How NHL Expansion Draft Will Impact Bruins’ Talks With Free Agents

'You want to keep the strongest roster you possibly can'

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The Boston Bruins have an understandable reason why they probably won’t re-sign any of their impending free agents right away.

General manager Don Sweeney told reporters Tuesday it’s unlikely the B’s will re-sign any of their unrestricted free agents prior to the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft. The Bruins can protect just 11 players, and Sweeney intends to prioritize those whose long-term futures in Boston are secure in order to keep them from the clutches of the Seattle Kraken, who will stock their roster July 21. That approach means Jaroslav Halak, Taylor Hall, David Krejci, Kevan Miller, Tuukka Rask and Mike Reilly must wait several weeks if they ultimately are to continue with the Bruins.

“The preference would be not, given the fact that we have expansion,” Sweeney said in a video press conference when asked whether he’ll sign any unrestricted free agents prior to the NHL Expansion Draft. “It creates other problems for us. I think, again, we’ll have discussions and hopefully be able to find common ground. You run the risk, you get into that interview period and period beyond expansion that may get closer to the deadline, and they find ground somewhere else that they feel is a better fit. There’s a risk there.

“But again, the fact of expansion and exposing other player associated with that — you want to keep the strongest roster you possibly can on the depth side of things, and we?ll try to do that like everybody else.”

NHL free agency will begin July 28. Don’t expect the Bruins to violate NHL rules by agreeing to terms with players ahead of time but declining to inform the league.

“You can only talk in generalities with your players and you can never come to a full-fledged agreement and not file the contract,” Sweeney said.”

The Bruins, of course, still are digesting their elimination from the Stanley Cup playoffs at the hands of the New York Islanders in the second round. However, as the agony of defeat subsides, Boston will turn its focus toward the future.

The futures of Rask, Krejci and Co. are among the Bruins’ top offseason storylines, as they look to re-tool for next season’s pursuit of success.

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