The offseason has arrived earlier than expected for the Boston Bruins.
The B's looked like a team that could go on a deep run in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but a second-round exit to the New York Islanders in six games ended Boston's pursuit of another championship.
This offseason is a pivotal one for the Bruins. Several of their top veteran players, including the No. 2 center and starting goalie of the last decade-plus, are able to become unrestricted free agents. Boston also has a couple notable players who are restricted free agents.
The Bruins have about $27 million in salary cap space, but they have a lot of their own players to consider re-signing. The B's could free up additional cap space by trading a player or two. One candidate to be moved is Jake DeBrusk, who's signed for one more season at a $3.675 million cap hit. A disappointing 2020-21 season for DeBrusk made it clear he's not a legit top-six winger.
Here's an overview of the Bruins' free agents and salary cap situation (all salary info via CapFriendly).
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
2020-21 Stats: 8 G, 36 A in 51 GP
2020-21 Salary cap hit: $7.25 million
Krejci had a strong regular season with 44 points in 51 games. He also was productive in the playoffs with nine points (two goals, seven assists) in 11 games. The Bruins need to re-sign Krejci on a short term deal at less money than his previous contract. Why? Well, they don't have a player capable of stepping into the No. 2 center role. Charlie Coyle is not that caliber of player and top prospect Jack Studnicka isn't ready yet.
2020-21 Stats: 4 G, 5 A in 47 GP
2020-21 Salary cap hit: $1.275 million
Kuraly didn't have a great regular season and he was even worse in the playoffs. He had zero points and just 12 shots in 11 games. Kuraly also took a couple bad penalties in the second-round series against the Islanders. A younger player filling Kuraly's role next season would be ideal for the Bruins. Trent Frederic (more on him below) is the best option right now.
Position: Left wing
2020-21 Stats: 10 G, 23 A in 53 GP (8 G, 6 A in 16 GP with B's)
2020-21 Salary cap hit: $4 million
Similar to Krejci, the B's basically have no choice but to re-sign Hall. They desperately need a winger not named Brad Marchand or David Pastrnak who can score goals. Their scoring depth on the wings outside of the first line is brutal. Craig Smith is a very good player, but he doesn't have Hall's skill set.
Hall didn't play well against the Islanders, with just an empty-net goal and one assist in six games. But that doesn't change the fact that he was a great fit in the Bruins' system after they acquired him at the April 12 trade deadline. Hall also has expressed a desire to remain in Boston beyond 2021.
As I outlined in May, here are some good comparable contracts for similar wingers around Hall's age:
- Max Pacioretty, VGK: Four years, $28 million ($7M cap hit) signed in 2018
- James van Riemsdyk, PHI: Five years, $35 million ($7M cap hit) signed in 2017)
- Anders Lee, NYI: Seven years, $49 million ($6.5M cap hit) signed in 2019
- Chris Kreider, NYR: Seven years, $45.5 million ($6.5M cap hit) signed in 2020
- Brendan Gallagher, MTL: Six years, $39 million ($6.5M cap hit) signed in 2020
- Cam Atkinson, CBJ: Seven years, $41.125 million ($5.875M cap hit) signed in 2017
2020-21 Stats: 0 G, 27 A in 55 GP (0 G, 8 A in 15 GP for B's)
2020-21 Salary cap hit: $1.5 million
Reilly was tremendous for the B's in the regular season after they acquired him from the Senators at the trade deadline. The veteran defenseman's playmaking skill and ability to skate out of trouble and start the transition up ice with a good first pass out of the defensive zone proved valuable. Reilly was not as effective in the playoffs. He's ideally a No. 4 or No. 5 defenseman on a contending team. The Bruins really need depth on the blue line but cannot afford to overpay Reilly. His future is probably one of the tougher decisions the team has to make.
2020-21 Stats: 1 G, 3 A in 28 GP
2020-21 Salary cap hit: $1.25 million
Re-signing Miller was a mistake. There was nothing over the last few years to suggest the B's could rely on him to be healthy and available late in the season. Miller has played well for the B's, but his injury history is a massive concern. It's time to move on to a more dependable defenseman from a health perspective.
2020-21 Salary cap hit: $700,000
Tinordi was a depth signing and unfortunately for the Bruins, injuries to Carlo and Miller forced the veteran d-man into a role he was not suited to play in the postseason. The Bruins, like with Miller, should replace Tinordi with a younger and more talented defenseman.
2020-21 Stats: 15-5-2, .913 SV%, 2.28 GAA in 24 GP
2020-21 Salary cap hit: $7 million
Rask wasn't at 100 percent health in the playoffs and it clearly impacted him. He also didn't play well in the second-round series versus the Islanders, posting a .867 save percentage and a 2.86 GAA in six games. What should the Bruins do with Rask? I explain right here.
2020-21 Stats: 9-6-4, .905 SV% and 2.53 GAA in 19 GP
2020-21 Salary cap hit: $2.25 million
Halak lost his backup job to rookie goalie Jeremy Swayman in 2021. The veteran netminder did an excellent job in his role over the last three seasons, but it's time for the Bruins to give Swayman (and maybe even Daniel Vladar) more opportunities at the NHL level next season and beyond.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
Position: Right wing
2020-21 Stats: 0 G, 0 A in 3 GP
2020-21 Salary cap hit: $2.6 million
The B's acquired Kase before the 2020 trade deadline but injuries have prevented him from making any kind of meaningful impact. He's played in only nine games with the Bruins. Durability concerns with Kase aren't anything new, either. He missed plenty of games with the Ducks during his three-plus seasons in Anaheim. It doesn't make sense to bring him back for more than $1.75 million per year. So, unless the B's can re-sign Kase super cheap, it would be best to part ways.
Position: Left wing
2020-21 Stats: 15 G, 11 A in 56 GP
2020-21 Salary cap hit: $1.498 million
Ritchie scored a career-high 15 goals this season, but eight of them came in the first 21 games. He was largely ineffective in the playoffs with one goal in 11 games. Ritchie is expendable, but the Bruins should still re-sign him because they don't have a ton of good internal options for the bottom-six. Signing Ritchie and trading him as part of a package for an upgrade would be the ideal scenario for the B's.
2020-21 Stats: 4 G, 1 A in 42 GP
2020-21 Salary cap hit: $925,000
Frederic was a first-round pick (29th overall) in 2016 and the Bruins should try to re-sign him to a cheap second contract. The size, energy and physicality he brings to the ice would be valuable for the fourth line. Ideally, he takes a step forward offensively in 2021-22 and establishes himself as the fourth-line center in place of Kuraly.
2020-21 Stats: 1 G, 3 A in 27 GP
2020-21 Salary cap hit: $2.85 million
Carlo is a legitimate top-four defenseman who can play 20-plus minutes per game against the opponent's best forwards and win those matchups. He's also a very good penalty killer and brings much-needed size and physicality to the B's blue line.
The issue with Carlo is durability. He's suffered multiple concussions in his career, including one in February that cost him a good chunk of the regular season. He also was knocked out of the second round in Game 3 when he took a hard but clean hit from Islanders forward Cal Clutterbuck.
A two-year bridge deal that includes a nice raise would be the best move for the Bruins. Committing long-term to Carlo given his injury concerns could backfire.
OTHER BRUINS FREE AGENTS
- Cameron Hughes (C/LW), RFA
- Steven Kampfer (D), UFA
- Nick Wolff (D), RFA
- Callum Booth (G), RFA