Back on April 1 I wrote about how General Manager Don Sweeney and Assistant General Manager Evan Gold were making over the Providence Bruins.
It was no April Fools Joke as the brain trust added size, speed and skill to a roster that was transitioning for the 2022-2023 season. In are Georgii Merkulov and Marc McLaughlin who the Bruins signed as free agents out of the NCAA. John Beecher left school a year early to turn pro. And the Bruins top prospect, Fabian Lysell is a one-and-done in the Western Hockey League and likely headed for some time with Providence. They also signed Mike Callahan after acquiring his rights from the Arizona Coyotes and Goaltender Brandon Bussi who the Bruins inked to a one-year deal as a free agent coming out of the NCAA.
They’ve also added Joey Abate, Grant Gabriele and Jacob Wilson on American Hockey League Deals.
Here’s the thing: The Boston Bruins have one of the fewest number of players on their AHL roster under an NHL contract. It is especially low on the backend. Jack Ahcan is a restricted free agent and almost a guarantee to sign an extension. That will give Boston just three blueliners in the AHL under an NHL contract with Victor Berglund the only one on the right side. On the left you have Ahcan and Callahan. You might add Nick Wolff to that if the Bruins decide to extend him – he is a pending RFA. There are reports that Kodie Curran will be heading over to Europe for next season (translation required)
There’s not much to work with if there are injuries at the NHL level and need to call up some bodies.
Up front, Jakub Lauko returns for the final year of his entry level contract and injuries are a going concern with him. Oskar Steen signed his contract extension already and is on a one-way contract and is no longer waiver exempt. Jack Studnicka is headed towards the same type of deal and is also no longer waiver exempt.
Cameron Hughes was Providence’s leading scorer last season and is set to become a Group VI UFA on July 13. I’ve heard that Jesper Froden will be heading back to Sweden and the Swedish Hockey League once free agency starts.
If Hughes re-signs and Joona Koppanen and Matt Filipe sign extensions – they are RFA – that gives Providence 10 forwards under NHL contract. In net, Bussi is the only goaltender under NHL contract. Kyle Keyser will likely get his extension and beyond that, they may try and retain Troy Grosenick for depth in the event someone is needed in the NHL, or they may look for another goaltender to do so. They could also look to do the same with Tyler Lewington on the blueline considering how weak the right side is.
One thing I strongly believe: Those under NHL contract should be getting all the prime situational minutes to further along their development. I look to Beecher as an example. His defensive game is very well developed. We need to see if there is any offensive potential there because he wasn’t always given those quality minutes at Michigan. He needs to get those top line minutes and top powerplay minutes and if there is something there, develop it. That’s how development works.
I understand that the Bruins also need a goaltender that can step into the NHL should Linus Ullmark or Jeremy Swayman miss time with an injury. Keyser is coming off his entry level contract and came to Providence with promise. But injuries have slowed that development. And they have to see what they have in Bussi who is only on a one-year deal. But these two should be given the bulk of the time in the crease. I understand that you have to have a plan in place for the NHL in the event of an injury, but at the same time, not only do they have to see what they have in the pair, they have to develop them.
*Note: Koppanen signed a one-year, two-way deal earlier today.
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