Bruins Offseason: Under-The-Radar Moves Don Sweeney Could Make

There will be no shortage of reunions, it seems

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July 13, 2022

NHL free agency begins Wednesday when the new league year officially begins at noon ET.

When that happens, all the reported deals we’ve heard about in recent weeks and days will become official. The guess here is that among those announcements will be the returns of both Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci to the Bruins.

General manager Don Sweeney has made it no secret the Bruins are talking to the veteran centermen. Bergeron is an unrestricted free agent, but he has said he won’t play anywhere other than Boston. His decision comes down to whether he wants to play another season. Krejci, on the other hand, is mulling a return to the NHL after spending last season playing in his native Czech Republic.

Assuming both return, it will be fascinating to see how Sweeney maneuvers the salary cap. Krejci in his final season carried a cap hit north of $7 million. Bergeron’s number was just south of $7 million. The Bruins, according to Spotrac, have roughly $2.5 million in cap space to play with right now. Obviously, those two players will take substantial cuts off their previous figures, but the cap gymnastics are required.

The Fourth Period’s David Pagnotta reported Wednesday morning the Bruins are also looking at depth pieces, which isn’t surprising — Sweeney admitted as much earlier in the offseason.

With that in mind, here are some “under-the-radar” moves Boston could theoretically make once the league year begins.

Sign Tyler Bozak
Veteran Blues reporter Andy Strickland reported Tuesday night Bozak wants to continue playing. The veteran forward is 36 years old, and according to Strickland, he’s looking for the right fit. Playing a depth role on a potential contender like the Bruins could satisfy that desire. He certainly isn’t the player he was with Toronto, but he can be trusted in his own zone and to kill penalties. There’s also some familiarity there, not just from in the division or the 2019 Stanley Cup Final. New Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery was an assistant in St. Louis last season, so he’s familiar with Bozak’s work.

Bring back a familiar face
Two additional depth forwards the Bruins could target, especially if they want to go a little younger, are old friends Frank Vatrano, Danton Heinen or Noel Acciari. Vatrano made the most of his impressive shot with increased ice time in Florida where he scored 73 goals in 271 games. He also had a nice little run with the Rangers last season, scoring eight goals in just 22 games. Heinen also saw his game improve outside Boston, especially last year when he scored 18 goals while averaging just under 13 minutes per night with Pittsburgh. One of the knocks on former Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy was a perceived inability to get the most out of younger players. That’s supposedly a strength for Montgomery, so if there’s some sort of deep philosophical change, perhaps a reunion makes sense. Acciari, meanwhile, could be a relatively cheap fourth-line option. And while we’re on the topic of reunions, might Ondrej Kase make some sense if the price is right and the medicals look OK?

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Think long and hard about LTIR
The Bruins have some key long-term injury issues that will go fairly deep into the season. They could opt to put someone like Brad Marchand or Charlie McAvoy on long-term injured reserve. That allows them to create cap space to sign players. The problem, though, is once Marchand and McAvoy return, the Bruins would have to get back under the cap. It’s a delicate dance.

Trade a first-round pick to maximize potential return
It’s hard to say where Sweeney might look to free up cap space. But again, if they want to actually make changes to the roster, it’s probably going to require moving money out somewhere. The Bruins continue to say they’re not interested in a rebuild, and given the hit-miss rate of their recent first-round picks, it could make sense to float a future first in a potential deal. The problem with that, though, is two-fold: First, it limits the ability to rebuild on the fly with an eye toward the future, and it hamstrings Sweeney’s potential to make a deal at the deadline next season. But you never know.

Thumbnail photo via Eric Bolte/USA TODAY Sports Images
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