The Boston Bruins ended their playoff drought last season while also integrating a few talented young players into their roster. The most notable name from that group was defenseman Charlie McAvoy, who played with the poise of a veteran despite making his NHL debut in Boston’s first-round playoff series against the Ottawa Senators.
The Bruins have made five first-round picks over the last three drafts, which has stocked the prospect pool with a ton of talent. However, that doesn’t mean the B’s won’t be active in the NHL’s free-agent market when it opens at noon ET on Saturday, July 1.
Here’s the Bruins’ projected lineup entering free agency (RFA denotes players who are restricted free agents July 1).
Brad Marchand–Patrice Bergeron–David Pastrnak (RFA)
Frank Vatrano–David Krejci–David Backes
Matt Beleskey–Ryan Spooner (RFA)–Jimmy Hayes
Noel Acciari–Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson–Riley Nash
Re-signing Pastrnak should be very high on the Bruins’ offseason to-do list. He’s developed into one of the league’s best young players and tallied career highs in goals (34), assists (36), points (70) and games played (75) last season.
Spooner has shown signs of being a solid offensive contributor. He’s a quality passer and very good at creating offense on the power play. The problem is his 5-on-5 scoring is not as good as the Bruins need, particularly from someone so talented. He’s an RFA, and it will be interesting to see how his negotiations play out.
The Bruins could find a fourth-liner on the cheap on the free-agent market, but they have plenty of young guys to fill those spots. Forsbacka Karlsson is a solid two-way forward prospect, and 2015 first-round picks Jake DeBrusk and Zach Senyshyn could provide much-needed scoring to the bottom-six group.
The B’s also invested in multiple veterans forwards on last summer’s free-agent market, most notably David Backes and Matt Beleskey, so it wouldn’t be surprising if they were less active this offseason.
Zdeno Chara–Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug–Brandon Carlo
Adam McQuaid–Kevan Miller
McAvoy received a lot of first-pairing minutes alongside Chara during the playoffs, and the B’s might as well roll out that line to begin the regular season as this duo had good chemistry and drove puck possession at a high rate.
Krug’s return from injury will give Boston’s blue line a huge boost, and Carlo showed during an up-and-down rookie campaign he has top-four potential.
The Bruins have a few options with their third pairing. Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller are two veterans with a lot of experience and bring the physical brand of hockey the team and fans appreciate. However, there could be a few young defensemen, including 2015 first-rounder Jakub Zboril, who push for a spot on that pairing.
Depth is important, especially on the blue line as the B’s found out first hand in the 2017 playoffs when they used almost a dozen different defensemen in Round 1. Signing a veteran free agent isn’t the worst idea.
Starter: Tuukka Rask
Backup: Anton Khudobin
Rask is one of the league’s top seven goaltenders and capable of stealing games when the Bruins are struggling to score and/or giving up too many scoring chances. Managing his number of games played has been difficult in recent seasons because of poor backup goaltending. Solidifying that position should be a top priority for Boston over the summer. The B’s cannot afford to give up valuable points in the standings because the backup goaltender isn’t able to consistently give a quality performance.
Anton Khudobin, who backed up Rask last season and is signed through 2017-18, probably will get the first shot at winning the job. But it wouldn’t hurt for the Bruins to bring in a veteran free agent to compete with Khudobin in training camp and preseason.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images