Playoff hockey is near, and the Boston Bruins are positioning themselves to make a run in the Eastern Conference, as evidenced by their excellent play since the beginning of the new year. The field is difficult, but the Bruins have a chance to play in another Stanley Cup Final. There is a lot to be determined in the next couple of months.
But what happens in the off-season for a team that awaits a decision from their captain Patrice Bergeron on whether he will return for a 19th season? How does the management of the Bruins make necessary moves to the roster when many of the core members of the team are under contract for 2022-23? And who will be making the decisions with current general manager Don Sweeney’s contract expiring after the season? All very good questions. Here are five potential moves Boston can make heading into next season.
Convince Patrice Bergeron to return for one last run
The unrestricted free-agent had mentioned earlier in the season that a decision to re-sign with the team is still up in the air. Many Bruins fans probably haven’t considered the retirement of the captain to this point, but it may be a reality. The team already lost a terrific playmaking center in David Krejci last off-season. Losing Bergeron would put the Bruins in a bind at the center position, not to mention Bergeron’s impact on the room would be hard to replace. If I were the general manager, I would try to convince Bergeron to stay at least one more year. I’m sure his linemate Brad Marchand will be enticing Bergeron to remain as well.
Trade Jake DeBrusk
The 25-year-old winger has been sometimes good but often mercurial. The former first-round pick in 2015 has a 27-goal season under his belt but has also developed a reputation as a player who disappears at times and loses focus and motivation. DeBrusk requested a trade in late November and was on the trading block for some time. The Bruins nearly sent him packing but elected to keep him as their first-line right wing. The results have been mixed. This off-season is the time to finally pull the trigger. The return for him is a mystery, but the Bruins should get something of value in return and save his $4 million cap hit in the process.
Trade a defenseman or two
Currently, the Bruins have approximately $5,445,833 in cap space heading into next season, according to the Bruins Cap Space account on Twitter. The salary cap in the National Hockey League will increase by $1 million next season. There isn’t a lot of wiggle room with the cap, and the Bruins have several defensemen making over $3 million per year. One of them is puck-moving left-shot defenseman Mike Reilly, and the other is 30-year old Derek Forbort. Both players make $3 million annually. With the addition of Hampus Lindholm, either or both defensemen may be expendable. The only thing holding the Bruins back from trading both is a lack of depth in the organization on left defense. But it would benefit the Bruins to move Mike Reilly, who possesses an offensive skill set that should bring a decent return.
Bring David Krejci back on a one-year deal
Many fans might say that it is time to move on from Krejci, but hear me out on this one. If Bergeron returns for one more year, the Bruins can bring back Krejci for one last go of it with two top centers. Also, many players in the forward group have one year left on their deals (Erik Haula, Trent Frederic, Craig Smith, Tomas Nosek, Nick Foligno, and David Pastrnak). Having Bergeron and Krejci back next season would solidify the lineup and bridge the team into the following summer when many forwards will be coming off the books.
Plan for Fabian Lysell to have a role
The first-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft has generated a good amount of hype this season. There might even be a slight chance that Lysell sees action in the postseason for the Bruins if injuries occur. The Bruins really need Lysell to establish himself as an NHL player next season. Not only could the Bruins use a homegrown top-six forward who can produce offensively, but they also need some low-cost options for cap reasons. The development of Lysell could make others expendable possibly. After a good year with the Vancouver Giants in the Western Hockey League, Lysell might be ready to join the big club at some point next season.
There is still a lot of hockey left to be played this season. But as we look ahead to this off-season, the Bruins have some items on their to-do list. The Black and Gold have the ability to make a few smart moves regardless of who the general manager is.