Peter Chiarelli has no idea what impact a new CBA, whenever it's agreed upon, will have on his Boston Bruins.
But the general manager knows this much: he won't make the same mistakes this summer that led to the firing of his predecessor after the last lockout.
Today's announcement that the Bruins have extended franchise cornerstone Tyler Seguin, one week after signing super-pest Brad Marchand to a new deal, shows Chiarelli to be a much more aggressive and insightful manager than the dithering Mike O'Connell was back in 2004.
Facing similar CBA uncertainty that summer, O'Connell allowed key free agents Michael Nylander, Mike Knuble, Brian Rolston and Sergei Gonchar to walk. His flawed thinking: a new agreement would lead to a free agency shopping spree that would make it easy (and cheaper) to replenish the team's talent pool before play resumed.
It didn't quite work out that way, primarily because other teams avoided O'Comnell's cavalier approach. With few options available when the market eventually opened a year later, the Bruins were left scrambling to replace an elite defenseman in Gonchar , a useful power forward in Knuble, and a center in Nylander who did what many others before him couldn't -- extract the best out of enigmatic winger Sergei Samsonov.
The leftovers that O'Connell settled for -- Alexei Zhamnov, Brad Isbister and Dave Scatchard -- were the dog's breakfast. Each lasted less than a single season in a Boston sweater, combining for 98 games and 43 points between them.
And they ended up costing more money, to boot.
The futility of O'Connell's experiment was quickly revealed. A slow start to the season led to the rushed trade of superstar center Joe Thornton. Undermanned, the penny-wise, pound-foolish Bruins settled meekly into 13th place.
O'Connell was gone before the season ended.
Obviously there are differences this time around. Different types of players and a different type of free agency. But the opportunity to play things cautiously, to sit back until a new CBA is reached clearly defined the playing field that was definitely there for Chiarelli.
He chose to act instead. And the B's are better off for it.
Seguin's extension goes for six years, with an AAV of $5.75 million. It's another punch to the gut for GMs in Dallas, Buffalo and Montreal who are hoping to sign their young RFAs to cheaper bridge contracts, but a fair deal for both sides considering how this market has played out.
Seguin gets paid now for potential rather than past performance, but the B's aren't exactly putting their money on a long shot here. The 20-year-old led Boston with 29 goals last season and represented the team at the All-Star Game. If he's not the face of the franchise now, he will be soon. Just as surely as he'll be the team's leading scorer for some time to come.
The Bruins will pay him a little less per year than Taylor Hall, who went one pick before Seguin in 2010 and signed a seven-year, $42 million deal in Edmonton last month. In exchange, Boston "buys" just one year of free agency rather than the two that the Oilers got -- at least, as free agency is defined under the current CBA.
You can argue which deal is "better," but in the end it doesn't really matter. What does is that one of the game's premier young talents is under contract for the next seven years. And his linemate, the premier shift disturber, is locked up for the next four at a total price tag of $18 million.
It's been a busy week, but don't be surprised if Chiarelli announces one more signing before the CBA expires on Saturday night.
The gap between the Seguin and Marchand paydays leaves him a bit of wiggle room to address another significant asset: Milan Lucic. Chiarelli described Marchand as a player whose "style of play is part of our identity." That sentiment goes double for Lucic, a menacing, if inconsistent, presence on the wing whose best play recalls glory days of the Big Bad Bruins.
With a bit more of a track record than his yappy little buddy, Lucic should nail down something in the range of $5 to $5.5 million. If Chiarelli can get that AAV for five years -- ensuring that he doesn't come up for renewal at the same time as Marchand again -- then the B's and their fans should be very happy.
Could the new CBA monkey up his plan? Sure, a lower cap might force Chiarelli to move a few pieces down the road. But these deals give him a handle on what the core of his team will look like -- not just next season, but for the next several years.
And it'll look pretty good.