The verdict: Which core Bruins could be traded this summer?
The verdict: Which core Bruins could be traded this summer?
BOSTON – Bruins GM Don Sweeney made a big show of insisting that the Bruins don’t need a “major overhaul” to their roster, and that was confirmed on Wednesday when B’s President Cam Neely confirmed the main goal is to build around the current team’s core group.
“I think that’s more spinning your wheels at that point,” said Neely, when asked if next year could possibly be deemed successful if the Bruins don’t make the playoffs. “We know how important it is to improve our club, and we have to do that. It’s by addition. It’s also by some of the players that played for us this year needing to get better too.
“We know where our better players are in their careers, and we have an idea of how many more good years they have left at the top of their game. It’s very important to add pieces around them to compete for a Cup, and that definitely has to happen sooner rather than later.”
So the Bruins want to reload and stay in the playoff picture a la the Detroit Red Wings, and in the words of owner Jeremy Jacobs go through “evolution versus the revolution.” With that in mind, we’ll go through the exercise of examining the core players and the chances that any of them might be moving on this summer.
The 39-year-old is one of the oldest players in the NHL, and is coming off a season that actually looks very good from a statistical standpoint. The nine goals, 37 points and plus-12 and 24:06 of ice time would look good for any NHL defensemen even if they’re down a bit from Chara’s prime years in the NHL. There’s just one more year at the $6.9 million cap hit before it drops to $4 million his final contracted season with Boston. Those are the good things. But Chara looked every bit his age on many occasions while getting caught defensively by the speed and skill of better offensive opponents, and is no longer a No. 1 defenseman for a Stanley Cup-contending hockey team. He would be a good middle pairing D-man on a serious playoff contender, and could stand to play 4-5 less minutes a game with no more PP time for a slow liability at the offensive blue line.
Chara showed in the final six weeks of the season he can still be effective when he plays with snarl and a touch of mean, but he can’t sustain that for the long playoff haul. It’s a tough call with Chara, who is a good example for the young D-men on the team while also being tough to push out of his No. 1 spot given his captaincy and his status within the B’s dressing room. The Bruins could get good trade value in return for him from a team like LA, Chicago or perhaps one of the Florida teams that could see him as a game-changing defensive stopper for a hockey club with Cup aspirations. A buyout doesn’t make much sense if you could convince him to go to a contender this summer, or midseason at the latest next year.
“Zee is a big part of our team…a big part of our team,” said Don Sweeney. “Arguably we look and say we need to have better players to support our good players.”
The verdict: While trading Chara would be the best business move for an aging player, the Bruins would easily be the worst D-corps in the NHL without him. It’s hard to see them doing it unless he makes the request to move to a contender.
The one player labeled untouchable by Don Sweeney at last week’s end-of-season press conference had another banner year as the No. 1 center for the Boston Bruins. Bergeron finished second on the B’s with 32 goals, led the Bruins with 68 points and was a beast on the power play with 12 goals and 25 PP points. He’s also readying to pick up his fourth Selke Trophy – and third in the last three years – in June at the NHL Awards as the undisputed best two-way center in the entire National Hockey League.
There are many that argue Bergeron should be handed over the “C” at this point in his career with Chara in the twilight of his playing career in Boston, but clearly No. 37 also needs some help around him after missing the playoffs for two straight years.
“There are players that are untouchable on our roster. You get calls but Patrice Bergeron is not going anywhere,” said Sweeney. “We have a good group of core guys that have done [been the mountaintop]. The rest of the guys need to either jump on board and become and grow and want to do that, or they won’t be here. From an organizational standpoint that’s what I stand for. That’s part of the reason why I was hired. I’m driven that way.”
The verdict: Bergeron isn’t going anywhere, and it would be a crime against the Black and Gold way of life if No. 37 ever plays anywhere else in his career.
The 27-year-old Marchand had a career-changing year while scoring a career-high 37 goals, taking a step up in the leadership department and bringing the effort, focus and intensity every single game. Marchand also showed a developing maturity to his game when he apologized publicly for a hit that got him suspended for the Winter Classic against the Canadiens, and was always accountable in the postgame dressing room whether it was win, lose or shootout. He is Bergeron’s longtime wing man, and has the kind of chemistry with No. 37 that can’t be reproduced after six seasons playing together. He isn’t going anywhere, and instead it’s about a new contract for a player that will be a free agent after next season.
It could mean something in the $6-7 million range for 6 plus years for Marchand, and his market will most likely be set by some of the free agent forward signings on July 1 from a wing-heavy class of free agents. Marchand clearly wants to stay in Boston, but was also a tad non-committal about what the future holds for him.
“We’ll see. That’s a little ways away right now, but if the time comes and that comes up then we’ll deal with it then. But that’s not what we’re thinking about right now, it’s more about the disappointment [of the season] right now,” said Marchand to CSNNE.com when asked about his future in Boston. “I obviously love being a part of this organization, this city and this team, and I don’t think this team is done having some good runs. I would love to be a part of this organization for the rest of my career, but the reality is when you look around the league that it doesn’t happen for many guys. We’ll deal with it when the time comes, I don’t think anybody is going to push it right now.”
The verdict: Given he’s a guy that’s hard to play against, a guy that always produces and a guy that Bergeron will want riding shotgun with him for his time in Boston, the Bruins will take care of Marchand. He’s not going anywhere either.
The Loui Eriksson that the Bruins though they were getting three years ago finally showed up for his contract year, and gave the Bruins 30 goals and 63 points while playing in all 82 games for the Black and Gold. Eriksson was productive and trusted in all situations by the Bruins coaching staff, and was able to bounce between different lines and play on opposite wings without anything in the way of complaints about his usage. So from a production standpoint there was nothing to have qualms with, but he’s also never been the toughest guy to play against.
The desire for heavier, stronger players on the wing is a reflection of players like Eriksson, David Pastrnak etc. that aren’t physical, grinding players that the Bruins prefer. Cam Neely indicated that Don Sweeney has touched base with Eriksson’s representation about contract extension talks, but it feels like the Swedish winger is going to market at this point.
“There are ongoing talks. We’d like to try and re-sign [Eriksson], but it certainly has to make sense for both sides,” said Neely. “You don’t get too many kicks at the can when you’re unrestricted. Obviously if he feels we’ve offered him something he can’t turn down then he’ll take it, and if not then he’ll see what is out there.“
The verdict: Eriksson is gone, baby, gone. He’ll get a ton of money on July 1 in a winger-heavy market, and that team will give him the money and term that he’s looking for (6-7 years at $6 million plus per season). It shouldn’t be the Bruins and it won’t be the Bruins. There’s always been a real sense Eriksson wouldn’t take a discount to stay in Boston, and that remains in place now.
The playmaking center is facing a surgery on his left hip in the coming days, but is expected to be back at full strength next season at 30 years old. Krejci deserves plenty of credit for fighting through the pain and discomfort to post 17 goals and 63 points, and finishing with seasonal totals very close to his career averages. But it was clear in the second half of the season that Krejci was being slowed by the hip issue, and that there were games where his skating was labored and slower than at other points. The question becomes how much the injury thing will start biting Krejci as he gets older, and the lower body issues start to pile up a little bit.
Krejci is the highest-paid player on the roster at $7.25 million per year through the 2021 season, and is an important part of Boston’s roster built around their two frontline centers. But Krejci could also be a piece that has great value elsewhere for a team looking for the playmaking center to can execute in all situations, and has the postseason pedigree that the Czech Republic native very clearly does. Krejci made it clear he doesn’t want to go anywhere on breakup day:
“I really don’t even want to [leave if asked]. I love Boston. This is my home. So that’s where I would like to be,” said Krejci. “I mean I signed here for a reason, not that I want to go somewhere else. So I signed six years and I want to stay here the six years. Obviously there are some things you can’t control, but if you ask me if I want to stay or go, I’m going to stay.”
The verdict: If a core piece was traded then Krejci would make a good deal of sense given his contract, age and relative value on the market, but the if Czech center says publicly he wants to stay in Boston then he’ll be staying in Boston. He has a no-movement clause for nearly the entire life of his six-year contract.
The Bruins goaltender was a lightning rod for criticism for much of the year after posting career-worst numbers behind a ramshackle defenseman corps that made many mistakes in front of him. The 2.56 goals against average and .915 save percentage are well below Rask’s career standards, and falling sick in the final, pivotal game of the season left a bad taste in the mouths of many Boston Bruins fans. The fact that Rask is taking up $7 million in cap space is an issue when the goaltender isn’t a clear strength of the team, and it’s true there weren’t enough times when the Finnish netminder rose up to steal a game in the second half of the year. He needed to rise above the defense, and instead looked a bit frazzled by the entire situation by the end of the season.
The one shining truth about Rask, however: he is one of only a handful of true No. 1 goalies in the NHL that many other teams would love to have, and will be much better with something resembling good defense in front of him. The Bruins don’t have a ready-made replacement for Rask if they did decide to move him as Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre aren’t there yet, and finding a Steve Mason-level replacement could end up making things much, much worse in Boston.
“It would absolutely depend. Tuukka Rask is an excellent goaltender. Do I think he came out of the gate a little slower than we would have liked? Yeah,” said Sweeney when asked if Rask was “untouchable” this summer. “Do I think he finished up being sick at two times that were inopportune? Yeah. That’s not necessarily Tuukka’s fault. Do I think we had areas in where we broke down a little bit defensively with what I said, newer players? Yup.
“He would be the first to sit up here and tell you that he would have liked to make a couple of those saves at key opportune times. In the [New] Jersey game where we have three two-on-ones in the first period and a breakaway, and they get 15 shots in the course of a game. He would have liked to have made that second power play shot you know going across the slot. He’d be the first to tell you that and I like that about Tuukka, he’s driven to win and he has been a part of winning organizations. His Olympic experience. We believe he is a damn good goaltender and I’m not inclined to giving that away.”
The verdict: If I were a betting man, this is the player I would wager gets moved if there is some kind of earth-shattering move from the Bruins this summer that’s now bubbling deep below the surface. They may take their chances with a stop-gap solution while searching for their next No. 1 goalie if they did pull the trigger on Rask, and then utilize the freed up cap space to improve the team in other areas. But they might also be very sorry for what they wished for after dealing their frontline goaltender. There’s also the simple fact that elite goalies don’t have as much trade value as one might expect, so that’s a factor in all of this.