NHL Free Agency: These Free Agents Could Make Sense For Bruins

Will Don Sweeney and Co. be aggressive in free agency?

by Mike Cole

October 6, 2020

For what feels like the 138th time, trying to predict what happens in the NHL this offseason is near-impossible. Trying to do so as it pertains to the Boston Bruins might be even more difficult.

It feels like the Black and Gold is in the midst of a potentially franchise-altering offseason. But we don’t know that for sure because there still are so many moving parts, all while we’re in the midst of a global pandemic that has affected economies far and wide, something to which professional hockey is not immune.

We do know, however, the NHL salary cap for the 2020-21 NHL season will remain flat at $81.5 million. We know Boston has roughly $15 million in salary cap space. We think there’s a decent possibility Torey Krug leaves and signs elsewhere, although we can’t be sure of that.

There’s also the lingering Oliver Ekman-Larsson situation that ultimately could change the scope of the Bruins’ entire offseason.

Again, lots of moving parts, with Boston reportedly monitoring them all.

So, to the best of our ability, we present a list of free agents the Bruins could potentially sign when free agency begins Friday.

FORWARDS

Taylor Hall, left wing
Age:
28
2019-20 cap hit: $6 million
2019-20 stats: 10 goals, 17 assists in 35 games

We’re swinging for the fences off the bat. The Bruins, as it stands right now, might be hard-pressed to ink the 2010 No. 1 overall pick. However, general manager Don Sweeney has made it no secret he’s open to change this offseason, and some sort of blockbuster trade to free up enough cap space to sign a player like Hall, while also shoring up restricted free agents, would indeed provide change. A lot would have to change with the Bruins roster to maximize Hall’s fit, but he’s a very good hockey player.

Tyler Toffoli, winger
Age:
28
2019-20 cap hit: $4.6 million
2019-20 stats: 24 goals, 20 assists in 68 games

From a pure roster and positional standpoint, Toffoli is a better fit than Hall given his experience and ability on the right wing. One of the Bruins’ biggest needs, assuming there isn’t a complete blow-up, is a second-line right winger. Toffoli — who looks destined for the market given Vancouver’s cap crunch theoretically could fill that hole. An added bonus is his playoff experience (54 games). He was awesome in a short period of time with the Canucks (10 points in 10 games), so if you put him around some talented players again, Toffoli could see a return to his 2016 form when he scored 30 goals with the Kings.

Tyler Ennis, forward
Age:
31
2019-20 cap hit: $800,000
2019-20 stats: 16 goals, 21 assists in 70 games

Certainly not a splash move, but just look at how good Ennis was for Edmonton after the trade deadline. He was especially valuable to the Oilers in his own end, where he started nearly 60% of his shifts and still had positive possession numbers. His versatility makes him a great depth piece, as he could play all three forward positions. Signing him would be a bit of a risk after he broke his leg in the bubble, but it also means he could come relatively cheap.

DEFENSEMEN

Kevin Shattenkirk
Age: 31
2019-20 cap hit: $1.75 million
2019-20 stats: 8 goals, 26 assists in 70 games

Even if Krug leaves in free agency, the Bruins seem to have enough left-handed shot D-men in the pipeline to withstand the loss from a balance standpoint. There continues to be a shortage of right-shot blueliners ready to contribute at the NHL level, and Shattenkirk certainly would help in that area. He was lauded for his leadership with the Lightning, and he’s a player the Bruins have had their eye on for years now.

Erik Gustafsson
Age: 28
2019-20 cap hit: $1.2 million
2019-20 stats: 6 goals, 23 assists in 66 games

It’s unlikely Gustafsson would be able to completely replace Krug’s production, but for much less money, there are worse replacements. The former fourth-round pick is only two years removed from 17-43-60 totals with the Chicago Blackhawks. That season seems to be the outlier at this point, but playing with high-end offensive talent again — similar to those Chicago teams at the start of his career — could rejuvenate the production. And while he wouldn’t simply replace Krug on the power play, Gustafsson ranks 22nd among defensemen in power-play time per game over the last two seasons.

Thumbnail photo via Perry Nelson/USA TODAY Sports Images
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