Things won’t be easy for new Bruins General Manager
It’s been just over a month since the Bruins relieved Peter Chiarelli of his duties as the team’s General Manager. It didn’t take Chiarelli long to find himself a new gig as he was hired by the Edmonton Oilers as their President of Hockey Operations and General Manger just nine days after being fired.
The Bruins, on the other hand, are still looking for Chiarelli’s replacement. Former B’s defenseman Don Sweeney is the favorite to land the gig, but according to a report from Elliotte Freidman, Boston has interviewed former Washington Capitals GM George McPhee.
The Bruins are still hoping to speak with Rangers Assistant General Manager Jeff Gorton. Gorton and the Rangers are currently leading their Eastern Conference Final series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, 1-0. Any conversation with the former Boston interim GM would have to be approved by the Blueshirts and wouldn’t come until their playoff run comes to an end.
Regardless of who the Black and Gold decide to go with, one thing is for sure: they’re going to have their hands full.
The first decision the new General Manager will have to make is to decide what to do with head coach Claude Julien. After failing to make the playoffs for the first time in his eight years as the Bruins’ bench boss, Julien is on the hot seat and his future is cloudy.
During the stretch run last season as the Bruins were battling for a playoff position, the team seemed un-energized and unmotivated as each point up for grabs was so important. More often than not, their effort was uninspired, ultimately costing them a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and ending their season much earlier than most expected.
Fairly or unfairly, many put the blame on Julien and are questioning if the team’s core still buys into his system.
Next on the docket for the new General Manager is draft prep. In what’s expected to be a deep draft, the Bruins will select 14th overall. The B’s have one pick in each of the first two rounds. They do not have their own second rounder as that was sent to Tampa Bay in exchange for Brett Connolly. The pick in the second round came from the Philadelphia Flyers via the New York Islanders which was acquired in the Johnny Boychuk trade.
Following the draft, the new General Manager will turn his attention to both the Bruins and other team’s free agents.
The Bruins have roughly $10 million in cap space for the 2015-16 season. Dougie Hamilton is an RFA and due a big pay day in his first contract since his entry-level deal.
Along with Hamilton is the expiring contract of center Carl Soderberg, who will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Soderberg, too is set for a nice raise and comes into free agency as one of the top centers on the market. The Swede has gone on record stating he wants to remain in Boston, but with the play of Ryan Spooner during the last few months of the season, outbidding another NHL team for Soderberg seems unlikely.
The Black and Gold are still searching for a top line right winger. Rookie David Pastrnak performed well in that role last season, but the Bruins would be better suited with a veteran there next season. The best option to fill the void left by Jerome Iginla two summers ago may be via trade.
With the departure of backup goalie Niklas Svedberg, the B’s are left without a backup goalie for Tuukka Rask. Providence Bruins goalies’ Jeremy Smith and Malcolm Subban are expected to battle for the role, but neither are reliable NHL level backup goalies at the moment. After appearing in 70 games in 2014-15, the Bruins need to give Rask more rest in 2015-16. Having Subban or Smith as the backup may not allow that to happen.
The Bruins core remains intact, but a shakeup could be in the future. Names like Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic have been thrown around in trade rumors as of late. A trade involving either of the two seems highly unlikely, but crazier things have happened.
The Bruins could use some help on the blue line as veterans Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg are on the decline and struggled at times last season. With a weak blue-line market on the free agent front, that too may be best filled via trade. The new GM also needs to decide upon the future of Matt Bartkowski and Adam McQuaid. Both are unrestricted free agents and both will draw interest from other teams.
Without playoff hockey in Boston for the first time since the 2006-‘07 season, the Bruins new GM, whoever that may be, will be faced with a lot of pressure right off the bat.
With big decisions on the horizon from Julien to Hamilton to free agency, the next Boston Bruins General Manager can ease a lot of that pressure by making some nice moves to improve the club right off the bat.