FOXBORO – The Boston Bruins continue to show with their actions that they’re not done improving their team.
Don Sweeney acknowledged to TVA on Wednesday what was already pretty well-known, that 38-year-old Marek Zidlicky is among the free agent defensemen in discussions with the Bruins along with 27-year-old Cody Franson and 31-year-old Christian Ehrhoff.
Zidlicky is older and without the young legs of the player he’d be replacing in Dougie Hamilton, but the Czech-born D-man has a booming shot from the point, is an adept power-play quarterback and would give Boston another good offensive defenseman to start the season.
Franson confirmed to a Vancouver sports radio station last week that the Bruins were among the “five or six teams” interested in the top D-man still surprisingly available on the FA market, and Ehrhoff is another player that could be a fit if he’s willing to agree to a one-year deal with the Black and Gold. There are anticipated trade options as well – Brent Seabrook, Dustin Byfuglien and Keith Yandle perhaps – that might materialize with salary cap-strapped teams closer to the end of training camp, and it certainly sounds like the Bruins are keeping their eyes open on the backline.
The B's might go into the season with some combination of Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller and Torey Krug as their middle pairing on defense, but another able-bodied, puck-moving defenseman would certainly be helpful to fill the void left by Hamilton.
“Collectively I think our forward group from our top line to our bottom line is a better group [than last season],” said B’s President Cam Neely. “I think you can expect more balanced scoring than we’ve seen in the past. As everybody talks about on our back end, we’re a little young. But we have some cap space, and we’re willing to use it if we feel like it will improve the team.”
It’s interesting that Neely feels the Bruins have a better group of forwards despite the deletion of two of their best offensive forwards in Milan Lucic and Carl Soderberg, but he could be correct if a player like David Krejci bounces from a down season and both David Pastrnak and Ryan Spooner build on their impressive second halves.
As far as the defenseman situation goes, the Bruins hold about $4 million in cap space to address the D-man situation through free agency or trade. But one can bet the B’s aren’t going to go anywhere near the cap ceiling in acquiring a defenseman. Any move on a Franson/Zidlicky level would also probably involve another roster player being dealt away from the Boston fold for further salary cap savings.
The best bet: the Bruins will stand pat with what they have entering training camp, and take a look at their young defenseman in action before spending the money for an older, established player when young, fast skating legs rule in the NHL these days. If players like Zach Trotman, Joe Morrow and Colin Miller don’t look ready for NHL prime time, then the Bruins can opt to pull the trigger on another defenseman with eight or nine viable candidates already under contract.