The Boston Bruins team that skated off the ice Wednesday night after a disappointing Game 7 loss to the Montreal Canadiens may look a lot different from the team that’s iced on opening night when the 2014-15 season kicks off.
Then again, maybe it won’t.
The Bruins will enter the offseason with 11 free agents (five unrestricted, six unrestricted), which leaves general manager Peter Chiarelli and his staff with some decisions to make. Boston did win the Presidents’ Trophy this season, so it’s not like a major overhaul is needed. However, there’s certainly a case to be made for changing some things after the B’s failed to live up to expectations with that second-round loss to the Habs.
Here’s a quick look at the Bruins players who will be hitting the market this summer.
Unrestricted free agents
2013-14 stats: 78 games, 30 goals, 31 assists
Outlook: This is arguably the Bruins’ most important decision when it comes to their own free agents. The case for re-signing Iginla is fairly obvious. He had a tremendous regular season. He fit in perfectly with David Krejci and Milan Lucic on Boston’s top line. He tied for the team lead in goals scored. However, Iginla will be 37 when next season begins. He signed with the Bruins on a team-friendly deal that carried just a $1.8 million salary cap hit. It stands to reason that he’d be in line to make more guaranteed money, and Boston doesn’t have a ton of cap room.
2013-14 stats: 64 games, five goals, three assists, 74 penalty minutes
Outlook: Thornton also turns 37 this summer. At this point in his career, it seems fair to even question whether he’ll even decide to play next year. If Thornton does decide to play, it may have to be somewhere else. It may finally be time to break up the Merlot Line after they really struggled with consistency this season, although injuries and suspensions played a part in that. Maybe Thornton is looking for one more payday before calling it quits, but it might not make a lot of sense for the Bruins to be the one to give it to him.
2013-14 stats: 14 games (with Bruins), two goals, three assists
Outlook: It would be surprising if the Bruins re-signed Meszaros. Assuming players like Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid are healthy and ready to go next season, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to bring back Meszaros. The Bruins also have some young D-men in Providence who they may give a look at instead.
2013-14 stats: Played just three games with Bruins
Outlook: Potter was claimed off waivers from Edmonton on trade deadline day strictly to provide depth. It seems unlikely he’ll be back.
2013-14 stats: 17-4-3, .925 save percentage, 2.10 goals against average
Outlook: Johnson might end up being the latest Bruins backup to parlay one good season Boston into a raise with another club. The 27-year-old was everything you could ask for in a backup. He was especially effective in March where his play allowed the Bruins to give Tuukka Rask a rest during the club’s busiest month. However, Boston has two young goalies in Niklas Svedberg and Malcolm Subban waiting in the wings, and they could compete for the backup job during training camp.
Restricted free agents
2013-14 stats: 79 games, 14 goals, 26 assists, 19 power-play assists
Outlook: Krug is a keeper, and the Bruins could look to lock him up to a long-term deal. He brings it every night, and what he lacks in size and strength, he makes up for in compete level. He’s also an incredibly gifted offensive player. That’s most evident on the power play. Krug was a huge reason the Bruins had the third-ranked power play, as his ability to quarterback the first unit at the point allowed Zdeno Chara to go down low, which revitalized the entire power play.
2013-14 stats: 82 games, 20 goals, 31 assists
Outlook: Smith was a revelation in his first season with the Bruins after coming over in the Tyler Seguin trade. General manager insists Smith wasn’t a throw-in and was a player the Bruins wanted all along. If that was the case, they did a pretty good job with this one. Smith was a very effective player for most of the season, although he did go through one real long slump late in the season. He rebounded to score four goals in the playoffs. It makes sense to try to sign Smith to a contract, too. He fit in well on a line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand while also flashing legitimate goal-scoring ability which only a handful of Bruins have.
2013-14 stats: 64 games, 0 goals, 18 assists
Outlook: Bartkowski is a trick one. He’s still young and will be 26 when next season begins. He’s a very good skater for a defenseman, and he showed that at times in the playoffs. Then again, he also had some mental lapses in the playoffs, too. He took five minor penalties in eight games, and his momentary mental lapse early in Game 7 against Montreal allowed the Canadiens to score the game’s first goal. Overall, there’s still enough good in Bartkowski’s game to warrant keeping him around, but that will be one of the more difficult offseason decisions.
Other RFAs: Justin Florek, Jordan Caron, Craig Cunningham