Plenty of Questions Facing the Bruins in a Long Offseason

The Carolina Hurricanes eliminated the Boston Bruins on Saturday with a 3-2 victory in game seven and eliminating the Bruins from further contention for Lord Stanley’s Cup. The Bruins just could not find a way to beat the Canes in Raleigh just like the Canes could not find a way to win in Boston. This was truly a home team series.

In the end, it was the Canes relentless man-on-man coverage – with the right players on the ice – that shut down the Bruins top players to take the series that proved to be the difference. Some will say that Coach Bruce Cassidy was outcoached in Carolina, but he did all he could do to break up the matchups his counterpart wanted.   

The Canes also got depth scoring, something the Bruins desperately needed if the big guns couldn’t get on the board when they needed too. The Canes also got offence from the defence where the Bruins were only able to notch two – one by Connor Clifton and the other by Derek Forbort.

The Bruins have 4-plus months to answer a lot of questions before the puck drops for the 2022-2023 season.

Unfortunately for the Bruins, they have no control over the number one issue facing the team in the offseason – Patrice Bergeron. The captain is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 13 and there are questions on whether he wishes to return for another season. Bergy has said he didn’t want to make a decision on a new contract during the season and would wait until the offseason to come to a decision. Bergeron has earned the right to take his time and make his decision after everything he has done for this organization.

The second most pressing question facing the Bruins: Who is actually going to answer the questions and make the decisions? General Manager Don Sweeney is without a contract for next season. The Bruins are a tight-lipped organization and no one really knows if there have been discussions about an extension.

There are many fans calling for a rebuild. A team that boasts Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark in goal, Charlie McAvoy and Hampus Lindholm on defence and Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and Taylor Hall up front is not a team that needs to rebuild and whether it’s Sweeney making the decisions or someone else taking over, they will surely see it the same way.

The next pressing need is to find a centreman. What type of center they need is all dependent on the Bergeron decision? If in fact he does return, the Bruins could look for a second-line center with first line potential for when Bergeron eventually does call it a career. If he doesn’t return? The task just became more difficult. If Bergeron’s decision takes too much time, it will only hinder the Bruins process. But Bergy knows this and he is not the type of person to put the team in that situation, so I believe he will decide sooner rather than later.

I believe the next important issue facing management is a Pastrnak extension. Pasta’s 6-year, $40 million deal is set to expire at the end of the 2022-2023 season and while they have some time to get a deal in place, it would be prudent of the Bruins to know what that deal will look like so that they could get their cap in order for next year and beyond. At the very least they should have some sort of discussion to see what the Pastrnak camp is looking for.

Next is the one fans have been waiting for months to get an answer and that is Jake DeBrusk. By now, everyone knows about his trade request and everyone should know he signed a two-year contract extension on March 21st with an AAV of $4 million. Does he still want out? Do you trade him at the draft? Do you package him in a deal for a center? So many more questions surrounding JDB but no answers.

Do you bring Jakub Zboril back? Zboril is a group 6 unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and bring him back gives the Bruins 8 blueliners under one-way contracts. If Zboril is in the fold, he’ll come with a team friendly cap hit and that opens up the opportunity to move one of your other left shot defencemen in a deal such as Derek Forbort or Mike Reilly. But the Bruins would get the most value by moving Matt Grzelcyk.

Here is a look at the Bruins cap situation for next season. This includes all one-way deals as that is what counts towards the cap until opening night next season. I’ve thrown in Jack Studnicka as he is set to become a restricted free agent and likely looking at a deal similar to Oskar Steen.

It looks tight, doesn’t it? Obviously, the Bruins will need to make a decision on Chris Wagner once again. As I said earlier, if Zboril returns, one of those left shot blueliners have to move and now you’re adding $4.2 million to $4.8 million in cap space. No one knows if and for how much Bergeron would return for, but that opens up enough money for Bergeron.

Do you let Curtis Lazar walk as an unrestricted free agent and replace him with Steen? The money washes out but for most of the season and certainly in the short-lived playoffs, Lazar is the one that drove the fourth line.

There is a growing group of fans on the internet suggesting the Bruins have to buyout Nick Foligno. I’m not going do agree or disagree with that group, I’m just going to point out some numbers. If you were to bury Foligno in Providence as the Bruins did with Wagner this season, then his cap hit would drop to $2,675,000. IF he were to be bought out, the cap hit would be $1,933,333 so the cap saving between buying him out and burying his contract is only $741,667. The buyout would also add $933,333 to the cap for the 2023-2024 season where a potential new Pastrnak deal would take effect.

A buyout doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me in terms of cap management but hey, I’m just a Sofa GM like most of you are. What makes more sense to me is try and work out a trade. Foligno’s no movement clause becomes a modified no trade clause with a 16 team no trade list. Foligno is also due a $1 million signing bonus on July 1, so a team in need could pick up a $3.8 million cap hit for $2.8 million. The Bruins could also retain on his salary making it more attractive to those teams in need of cap hits as long as they make the numbers to their benefit.

The Bruins will also have a bunch of smaller decisions that will need to be made. Here is a look at the professionals heading to RFA or UFA status on July 13:

Now, I am certain someone is going to ask me about Fabian Lysell. Certainly, he has had a tremendous season in the Western Hockey League with the Vancouver Giants. I do believe he is ready for some spot duty in the event of injuries, but I don’t believe he is ready for an 82-game schedule. Some time in the American Hockey League would benefit him greatly as well as the Bruins.

There are also a few calls for Jack Ahcan in Boston. Personally, and I’ve been clear about my feelings sometime on this now, I don’t believe – barring a lot of injuries on the blueline – that the Bruins are willing to have both Ahcan and Grzelcyk in the lineup at the same time, especially come playoff time. Ahcan certainly has the skills. He is also an unrestricted free agent with one more year of waiver exemption in front of him. He will require waivers when Grzelcyk enters the final year of his deal.

There isn’t a whole lot of work for the front office when it comes to getting prospects under contract. John Beecher, since he signed an ATO with Providence at the end of his NCAA season needs an NHL contract, but other than him, there is still time for the others. Here’s a look at the non-pro prospects without a contract and when the Bruins will lose the rights to them if they do not sign:

There is a lot of work to accomplish this offseason. It starts right after the exit interviews with the players.

Follow me on Twitter @dominictiano

Published by Dominic Tiano

Following the Ontario Hockey League players eligible for the NHL Draft. I provide season-long stats, updates and player profiles as well as draft rankings.

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