The Boston Bruins' primary roster weakness that must be addressed in the offseason is finding another top-four defenseman, preferably one who plays on the left side of the blue line.
A lack of defensive depth was a glaring issue in the playoffs, particularly in the second-round matchup against the New York Islanders when Brandon Carlo missed the final three games and Kevan Miller didn't play in the series at all.
Injuries throughout the postseason forced players such as Jeremy Lauzon, Jarred Tinordi and Connor Clifton to play larger roles than they would have in an ideal world.
So, who can the Bruins target in the offseason to upgrade their depth on the blue line?
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An intriguing player became available on Tuesday when the Minnesota Wild announced they are buying out the contracts of defenseman Ryan Suter and forward Zach Parise. Suter and Parise both signed identical 13-year contracts as free agents in 2012.
Suter becoming a free agent should get the attention of the Bruins. They need a top-four defenseman of his caliber and he plays the left side of the blue line. The B's don't have a ton of trade assets (primarily due to a weak prospect pool) to acquire this kind of defenseman, so getting one in free agency is definitely preferable.
The 36-year-old veteran is not an elite shutdown defenseman anymore, but he should still have a few good years left in him.
Suter's offensive production dipped a bit last season. He tallied just 19 points (three goals, 16 assists) in 56 games. He entered this past season with five consecutive years scoring 40-plus points, and it wouldn't be shocking if he returned to that level of offense (or close to it) next season.
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One bright spot with Suter is he logs a ton of minutes. He consistently plays between 22 and 24 minutes per game, often against the opposing team's top-six forwards. Suter also can contribute to special teams, including the power play, where he's tallied 15 or more points in six of the last nine seasons. Suter averaged 2:22 of power-play ice time and 2:00 of shorthanded ice time last season, which highlights his ability to play in all scenarios.
Despite playing a lot of minutes in his career, Suter has been pretty durable. He missed just five or fewer games in each of the last five normal 82-game seasons from 2013-14 through 2018-19.
Another issue for the Bruins on the blue line in the 2021 playoffs was a lack of size. Suter, at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, would bring some much-needed strength and physicality to the back end. Suter is no stranger to the playoffs with 88 career games of experience as well.
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A potential problem for the Bruins is that the interest in Suter could be strong around the league. Any top-four defenseman has considerable value, especially with so few of those players among the group of 2021 unrestricted free agents. For the teams that strike out on Dougie Hamilton and Tyson Barrie, the next-best option could be Suter.
Suter also has never played in a Stanley Cup Final. If winning is a major factor in where he signs, there are a few teams that could offer him a better chance of winning next spring than the Bruins.
Still, as a team very much in win-now mode, the Bruins absolutely should make a strong play for Suter.
A top-four of Matt Grzelcyk and Charlie McAvoy on the first pairing, with Suter and Brandon Carlo on the second pairing would be a strong defensive foundation for the Bruins entering next season.