The Boston Bruins’ looming roster decisions would be a lot easier to stomach if the club currently was celebrating a Stanley Cup win.
Unfortunately for the Black and Gold, however, the B’s came up short in Game 7 of the Cup Final, dropping a disappointing 4-1 verdict to the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night. Assuming no sort of wild offseason development, Boston figures to be on the shortlist of legitimate Cup contenders when the 2019-20 season rolls around.
Another deep playoff run next spring is far from guaranteed, given the volatile nature of the Stanley Cup playoffs and the Bruins entering the offseason with literally the least possible time to prepare for the 19-20 campaign. However, the good news is that the Bruins are expected to return a good chunk of the same roster for next season.
UNDER CONTRACT FOR 2019-20
Goalies: Tuukka Rask, Jaroslav Halak
Forwards: Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, David Backes, David Krejci, Jake DeBrusk, Karson Kuhlman, Charlie Coyle, Sean Kuraly, Joakim Nordstrom, Chris Wagner
Defensemen: Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, John Moore, Kevan Miller, Matt Grzelcyk, Connor Clifton
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Charlie McAvoy — Taking care of the RFAs should be the Bruins’ priority, as this trio — especially the two defensemen — figure to be massive parts of the Bruins’ core moving forward. McAvoy is leaving little doubt he’s the best blueliner on the Bruins’ roster, and his performance both off and on the ice in the playoffs indicate he’s ready to lead this team in the not-so-distant future. If the Bruins can lock him up long term, they should ASAP.
Brandon Carlo — He might lack the sizzle possessed by McAvoy, but Carlo’s shutdown style make him a top-pairing D-man of the future. He’s just a solid defensive-minded defenseman who is a pillar player for any team looking to establish its identity now and into the future.
Danton Heinen — The Bruins have to hope Heinen’s offensive game undergoes a transformation, but he’s already one of the Bruins’ best defensive forwards, and like Carlo, he’s just a solid piece that helps you fill out a deep, complete roster.
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Marcus Johansson — Bruins general manager Don Sweeney executed a couple of shrewd trade deadline moves, acquiring Coyle from Minnesota and Johansson from New Jersey. The 28-year-old cost the Bruins a second- and fourth-round pick, but he made Sweeney look smart with a tremendous playoff showing. Johansson scored four goals and added seven assists alongside Coyle and Heinen on the Bruins’ third line, a trio that was Boston’s best of the playoffs. That being said, the veteran has a proven playoff track record and is entering the market at the perfect time. The Bruins almost certainly will have to clear cap space in order to re-sign Johansson.
Noel Acciari — It’s hard to find many faults in Acciari’s game as a fourth-line forward who loves to throw his weight around and can be tough to handle on the forecheck. The Bruins got some important minutes out of the Providence College product this season, and he was a big reason for real strong fourth-line play throughout the season and into the playoffs. However, the Bruins have a surplus of young forwards who could audition for the same role, meaning Acciari’s time in Boston might also be done.
OTHER POSSIBLE MOVES?
The Bruins currently have about $14 million in salary cap space, so assuming they want to extend all three RFAs, they might need to make some tough decisions with the rest of the roster. David Backes, who was scratched for Boston’s most important games of the season, carries a burdensome $6 million salary cap hit (and still is owed $8 million) over the next two seasons. He theoretically could be a buyout candidate or Boston could pair him with a prospect in hopes of finding someone to take on the money.
Moving Torey Krug’s contract would also free up some valuable space ($5.25 million cap hit), but trading a player like that would be a real tough move. Krug is a very good puck mover who has improved in his own end throughout his career and really seems to be coming into his own. In the Bruins’ most important game of the season, he led all B’s skaters in ice time. Moving him is far from ideal, but the salary cap world necessitates tough decisions sometimes.