The Boston Bruins are in a tricky situation that will take GM Peter Chiarelli and the front office some time to figure out. Despite another great regular season, the Bruins underperformed in the playoffs and barely showed up for game seven against the Canadiens.
There are a number of restricted free agents that should be resigned, while some of the older unrestricted free agents may be testing the market. There is also the possibility of trading one of the team’s veterans away which would free up some cap space to make a move. Let’s take a look at the options.
Players to Re-sign
1. Torey Krug- Krug is a restricted free agent that shouldn’t cost too much to bring back for a couple of years. His presence on the point helped re-establish the Bruins powerplay and his defensive lapses were fewer and far between towards the end of the season and playoffs. I don’t think there is a Bruins fan out there that would let this guy walk.
2. Reilly Smith- Smith was the surprise in the Tyler Seguin deal and helped make up for the absence of goal-scoring from Loui Eriksson. While Smith doesn’t have a ton of upside and isn’t particularly skilled in any area, he is a well rounded player that showed he has the ability to be a top-six forward. If he isn’t asking for too much, the Bruins should have no problem bringing him back.
3. Niklas Svedberg- Svedberg is most likely capable of handling the backup goaltending job and will be cheaper than re-signing Chad Johnson or another veteran goalie.
4. Shawn Thornton- Thornton is nearing the end of his career, but is one of the most well-liked Bruins in the locker room and by fans. Thornton won’t cost much money and brings toughness to the merlot line. While I didn’t agree with playing him during the playoffs as much as they did, he is definitely a factor during the regular season.
Players to let walk
1. Jarome Iginla- Don’t get me wrong, Iginla had a strong season here in Boston and fits well with the team. He is not the player he used to be though and when combined with Milan Lucic, makes the first line too slow. While he did score 30 goals, four were empty netters and a very decent chunk of them were lucky. Weird deflections, pucks off his body, and tap-ins on the doorstep made up the majority of his goals, while his one-timers from the face-off circle rarely found the back of the net. With the money he would be asking for the Bruins could go after a younger, more skilled player that brings a more typical first line skill set.
2. Matt Bartkowski- Bartkowski just turned 26 years old and proved in the playoffs that he is a liability. The Bruins have been close to trading him in two consecutive trade deadlines and probably wouldn’t mind letting him go. Younger options in Providence, such as Zach Trotman, David Warsofsky, and Joe Morrow can all play the role of 7th or 8th defenseman if needed and have more potential in the long run.
3. Jordan Caron- Caron has overstayed his welcome in Boston and has not established any type of personality with the team. He has had stints in the NHL for four years now and hasn’t been able to land a permanent job with the team. He isn’t a scorer, playmaker, or grinder, so he can’t fill a specific role with the team.
Players to consider trading
1. Brad Marchand- Marchand’s poor playoff performance has many looking for a trade this offseason. The 26-year-old really made his mark by scoring 11 goals the year the Bruins won the cup, but hasn’t performed well in the playoffs since. His 25 goals in the regular season were somewhat overlooked due to his poor start to the year, but he has been the Bruins most consistent goal scorer the past few seasons.
The “little ball of hate” adds something to the team that others don’t, but can sometimes go a bit overboard like he did with his antics in Vancouver earlier in the season. The Bruins should keep Marchand around for another year before considering trading him because without him on the second line, Patrice Bergeron won’t have much to work with.
2. Chris Kelly- Kelly is a Claude Julien type player that is costing the Bruins $3 million per year for essentially Gregory Campbell-type play. Kelly isn’t gifted offensively and does the exact same thing as Campbell, which is take face-offs and kill penalties. While he does have a no-trade clause, I would urge the front office to find a way to get rid of this guy and make room for somebody like Ryan Spooner.
3. Loui Eriksson- Eriksson of course caught a bad break this season with his concussions, so it is hard to criticize him. I am going to anyway though.
There was really no point in the season or playoffs where Eriksson looked comfortable with the team. On a poor Dallas team, Eriksson was able to score goals and put up points, but I just don’t think he will be able to here. He isn’t fast, can’t shoot very well, and isn’t physical. He also brings along the baggage of a concussion-prone player now, so there is a decent chance he will be sidelined next year again. If his $4.25 million cap hit was freed up, the Bruins could find someone to better fit their team.
Free agents to pursue
1. Marian Gaborik- I have always been a Gaborik fan and was ecstatic when his name was linked to the Bruins at the trade deadline.
Too bad he’s too old and can’t play anymore though. Wait, he leads the playoffs in goals?!
It’s a shame the Bruins don’t have a fast player who can finish because Gaborik would have really helped. He will probably be looking for Iginla-like money and could be acquired if the Bruins are smart with their money. The Bruins are at a disadvantage when it comes to facing fast teams and Gaborik would bring a new dimension to their game. Claude needs to realize that good teams can have goal-scorers and not everybody on the team needs to play a defensive-minded game.
2. Matt Moulson- Moulson is another scorer that is just coming off a year in which he played for three different teams. He will probably cost less than Gaborik and is not as fast, but he would definitely have the best shot out of the Bruins forwards.
3. Mason Raymond- Essentially a poor-man’s Gaborik, Raymond has elite speed and has shown the ability to score in the past. The former Canuck has a career high of 25 goals and can play the penalty kill, which the Bruins would find appealing. He is coming off a one year, $1 million deal with the Maple Leafs and would help the Bruins become a more dynamic team for cheap money.
These decisions will need to be made under the knowledge that the Bruins need to alter their playing style. It worked once, but Tim Thomas was also unbelievable. Against the Blackhawks last year, they were beat by top-end talent. I’m not saying to blow up the team and change everything, but winning games 1-0 in physical showdowns doesn’t always work.