It WAS the summer of 2006, and the only way for the Senators to keep impending free agent defensemen Zdeno Chara and Wade Redden was to get each at a hometown discount.

Redden, then 29, went for it, signing a two-year, $13 million deal that included a no-trade clause. Chara, also 29, did not, spurning Ottawa before signing a five-year, $37.5M contract with the Bruins and general manager Peter Chiarelli, hired approximately a month earlier after serving as assistant GM in Ottawa.

Chiarelli, in fact, was hired after Nashville assistant Ray Shero rejected a Boston lowball offer (What, from Jeremy Jacobs? Couldn't be!) and signed instead to become GM of the Penguins. History was made those days, you could say, in Boston, Ottawa, Pittsburgh, New York and Hartford.

Chara stands tall as the greatest free-agent signing in NHL history, as tall as he stood accepting the Stanley Cup from Gary Bettman in Vancouver on Wednesday night during a ceremony sullied by the Canucks' fans inside the arena while shameful rioting was just beginning on the streets of the city.

The Bruins earned their first championship since 1972 by grinding down a club that was exposed as mentally weak even in getting to Game 7, much as the 2001 Devils were exposed as psychologically unfit in blowing the 2001 Cup to Colorado in seven after preening over their own greatness on their way to the final round.

Boston was coached brilliantly by Claude Julien, the same man fired by New Jersey in 2007 with three games remaining in the season and the Devils in first place. Of course, he couldn't have been the same coach, could he?

Goalie Tim Thomas was spectacular. The Bruins were deeper, tougher, more disciplined and more committed than the Canucks, who came to resemble a house of cards as the series evolved. Through 420:11 of hockey in the Final, the Bruins trailed for a total of 32:32.