in 49 regular season and playoff games with the Stanley Cup champions after coming over in February in a long-rumoured trade with Toronto.
The 33-year-old was brought in to improve the Bruins' ability getting the puck up ice as well as their power play. While he largely succeeded on the first count, the team's power-play percentage actually went down after his arrival.
Kaberle did lead all Bruins with five power-play points in the playoffs, however.
He picked up his play in the Eastern Conference and Stanley Cup finals, but was playing reduced minutes compared with when he first arrived in Boston. He admitted that the adjustment to a new environment after nearly 12 years in the same city hadn't been easy, and that the criticism from media and fans stung.
Ryder has scored 18 goals the past two season after going over 20 in four of his first five seasons in the NHL. The 31-year-old Bonavista, N.L., native picked up his play in the postseason, finishing in the top five on the team with 17 points, ranking tied for third with eight goals.
One intangible in the Ryder situation is his long history with Claude Julien, which includes time when both were with the Montreal Canadiens.