The Boston Bruins must upgrade their secondary scoring to return to the Stanley Cup Final.
The top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and the league's co-leading goal scorer David Pastrnak is perhaps the best trio in the NHL. Pastrnak led the B's with 95 points in 70 games, while Marchand posted 87 points in 70 games and Bergeron tallied 56 points in 61 games.
The problem for the Bruins is they are too top heavy. There's not enough consistent offensive production outside of the first line. So, how do they fix this issue? One avenue is the free agent market, and there are several interesting top-six forwards expected to be available.
The top unrestricted free agent forward -- who's also No. 2 on our ranking of the best 2020 free agents -- is Taylor Hall.
Could the Bruins make a run at the 2018 Hart Trophy winner? Here's what TSN insider Frank Seravalli said about the Bruins during a Monday appearance on TSN 1260 in Edmonton.
"One team I have my eyes on is the Boston Bruins. I think they're a team that could be in the mix for Taylor Hall," Seravalli said. "I think that they've got a lot of interesting decisions to make. You saw a report out there on Twitter (Sunday) about them potentially moving Torey Krug's (negotiating) rights. I think the final offer that was made to the Krug camp was (six years, $6.5 million per season). And clearly Krug feels he can get more elsewhere, but they've also got another really interesting piece as a restricted agent that I think would be a fantastic fit coming home to Edmonton potentially in a guy like Jake DeBrusk.
"What do you do with him as an RFA, are you in a position where, with what he's looking at potentially in a deal, is it too rich for them? Do they have to find a way to move on? And if they're going to go after Taylor Hall, anyway, that would seem to suggest you wouldn't need a guy like Jake DeBrusk. Boston is one team I have my eye on."
Hall, at least on paper, would be a fantastic addition for the Bruins, make no mistake about that. This is a player who's scored 20-plus goals six times in 10 seasons and plays the type of power forward style that Boston hockey fans love. He likely would be a great fit as a second-line winger alongside veteran center David Krejci.
The problem with Hall is concerns over his durability. Injuries have been an issue for the 28-year-old throughout his career. He's played a full 82-game season only once, and he's played more than 65 games four times in eight non-shortened (excluding 2012-13 and 2019-20) seasons. He missed most of the 2018-19 season with a knee injury before returning for the 2019-20 campaign and tallying 52 points (16 goals, 36 assists) in 65 games between the New Jersey Devils and Arizona Coyotes.
Giving Hall a contract of at least six seasons in length that includes an annual average salary of $7 million or more is a risk given his injury history. That said, the Bruins are very deep into their window to win a Stanley Cup and might have only one or two more seasons with their current veteran core to compete for a championship. So, you could definitely make the case that Hall is worth the short term risk for the B's.
The Bruins have around $15 million in salary cap space, per CapFriendly, with defensemen Torey Krug (UFA), Zdeno Chara (UFA) and Matt Grzelcyk (RFA) among free agents to consider re-signing. Second-line winger Jake DeBrusk also is an RFA.
If Krug doesn't re-sign, that's $7 million or so of that $15 million in cap space that could go toward a winger like Hall. But if the Bruins spend big on a forward, how do they replace Krug and the valuable offensive production (40 to 50 points per season) he provides at even strength and the power play? The talent level of the free agent defensemen in the 2020 class drops off sharply after Krug and Alex Pietrangelo. Perhaps the B's would just fill Krug's role from within the organization by either giving Grzelcyk more ice time and/or seeing what 2017 first round pick Urho Vaakanainen can do. A trade for a veteran is another avenue.
However it happens, there's no question the Bruins have to upgrade their secondary scoring. It was a huge problem in their last three playoff exits, and even though young forwards such as Jack Studnicka show great promise, there's no in-house option to correct this issue in the immediate future.
Free agency and the trade market are the best places for the Bruins to find a legitimate top-six forward in the offseason, and Hall is one of the most intriguing options out there.