If the Bruins want to try and run it back next season after a heartbreaking first-round exit from the Stanley Cup playoffs, it will be next to impossible to do so with the roster Boston had in 2022-23.
The Florida Panthers upset the B’s with a Game 7 win at TD Garden that knocked the Stanley Cup favorites out of contention despite previously holding a 3-1 series lead. Boston went all in at this year’s NHL trade deadline with the acquisitions of Dmitry Orlov, Garnet Hathaway and Tyler Bertuzzi, but fell short of the ultimate goal.
The depth the Bruins showcased was what teams dream of, including Taylor Hall on the third line and having to make tough decisions about who to healthy scratch both on the forward lines and defense. But Boston has very little cap space going into next year, and will have to account for $4.5 million in cap overages due to bonuses for Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci.
According to BruinsCapSpace on Twitter, the Black and Gold will have $4.9 million in space. The salary cap is expected to raise $1 million to $83.5 million, but that still won’t provide the Bruins much relief.
There are a lot of decisions to make and right now there are more questions than answers. Let’s take a look at who the unrestricted and restricted free agents are heading into to the offseason.
Unrestricted Free Agents
Bergeron just finished his 19th season with the Bruins and it’s unclear what the future holds for the captain. He said he was going to make a decision about whether he wants to continue playing or retire no later than July 1.
Krejci returned this year after playing the previous season in his native Czech Republic. Like Bergeron, he doesn’t know what he wants to do, but Krejci did make it clear it’s Bruins or retirement.
Bertuzzi was acquired at the trade deadline after Hall landed him on long-term injured reserve. He was a seamless fit and was one of the Bruins’ best players in the series against the Panthers. Bertuzzi played his way into what should be a nice payday this offseason, and he expressed that he and his family “loved” the city of Boston. It won’t be easy to bring him back — especially if Krejci and Bergeron return — but it certainly would be nice to have Bertuzzi back in Black and Gold.
Foligno has embraced Boston since signing a two-year deal with the team in 2021. He became a vocal leader and leaned into his “Uncle Nick” nickname given to him by Jakub Lauko. The longtime forward doesn’t plan to retire and said he’d love to return to the Bruins, but it’s unclear what the intentions of the team are at this point.
Also acquired at the trade deadline, Hathaway filled in nicely on the bottom six, but with young forwards in Providence like Lauko and Oskar Steen, it would be tough seeing the Bruins bring Hathaway back.
Nosek quietly had a strong season for the Bruins, especially at the faceoff dot, winning 59.3% of them. If the Bruins can bring Nosek back for the right price, they should, but they should avoid overpaying for a bottom-six player.
Clifton had a career year with five goals, 18 assists and 23 points. His defensive game also improved, but that never carried over into the playoffs, especially in Game 6 against Florida when he couldn’t stop giving away the puck. The Bruins do have some depth in Providence, including Mason Lohrei, so it will be interesting to see if the Bruins let Clifton walk or if they’ll bring him back as a depth piece.
Orlov, acquired at the trade deadline, expressed at breakup day this offseason might be his last shot at a big contract. The 32-year-old fit in nicely on the blue line, but he might not fit in the Bruins’ plans this offseason if he’s looking for what could be the final contract of his career.
Restricted Free Agents
The Bruins had the best goalie tandem in Swayman and Linus Ullmark, so it seems like a no-brainer that the two sides would get a deal done. Swayman, who finished the 2022-23 season with a 2.27 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage, told reporters he was leaving contract talks up to his agent. The goalie should be a priority for the B’s and it will be worth keeping our eyes on throughout the offseason.
Frederic amassed career highs in goals, assists and points this year and added a touch of physicality to the bottom six. He’s valuable and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him in Black and Gold next season.