What offseason moves will the Bruins make?

Sara Civian
May 10, 2018 - 7:49 pm

Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports

It was Torey Krug’s fifth real go-around in this league, so he knew the drill when the media swarmed him before Game 7.

“It’s the same line everyone else has probably been feeding you all day,” he said. “As a kid you dream about being the hero in a Game 7 situation.”

He wouldn’t become the hero that night, but his equalizer was the next closest thing. It was also a moment that could sum up his career as a Bruin so far.

Krug had more than a point-per-game average when Patrice Bergeron missed a month in the regular season, he’s a power play weapon, he paves the way for others’ “hero” moments, and frankly he just shoots the puck.

After the terrifying first line, Krug was the Bruins’ leading scorer with 14-45-59 in 76 regular season games. It was a career year for the kind of offensive defenseman you’d want on your team, and he improved his two-way play to boot.

That’d be a perfect complement to the Bruins’ depth in the defensive-defenseman department...if they had any. They don’t.

There’s no denying Krug’s value on the power play and as a handy burst of energy. There’s also no denying the two years left with the Bruins at $5.25 annually might be better served somewhere else if it would allow the B’s to shop around for a bigger defenseman.

This isn’t the same league from 20 years back where size and “grit” or whatever you want to call it beats speed and skill. But the Bruins don’t need two 5-foot-9 defensemen right now, especially now that Matt Grzelcyk has more experience.

What they do need is the return of Brandon Carlo, and -- if they’re lucky -- the kind of defender that they could get from a package of Krug’s career year and maybe a prospect or two.

Through the Bruins’ playoff run, you might’ve noticed the disappearance of their opponents’ stars. Auston Matthews only scored one goal, and it didn’t happen when Zdeno Chara was his match up. Steven Stamkos didn’t arrive to Round 2 until he scored a power play empty-netter in Game 3, but Brayden Point and the Lightning’s second line managed to explode for him.

That’s because they were mostly faced with the makeshift No. 2 pairing of Krug and Kevan Miller.

Ever since the trade deadline acquisitions, it’s been clear the team is (as it should be) going all in on their Cup window.

That means the Bruins will have to match up against speed and depth like Tampa Bay’s again, but next time around they’ll need a No. 2 pairing that can hang.

That’ll cost a ton. Here’s an idea of the market:

It could take giving up Krug to a team that desperately needs a power play spark and tossing in one of the many promising defensive prospects (Jakub Zboril and Jeremy Lauzon come to mind) who’ve yet to see NHL ice for a sure bet.

Next, the Bruins need to decide who their guys are and take care of them. As of Thursday, general manager Don Sweeney said there are a few possibilities regarding the pending free agents.

“Well, we’re certainly going to explore everything,” he said. “It’s also exploring bringing back some of the guys that we felt were really good fits for our club, and some of them are pending UFAs.”

The players in question are Rick Nash, Riley Nash, Tim Schaller, Tommy Wingels, Brian Gionta, Nick Holden, Anton Khudobin.

“We haven’t definitively ruled anybody out,” Sweeney said. “...we’re just going to go back over where we need to go and the improvements we need to make and be target-specific in the areas that we can do so.”

Initially, I couldn’t imagine most of the free agents staying. I still think Riley Nash will look too good on an open market to keep him around after a career year, especially with more long-term center concerns on the horizon. If the Bruins could work something reasonable out with him it’d be a great deal for them, but that won’t be easy. I still think depth acquisitions Gionta and Holden are gone.

As for the rest?

•One near-crucial, generally painless move I see happening that makes sense for all involved: Khudobin re-signs.

The Bruins leaned on him at all the right times in the regular season and the goalie rotation has more-or-less worked out for Boston. Maybe it’s because I was hanging around Pittsburgh for the Matt Murray/Marc Andre-Fleury rotation, but I truly believe a functional back-up goalie is an absolutely necessary part of a Cup run.

Khudobin provides confidence that the Bruins would still have a chance even if Tuukka Rask got the worst case of food poisoning in history. You know how goalies are, too, and maybe just mentally knowing Khudobin won’t blow it helps Rask out.

Obviously a team has to make it to the playoffs to go on that Cup run, and head coach Bruce Cassidy wants to give Rask a maximum 60 regular season starts in 2018-19. He only had to start 53 this season. Khudobin went 16-6-7 in the other 29.

Khudobin is coming off a two-year contract that had him earning $1.2M per season -- in goalie money that’s incredibly reasonable for what he provides. You have to take these things with a grain of salt, but the 32-year-old said he’s over the free agency market and seems content to stay in Boston.

“I’ve been in a lot of cities and a lot of states, and Boston is my favorite one,” he said. “...It’s not because I’m going to try to say ‘I’m so nice, I’m just going to sign here,’...I want to be here.”

•One move I could see happening for a reason I can’t fully explain: My mind’s screaming “no one is forcing you to say this, just shut up,” and I should listen. But when Sweeney said Thursday he hasn’t told any UFAs to pack their bags, and that he’s exploring bringing back some of the guys he felt were good fits, I thought of Wingels.

I’m not saying this is a good idea or endorsing it. Chances are it won’t even happen. But Can’t you just see Sweeney attempting to work something cheap out with a physical non-liability who doesn’t mind a depth role? That’s just classic “good fit for our club” stuff, right? I don’t know, I kind of buried this take for a reason.

• That leaves Schaller and Rick Nash. Schaller adds underrated value on the penalty kill and that fourth line he was on developed some real chemistry this season. The question becomes how “underrated” he’s willing to remain to stay in Boston.

• The Rick Nash takes always seem out of control until I remember what the Bruins sacrificed to acquire him (2018 first-round pick, Ryan Spooner, prospect Ryan Lindgren, left winger Matt Beleskey and a 2019 seventh-round pick). Based on all that, it’s fair to say he underperformed in the playoffs. But it’s also fair to point out his pre-playoff concussion, and the fact that his two goals were the only Round 2 goals from a Bruins forward not on the first line. The Rick Nash Experiment wasn’t a complete failure, but is it worth continuing?

He thinks so.

“It was disappointing having the concussion, having some effects during it and only playing (11) games then coming back for the playoffs,” he said of his Bruins experience. “But everything was positive. The organization was great, the guys were awesome. It’s a great chapter here, and hopefully it continues.”

If the Bruins offer, something lower than his current $3.9 million will likely be on the table. If the 33-year-old’s priority is winning a Cup and/or he feels his prime is behind him, he’ll accept. 

Sorry for the Wingels take.

 

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