The Bruins checked one major task off their to-do list when they announced a new contract for second-line left wing Jake DeBrusk. The development doesn't set anything else in motion, but it does give them an idea of how they can proceed as they wrap up their offseason.
Thankfully, the DeBrusk contract was a strong move by Don Sweeney at a time when the Bruins could use one. In an offseason that's been headlined by the departure of Torey Krug and uncertainty around Zdeno Chara's future, the DeBrusk contract is a reminder of what Sweeney does best: re-up his own restricted free agents.
Two years with an average annual value of $3.675 million is a perfect contract to give DeBrusk. First off, it gets a player who has averaged 20 goals a season at a low price given how tight finances have been throughout the league.
Secondly, a bridge contract should have always made the most sense for DeBrusk from the Bruins' standpoint. This is a player who pushed for 30 goals a couple seasons ago (27 goals in 68 games), but has been a very streaky scorer. Assuming health, it's safe to expect 20 goals a year from DeBrusk, but if they went longterm, they might have to compensate him like he'll become a 30-goal guy, which they don't know. Going low money for a short term was the safe move.
Sweeney has generally pulled the right strings when signing his own RFAs. Most notably, David Pastrnak's contract (six years at $6.66 million per) is one of the best contracts in the league. Other strong deals the GM has struck with young players include Brandon Carlo (two years at $2.85 million per).
Now the Bruins, if they wanted, have enough to enter the season, but there are still two obvious holes on their roster: one on the left side of their defense and one behind DeBrusk on the depth chart. With somewhere between $2.9 million and $3.7 million, the B's probably have the dough to address one of those, but probably not both without making more moves.
Chara remains a free agent, with Sweeney indicating Monday that Chara's waiting to see what the structure of the coming season looks like before deciding what to do. If he wants to come back, the Bruins should be able to fit him in with their cap situation. Chara carried a $2 million cap hit last season on a contract that netted him another $1.5 million in bonuses.
As has been the case since Krug left, the Bruins need Chara back. He's far from his Norris days, but the Bruins are just weak on the left side. He gives them a sure thing, even if it's on the third pairing.
As for the need on the left wing, nothing's really changed. Players are still out there, ranging from really good (Mike Hoffman) to reclamation projects (Andreas Athanasiou). Bringing in Hoffman would actually make it so one could argue the Bruins got better over the offseason, but they'd probably need to bid Chara adieu while also trading away more money.
These can at least remain possibilities thanks to the DeBrusk contract. Had the B's gone long with DeBrusk's deal, they'd have even less room to address their remaining needs, as longer deals for young players generally require a higher cap hit to buy out years of free agency. Sweeney played this one correctly.