What Will Bruins Defense Look Like If Zdeno Chara Stays, Goes This Offseason?

Chara has yet to re-sign with the Bruins

The Boston Bruins’ blueline already will be looking different next season with Torey Krug gone.

But what about if Zdeno Chara isn’t around, either?

That possibility still seems like a longshot. But Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy is thinking about what life might be like without the 43-year-old, so we’ll do the same.

Of course, Chara is an unrestricted free agent this offseason and remains unsigned. B’s general manager Don Sweeney has indicated time and time again that the lines of communications are very open between the Bruins and Chara’s camp. So the below exercise isn’t being done under the impression that one situation is far more likely than the other.

OK, away we go.

If Chara stays
On the surface this might seem pretty easy to figure out, but if the Bruins decide they envision Chara in a different on-ice role, then that changes things up.

The first scenario is if they keep things as is, but just replace Krug’s spot. In that situation you’re looking at:

Chara-Charlie McAvoy
Jeremy Lauzon-Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk-Connor Clifton
Spares: John Moore, Kevan Miller

But it wouldn’t be surprising to see Chara end up in a different role so as not to lean as heavily on him in 5-on-5 situations.

Grzelcyk-McAvoy
Lauzon-Carlo
Chara-Clifton
Spares: Moore, Miller

The thing is though, Chara’s known for keeping in impeccable shape. If he’s choosing to play instead of retire, the Bruins probably can rest assured he’ll be prepared to play heavy minutes. In that case, maybe they go back to what they used to do and that’s pair him with Brandon Carlo.

Grzelcyk-McAvoy
Chara-Carlo
Lauzon-Clifton
Spares: Moore, Miller

It’s worth noting that Moore, Clifton, Lauzon, Miller and likely Jakub Zboril probably will be competing for two spots. Where exactly they all fit into the equation remains to be seen, obviously.

In our eyes, the final scenario is the one that makes the most sense. You get the best balance of skill and pure defensive ability by putting Grzelcyk and McAvoy together, while Chara and Carlo form a shutdown pairing. Then Lauzon becomes the perfect match for Clifton because of the former’s ability to put out fires pairs well with the latter’s penchant for joining the rush and playing aggressively.

If Chara goes
But what if Chara either signs elsewhere or retires? That leaves the Bruins with two vacancies left by big-minute players, and little cap space to go out and sign a real difference maker.

The first option would be to just plug guys in. Though he’s healthy scratched often, Cassidy does seem to trust Moore and will play him liberally when he’s in. Maybe he becomes a natural partner with Carlo, who last season often was one of the top guys in TOI on Boston’s defense.

That would look like:

Grzelcyk-McAvoy
Moore-Carlo
Lauzon-Clifton
Spares: Miller, Zboril

The Bruins also could go with a full-fledged youth movement in the event Zboril — who finished strong in Providence last season — has a good camp.

Grzelcyk-McAvoy
Lauzon-Carlo
Zboril-Clifton
Spares: Moore, Miller

The oldest player of those six would be Grzelcyk, who turns 27 in January. That’s when having guys like Moore and Miller around would be beneficial, since there’s sure to be growing pains and cold stretches with that many youngsters.

There’s also the possibility a player like Urho Vaakanainen or Jack Ahcan shows up and has a great camp. Considering how many open spots there would be with Krug and Chara gone, suffice to say Cassidy will have as open a mind as could be and easily will take the guy most ready to contribute. That could open the door for those under-the-radar candidates.

In short though, the Bruins are not necessarily hosed either way. Some situations require a little more creativity than others, but that’s why the Bruins have been stockpiling defensive depth through prospects and the signings of veterans like Moore and Miller.

It’s unclear what Chara’s plan is though or when the season might even start. So all this is for now is conjecture.

Thumbnail photo via Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports Images

Picked For You