As most expected, the Boston Bruins did not provide any fireworks Sunday morning.
The Bruins’ official list of expansion draft-protected players was delivered without any real surprises. Boston opted for the 7-3-1 protection route, choosing to keep seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender off-limits to the Seattle Kraken.
The majority of the Bruins’ protected players were no-brainers and/or listed by default. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Charlie Coyle all have a no-move clause in their current contracts. David Pastrnak is one of the best goal scorers on the planet and Charlie McAvoy figures to perennially be in the Norris Trophy conversation for years to come. Fellow defenseman Brandon Carlo inked a new six-year deal earlier this week and Matt Gryzelcyk also is a surehanded stalwart on the blueline.
The Bruins’ brass likely didn’t undergo much deliberation over the goaltender slot, either. Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak both are impending free agents and Jeremy Swayman, who made his NHL debut this past season, is expansion draft-exempt. The decision effectively boiled down to Dan Vladar or Callum Booth, and the former, as it stands, has a much better chance of becoming a legitimate NHL goalie.
Boston’s final three forward spots were the only area even remotely clouded by uncertainty. Craig Smith was a virtual lock to claim one of them after an impressive first season with the B’s coupled with his modest contract. That left the Bruins to nail down the final two spots between Jake DeBrusk, Trent Frederic and Nick Ritchie.
Ritchie proved to be the odd-man out, and it’s fairly easy to understand why. He’s set to become a restricted free agent on the heels of a very quiet run in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. DeBrusk, of course, has had his ups and downs over the years, but his ceiling and trade value both are higher than Ritchie’s. Frederic, meanwhile, has shown flashes of being a more-than-serviceable bottom-six forward. The 23-year-old also is on a team-friendly contract.
Perhaps the toughest player for the Black and Gold to leave off their protected list was Connor Clifton, who very well could be Seattle-bound come Wednesday. Clifton largely impressed any time his number was called the past two-plus seasons, but there obviously was no way you could choose him over McAvoy, Carlo and Grzelcyk.
The B’s left a handful of other capable players — Chris Wagner, Karson Kuhlman and Jeremy Lauzon, to name a few — unprotected, but the club figures to be in good shape regardless of who it loses to the Kraken.