Over the weekend, we ran a player-by-player free agency preview, which was led by one big point: The Bruins shouldn’t sign Kevin Shattenkirk.
The reasons for this: The Bruins aren't exactly starved for right-shot defensemen and they don’t exactly have $6 million-plus to throw at something that isn’t a need.
- Chara: 'Of course' would be interested in contract extension
- Hagg Bag: What Bruins should do this offseason
Somewhat surprisingly, there doesn’t seem to be much of a faction of Bruins fans that disagrees. Though Shattenkirk has been linked to the Bruins over the years given their turnover on the back end and his history playing in Boston, fewer and fewer view him as the future savior he was once considered to be.
So if the Bruins aren’t going to spend on Shattenkirk, should they spend on another free agent defenseman? The answer is still no, unless it’s cheap. What the Bruins need is stability on the left side of their back end as they wait to see if lefties Jeremy Lauzon and Jakub Zboril (and, down the road, Ryan Lindgren) can emerge as legitimate NHL defensemen to join righties Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo as potential long-term fixtures.
The Bruins have 26-year-old Torey Krug locked in for three more seasons. Aside from that, the left side is entirely unclear. Zdeno Chara is 40 and in the final year of his contract. Kevan Miller has been used on his off-side and could potentially be left unprotected in the expansion draft. Joe Morrow is a restricted free agent who has yet to crack Boston’s lineup full-time.
So really, the Bruins need to shore up the left side of their defense going forward more than they need to sign another righty -- especially if that righty warrants any sort of bidding war.
One way of doing that is to simply extend Chara. The future Hall of Famer will play this season at a discounted cap hit of $4 million since his contract extends past his 40th birthday and such contracts see their salaries become their cap hits after 40.
The Bruins could just wait until after next season to do that, of course. Simply waiting it out would allow the B’s to see if Chara regresses or if the team is less competitive than expected, in which case they could entertain trading him.
Yet if the Bruins were intent on spending money this offseason on a defenseman, they’d be better of spending less of it on an older Chara than more of it on a less-effective Shattenkirk, so the question was posed:
Which contract would you rather sign if you're the Bruins?— DJ Bean (@DJ_Bean) June 12, 2017
The voting indicated a preference among 3,613 fans to pay Chara (64 percent of the vote) rather than Shattenkirk (36 percent), and that’s the correct line of thinking. Shattenkirk is in his prime, but Chara is still the more effective player given that he plays bigger minutes (Shattenkirk averaged 19:56 this past season; Chara hasn’t averaged fewer than 23 minutes a night since 2001-02) and plays against other teams’ top players, which is the Bruins’ bigger defensive need.
For time being, the Bruins don’t need to give out either contract, but their priority should be stabilizing the left side however they can rather than further adding to the right.