This offseason, the Boston Bruins have made a series of moves that have left fans cheering, sighing with relief, and yelling into the void. A series of highs and lows.
Fan opinions aside, NBCSports.com labeled the Bruins “LOSERS” for their free agency efforts. Which, in fairness, is a bit harsh. But, before we look at NBC Sports’ Nick Goss’s reasoning, let’s remind ourselves what moves Boston made (or didn’t make).
Boston Bruins offseason moves
- Taylor Hall (re-signed)
- Brandon Carlo (re-signed)
- Mike Reilly (re-signed)
- Linus Ullmark
- Nick Foligno
- Erik Haula
- Tomas Nosek
- Derek Forbort
Prospects to watch
Are the Boston Bruins “Losers”
Back to Nick Goss,
So, why are the Bruins losers?
Their No. 1 need — a left-shooting top-four defenseman — still hasn’t been addressed. Furthermore, David Krejci choosing to leave the Bruins and return home to the Czech Republic leaves a massive hole at second-line center. The Bruins don’t have any good internal options to fill Krejci’s shoes. Charlie Coyle is best suited as a third-line center. Foligno is more of a winger and not a top-six player at this stage of his career. Jack Studnicka likely is not ready for a No. 2 center job after a disappointing 2020-21 campaign.
I mean, he’s not wrong. Fans didn’t see the Krejci decision coming, but they saw the hole on defense. The team felt Torey Krug‘s absence this past year and Charlie McAvoy can’t do it all despite being in the Norris conversation.
The offensive pieces that were brought in are… more of the same really. Foligno is a great fit for the B’s, but he’s not what they need and he wasn’t cheap. He’ll be a great voice in the locker room and a strong third-line wing, but that’s really about all they can expect from him.
Haula, third-line center. Nosek, third/fourth line wing/center. They’ll play alongside Jake DeBrusk, Chris Wagner, Curtis Lazar, and Trent Frederic. It’s a solid bottom-six, but… it’s again… more of the same for Boston.
Finding help for McAvoy
Okay, so the Bruins needed a top-four defenseman who can contribute offensively. Fine, good. This year sported several offensively gifted (and relatively affordable) d-men: Tyson Barrie, Alec Martinez, Keith Yandle, even Alex Goligoski. All would have been serviceable.
Instead, what do they do? They re-sign Mike Reilly and bring in Derek Forbort on matching $3 million deals… Really? Don’t get me wrong, Reilly had a fairly productive year on the backend and had eight assists in just 15 games played for the Bruins, but Forbort? You’re going to pay Forbort, a stay-at-home defenseman, $3 million a year and give him a modified no-trade clause? (Reilly didn’t receive an M-NTC)
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Barrie, who led all defensemen in scoring last season, signed for just $4.5 million. Martinez signed for $5.25, a bit pricey, but a far better fit. And then there’s Yandle. Yandle, 34-years-old, born and raised in Boston, signed for just $900,000 in Philadelphia. He could have easily run your second powerplay and taken up some bottom-pairing minutes.
That’s the type of player the Bruins needed. They didn’t need, again, “more of the same” with Forbort
Losing Krejci didn’t help
To make this offseason’s matters more complicated, they’ve yet to find a suitable replacement for Krejci. At the end of the day, the guy wanted to go. He’s 35-years-old and has given the Bruins everything he’s got to give. He doesn’t owe the team, the city, the fans a thing.
But… it really couldn’t have been worse timing.
David Krejci was introduced in the Czech Republic today, and it doesn't sound like he has plans to return to the Bruins once the Czech season concludes in the spring. https://t.co/8Bizwm7jxs
— NESN (@NESN) August 24, 2021
With Krejci opting to leave at the very end of July, the more notable free-agent centers had already been claimed. Phillip Danault, Paul Stastny, Alexander Wennberg, Derek Stepan (maybe), would have all helped alleviate the blow just a bit. Then again, maybe Don Sweeney saw what was out there, kicked the tires a bit, and said, “HARD PASS.” Who knows.
The fact of the matter is that no player out there could replace what was lost: a seasoned veteran with over 1100 combined games and three Stanley Cup appearances, all while wearing the black and gold.
The problem now is Charlie Coyle. That’s the next best option on the current payroll and holy hell has it been a brutal road for the Weymouth, Mass native. If he weren’t from the area fans would have called for his head by now.
If a serviceable replacement isn’t found via trade, Coyle will start the season trying to fill Krejci’s skates. With a $5.25 million cap hit, a no-movement clause, and an M-NTC for another FIVE YEARS, he better be able to prove that his 16 points in 51 games were just a fluke last season.
The reality of a trade
A trade is Boston’s best bet at this point, but these signings have left the team with just over $1 million cap space, thus limiting the team’s financial flexibility – Nick Goss, NBC Sports
Thanks for the segue, Nick. Yes, a trade seems to be the only other option out there for the Boston Bruins, but $1 million doesn’t give you a ton of wiggle room. You also have to ask, what would other teams want that the Bruins currently have?
DeBrusk is such a wildcard and his stock is far too low for a decent return. The Bruins will have to hope he has a strong start to the season so they can sell high on him. Selling Studnicka now would be premature but he could bring in a strong return, the same goes for Swayman. But there goes your future.
— Bruins Diehards (@BruinsDiehards) February 22, 2021
They can’t afford to trade anyone on their defense currently, including Forbort. The top-line and Taylor Hall are untouchable. Craig Smith won’t get you a number two center alone. Frederic has a good bit of upside but they’ll need to find a suitor who really values the gritty youth.
So, if you ask me, they’re kind of stuck.
Boston, humor me for a moment
If the Bruins decide to go all-in and trade younger players, their trade partner has to be close to a full-on rebuild. That eliminates Sean Monahan from Calgary. The Flames are still mentally on the hunt. Kirby Dach from Chicago has been in trade rumors lately, but the Blackhawks don’t need anything that the Bruins are selling. Evgeny Kuznetsov is a no for the same reason.
However, there is one potential player that would make sense. Christian Dvorak from the Arizona Coyotes. The Coyotes understand the situation they’re in and are reportedly asking for two first-round quality prospects. Would they consider DeBrusk, Vaakanainen, and a draft pick?
If I’m the Boston Bruins, I’d do that deal all day.
B's apparently in on Christian Dvorak, left shot center who has 4 years at $4.45M AAV remaining on his contract. pic.twitter.com/bYnCgiewEr
— Bruins Stats (@bruins_stats) July 23, 2021
At the end of it all, I wouldn’t say the team lost or are “losers.” But they didn’t win either. They just made lateral moves and lost their most tenured player. Rask is rumored to come back after he recovers from his injury, so that should help a bit. But then that creates a whole confusing goalie situation.
The Boston Bruins have a limited window to make another run at a Stanley Cup. The core group of guys isn’t getting any younger and there are too many glaring holes on the roster. My vote, trade for Dvorak and try and get Lauzon back from Seattle.
Featured Image via AP Photo/Winslow Townson