After a disappointing end to their 2020 campaign, the Bruins enter the offseason in dire need of a shakeup. They were outmuscled and outskilled by a far superior (and far younger) Tampa Bay team that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. The Bruins need need changes and they need them now.
The B’s currently have about ~$15M or so in cap space, which isn’t a ton to play with. Torey Krug is as good as gone, Zdeno Chara seems to be a maybe (although he won’t cost much), and RFA Jake DeBrusk does not seem to be interested in taking much of a pay cut.
Ways to Create Space
John Moore and Nick Ritchie are about as useless as they come, and ridding their salaries in a trade would net the Bruins about $4M in space, which is pretty valuable. The Bruins could also look to deal David Krejci ($7.25M) or Tuukka Rask ($7M). If it were up to me, I’d ship Krejci, Moore, and Ritchie off to Siberia, and go to work with a total of ~$26.25M in space. As much as I love to rip on Tuukka Rask, you aren’t going to get much better value in net than him. You just have to hope and pray he’s engaged next year.
Free Agency Options
Taylor Hall is the bell of the ball when it comes to free agency options. The former MVP had a down season in 2020, but could certainly return to form on a contending team. He isn’t going to come cheap (at least $8M per), and he has a reputation as a bad teammate, so if I were Don Sweeney I’d probably stay away.
Alex Pietrangelo is an intriguing option at right shot defense. A legit number one defenceman, albeit with a lot of tread on his tires, Pietrangelo would solve a lot of problems on the B’s blueline. The issues here are age (31) and the massive contract it’s going to take to bring him in. He’s probably looking for something close to Erik Karlsson’s 8/$92M, and I wouldn’t touch that with a ten-foot pole. The Bruins just have too many needs to blow everything on an aging defenseman.
In terms of lower tier guys, I’ve always loved Craig Smith, a right-shot right-wing who can consistently put up 20+ goals a year. Tyler Toffoli has always been a target for Bruins fans, but he may command a big time price. I would also take a look at Evgenii Dadonov, and see if he would take a below market deal to play a Top-6 role. Dadonov is about as much of a one-way player as it gets, but the Russian forward can still put the puck in the net at a high clip (25 goals in three straight years).
Another free agent I’d keep my eye on is Alex Galchenyuk. The former Canadian had a down year in 2020, playing on his fourth team in three years, but he still has 30-goal potential at just 26 years old. While he is a natural centerman, he also played a lot of off-side wing in Pittsburgh, so he could be a fit with either Charlie Coyle or David Krejci. Or, the Bruins could deal Krejci and use Galchenyuk as a center.
It doesn’t seem like the Bruins are in on Patrik Laine, (although they should be), however it seems as if they are very much in on Oliver Ekman-Larsson. The 6’1″ 200-pound left shot defenseman would be an outstanding fit opposite Charlie McAvoy, but at what cost? He’s already making over $8M per season the next seven years, so I wouldn’t really want to part with a lot in terms of prospects/draft picks. I’d love him in Boston, but I wouldn’t want to overpay for him. Eckman-Larsson has a no-trade clause, and he told the Coyotes they have until Friday to deal him to either Boston or Vancouver, so this situation should resolve itself shortly.
Kyle Palmieri is someone I had my eye on last year as a deadline target, and he could very well be on the move this offseason with just one year left on his contract. I’d love to see him on Krejci or Coyles right side potting pucks in the net in 2021.
This will be a fascinating off-season for your Boston Bruins. We’re going to see if Don Sweeney has the guts to put all his chips on the table and go all-in on what could be the final run for this Bruins core.