The Boston Bruins will be back.
Maybe not in the Stanley Cup final, given how hard it is to repeat that feat, but definitely in terms of their roster, which will be perhaps the only NHL champ since the lockout completely unaffected by the salary cap.
Everyone save for Mark Recchi, who's retiring, and Tomas Kaberle, an unrestricted free agent, could be back and with plenty of cash left to add their replacements.
Sixteen of the 20 players who played in the finals are already under contract, with only Recchi, Kaberle, Michael Ryder (the only other UFA of note) and Brad Marchand (a restricted free agent) without one.
Once the cap goes up by an expected $4-million and Marchand is signed for somewhere in the neighbourhood of $3-million a season, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli will still have more than $8-million to replace Recchi, Kaberle and Ryder.
(And that figure includes injured centre Marc Savard's $4-million cap hit, which likely will remain as a long-term injury exception and allow Boston to spend even more.)
That's a stark contrast to the vast remodelling the 2010 champion Chicago Blackhawks had to undergo, shuttling out a half-dozen key players due to the cap. They struggled to make the playoffs as the Western Conference's eighth seed and lost in Game 7 of the opening round to the Vancouver Canucks.
How the Bruins were built
Unlike Chicago and several other up-and-coming teams, the Bruins aren't a team built by tanking and drafting a plethora of top young prospects.
Consider that Tyler Seguin, drafted second overall last summer with a pick acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs, is the only Bruins first-rounder on the roster.
Instead, Chiarelli's used a strategy that relied mostly on making deals, taking over in late summer of 2006 after interim GM Jeff Gorton had already signed a couple big free agents in captain Zdeno Chara and Savard.
In Gorton's only draft, the Bruins took Phil Kessel in the first round, Milan Lucic in the second and Marchand in the third. He also traded for Tuukka Rask. (Kessel was later swapped for the pick that became Seguin when his salary demands were deemed too high.)
After that point, Chiarelli took over from Gorton, making one small trade after another to eventually end up with many of the 21 players who won the Cup on Wednesday night.
In February, 2007, he added Andrew Ference in a deal that sent Brad Stuart and Wayne Primeau to the Calgary Flames.
A few months later, Chiarelli dealt for Adam McQuaid, giving up a fifth-rounder to the Columbus Blue Jackets, and signed Shawn Thornton.
After the Bruins finished with just 76 points in Chiarelli's first season, he fired coach Dave Lewis and brought in Claude Julien, under who Boston has averaged 101 points a year the past four seasons.
In the summer of 2008, he signed Ryder to a big money deal, reuniting the former Hab with his former coach and dealt Matt Hendricks for Johnny Boychuk.
In 2009, Recchi was re-signed on a one-year, $1-million deal after coming in at the trade deadline. Tim Thomas, David Krejci, Savard and Lucic all got relatively big money on their new deals and stayed in Boston. Daniel Paille was acquired for two picks.
Early in 2010, a couple spare parts and a second-round pick landed Dennis Seidenberg, who had been toiling in obscurity with the Florida Panthers but immediately clicked with Chara on the Bruins top pairing.
A few months later, Chiarelli dealt with the Panthers again, moving Dennis Wideman and two draft picks for Nathan Horton and Greg Campbell, two key pieces of this year's playoff run.
Then, in February with the trade deadline approaching, he added three more key bodies in Kaberle, Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley, improving Boston's depth both on the back end up front.
And while there were mistakes along the way, ultimately, that was the group the Bruins won with.
The only current Bruins who were on the 2005-06 team, the year before Chiarelli arrived, are Patrice Bergeron and Thomas – two key building blocks to be sure.
Other than Bergeron, who was already a fixture on the team, Krejci was the only pre-Gorton/Chiarelli draft pick of note on the 2011 team.
The vast majority of the roster was then pulled together from around the league, a credit to Boston's pro scouting staff.
In an era where so many franchises are opting to go the long route and build through the draft, Chiarelli brought the Bruins close to contending in two and a half years and to winning a Cup five years after he was hired.
A breakdown of the Bruins since 2005-06
Holdovers: Three (Bergeron, Thomas, Krejci) Free agency: Three (Ryder, Chara, Thornton) Trade: 12 (Horton, Peverley, Recchi, Ference, Kaberle, Boychuk, Seidenberg, Paille, Kelly, Campbell, McQuaid, Rask) Draft: Three (Marchand, Lucic, Seguin)Report Typo/Error