There were maybe four players the Seattle Kraken reasonably would have selected from the Boston Bruins in the NHL expansion draft: Jeremy Lauzon, Connor Clifton, Jakub Zboril and Nick Ritchie.
Seattle went with Lauzon on Wednesday, and for the Bruins, that’s probably the best-case scenario.
Lauzon still has room to grow, but his baseline skills are enticing. You can’t teach his size, he plays physically and generally has a good ability to close out plays. The offensive and puck-carrying abilities are limited, but that was never what he was on the ice for.
Of those that Seattle reasonably would have selected, Lauzon arguably is the most replaceable. While he was capable of playing on the top pairing, Charlie McAvoy was doing a ton of work to keep that combo afloat. At his best, he’s an everyday third-pairing blueliner, which is valuable no doubt, but also something you can find in free agency for relatively cheap.
Clifton only is making $1 million for the next two seasons. His game has mellowed out, and he’s continuing to find the line between being perfectly aggressive versus overdoing it. At times, he was the Bruins’ best defenseman not named McAvoy last season.
Zboril is a left-shot, puck-mover. He’s European, and generally defensemen from Europe take longer to acclimate to playing in North America. The Bruins admittedly are looking for a minutes-eating, two-way left-shot blueliner, and Zboril sooner has a chance of becoming that than Lauzon.
While Ritchie has had some quiet stretches, he was a steady player for the Bruins this past season, and proved how valuable he can be when he’s at his best. He’s still good to have around.
Depending on how you weigh the, as they say, “grit factor,” you could make a case that losing Lauzon is a relatively tough blow. He takes the body often and is willing to fight, and, sure, that means something. But while he has a bright NHL future, his loss is not as detrimental to Boston as some other players’ would have been.
In terms of youngsters, the Bruins still have lefties, as well. In addition to Zboril, Urho Vaakanainen is a lefty, as is Jack Ahcan. John Moore, though not a youngster, should be back next season, and he too is a left shot. If there ever was an area with some depth, it was there — and since Lauzon’s skillset was relatively limited and replaceable, it was better for Boston to lose him than Zboril.
To say Lauzon is not a valuable player would be wrong and shortsighted, however. He had his warts, and too often was exposed when healthy and playing in the postseason. But Brandon Carlo went through struggles similar to Lauzon when he was younger and came out of it fine, although the ceiling always was higher for Carlo.
No matter what, the Bruins are going to have to add on the left side, because going into the year with only Matt Grzelcyk, Zboril, Vaakanainen, Moore and Ahcan is not prudent. It sounds like Mike Reilly and the Bruins are interested in a reunion, which would be an important addition. There will all but certainly have to be another signing.
But for all the teams exposing players in an expansion draft, it comes down to the net loss. Ultimately, the Lauzon loss wounds the Bruins the least.