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  • An outlook for Bruins’ UFA’s, RFA’s and potential expansion candidates

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    An outlook for Bruins’ UFA’s, RFA’s and potential expansion candidates

    Tim Rosenthal April 27, 2017

    As the Bruins’ post-mortem winds down, the outlook for 2017-18 is beginning to take shape. From the Expansion Draft to the NHL Entry Draft and free agency, general manager Don Sweeney and company will begin looking ahead to improving their team.

    Whether its scoring depth in the top six or a top-four blueliner, Sweeney is hoping to get the Bruins in better position to take the next step. His first order of business came when he announced the promotion of Bruce Cassidy from interim to full-time head coach.

    Over the next two months, Sweeney will have decisions to make on the Bruins pending free agents (both restricted and unrestricted), along with finalizing his list of players to protect for the Expansion Draft on June 21. With that in mind, here’s an outlook on the Bruins personnel decisions that need to be made this off-season.

    The RFA’s

    Bruins off-season

    An RFA this off-season, David Pastrnak hopes to ink a long-term deal with the Bruins. (Photo by Joe Makarski, Bruins Daily)

    David Pastrnak

    In terms of priority, I imagine that re-signing Pastrnak following a career-year (34 goals, 36 assists, 70 points) will be on top of Sweeney’s agenda with free agents. The question isn’t so much if or when Pastrnak will re-sign with the Bruins, but rather the dollars and contract length.

    It’s become common for teams around the National Hockey League to give bridge contracts to players after their entry level contracts expire. Nikita Kucherov is a prime example of that last year after signing a three-year extension worth an annual cap hit of a little over $4.7 million. Whether the Bruins go that route in terms of dollars or length with Pastrnak is the question here.

    In his third year, Kucherov posted a career high 66 points (30 goals, 36 assists) in 77 games. This year he smashed that career high with 85 points (40 goals, 45 assists). Even with Pastrnak’s injuries and time between Boston and Providence the first two years, the comparison with the Lightning forward isn’t too far fetched. That would make an enticing pitch for Pastrnak and his agent, but will Sweeney see it the same way during the negotiations? Given the departures of young talent like Dougie Hamilton in his first year as GM and before that the trade of Tyler Seguin during the Peter Chiarelli regime, it’s hard to see Sweeney not coming to terms with Pastrnak this summer.

    Ryan Spooner

    At times, he’s showcased flashes of brilliance during his first few seasons in Boston. At other points, he was a liability, especially on the defensive end.

    On breakup day, Spooner, who was a healthy scratch for the final two games of the Senators series, made clear that he wants to remain with the organization. The Bruins need more scoring depth in their top two lines – and a reliable third line next season. Assuming Spooner (117 points in 214 career NHL regular season games) is looking for a raise from his $950,000 salary, it’s hard to imagine him returning to Boston in 2017-18.

    Tim Schaller

    A depth signing in the off-season following his cup of coffee in Buffalo, Schaller played a number of roles during his first year in Boston. At times, he saw some top-six minutes with David Krejci, but he was mostly a staple on the Bruins’ bottom six.

    Schaller may be in for a little raise after making $600,000 in 2017-18. If he returns, he will likely have a similar role as a glue player on either the third or fourth line.

    Noel Acciari

    Since he debuted last spring, Acciari has always brought energy and physicality to the Bruins fourth line. Following a couple of stints back in forth between Providence and Boston this season, Acciari started to add a little offense to his repetiore and gave the B’s some secondary scoring late in the season.

    Even as today’s NHL focuses more on speed and skill, Acciari still has a place in this league as a bottom-six presence. He’ll be making more than his $792,500 salary this year. For another year or two, Sweeney would be wise to bring back the Providence College alum.

    Joe Morrow

    The last remaining piece of the Seguin trade, Morrow is still itching to showcase his potential.

    Like many of the Bruins youngsters during the playoffs, Morrow was thrown to the wolves thanks to the slew of injuries on the blueline. Given the time between his last game in a Bruins uniform during the regular season (January 22 in Pittsburgh) and his return to the lineup in Game 2 against Ottawa, Morrow didn’t perform all that badly being paired with Kevan Miller as he tallied one assist.

    Given Sweeney’s priority of adding a top four defenseman, Morrow is likely on his way out, unless they give him the role as the seventh D for one more season.

    The UFA’s

    Bruins off-season

    Drew Stafford leads the list of Bruins that could hit the UFA market this summer. (Photo by Angela Spagna, Bruins Daily)

    Drew Stafford

    Coming over from the Winnipeg Jets at the trade deadline, Sweeney only gave up a conditional sixth round draft pick in 2018 to acquire Stafford’s services. The move was seen as a low risk, high-reward type of transaction for a player on the final year of his contract.

    Well, it was a nice reward for Sweeney and company in the short-term. From the power play to earning top-six minutes, Stafford benefited from the change of scenery tallying eight points (four goals, four assists) in 18 games with the Black and Gold that included a three-game point streak at the end of the regular season.

    Whether Stafford fits in the Bruins’ long-term plans is anyone’s guess. He likely won’t be coming back at the same salary of roughly $4.3 million, but make no mistake, the 31-year-old will be an asset wherever he lands this off-season.

    Dominic Moore

    Whether he was the glue that kept the third and fourth lines together, killing penalties or contributing offensively at a time where the Bruins struggled to put the puck in the back of the net, Moore made the most of his first year in Boston. As one of the more underrated signings in Boston this year, the 36-year-old was one of three Bruins to play in all 82 regular season games and excelled in whatever role that Cassidy – and before him Claude Julien – gave him.

    Given the stability on the fourth line with Nash, Schaller and Acciari contributing at times, the Bruins may opt to let Moore walk. Like Stafford, though, Moore will be an asset to whatever team is fortunate to sign him shall his career continue.

    John-Michael Liles

    Hoping to provide a spark at last year’s trade deadline, Liles wasn’t the addition the Bruins were hoping for. This year may have been the toughest of his career, however, after suffering a concussion back in November.

    With just five assists in 36 games – and 11 assists in 53 contests the last two years – Liles struggled to become a regular in the Bruins lineup. Though he did tally a couple of assists against the Sens, it’s a safe assumption that Game 6 was likely the last time for Liles donning the Spoked B.

    Expansion Draft candidates

    Has Adam McQuaid played his last game in Boston. The veteran defenseman is one potential Bruin who could be left unprotected for the Expansion Draft. (Photo by Joe Makarski, Bruins Daily)

    Has Adam McQuaid played his last game in Boston. The veteran defenseman is one potential Bruin who could be left unprotected for the Expansion Draft. (Photo by Joe Makarski, Bruins Daily)

    During his year-end media availability at TD Garden on Thursday, Sweeney noted that he is leaning towards protecting 11 players in the 7-3-1 Expansion Draft format (seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender). Those with no-trade or no-movement clauses, like Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Tuukka Rask, David Krejci, David Backes and Matt Beleskey will most certainly be staying put. Ditto for Pastrnak and Torey Krug, who will be two non-NTC players on Sweeney’s protected list.

    That leaves two open spots with one likely going to Riley Nash. Here’s a look at the potential candidates to be left exposed for the Vegas Golden Knights to take.

    Kevan Miller

    What a difference a year made for Kevan Miller. Last year, he was the subject of riddicule on social media after struggling with consistency. Upon his return from an upper body injury during the regular season, Miller was a steady presence as a bottom pair defenseman.

    Without the pressure of playing over his head like in 2015-16 when he was paired with Chara, Miller found his stride again as a physical specimen on the blue-line. Though he does have a little history with injuries, the Bruins should have a little more confidence in Miller moving forward. But the decision to keep him over the next two names on this list is going to be a tough one for Sweeney.

    Adam McQuaid

    Signing both Miller and McQuaid to long-term contracts left many Bruins fans scratching their heads in consecutive off-seasons. Well, the Bruins certainly missed McQuaid against the Senators.

    Playing in a career-high 77 games in 2016-17, McQuaid was a good complement to fellow defensive pair Torey Krug. From blocking shots to engaging in puck battles and coming up big in certain penalty kill situations, McQuaid had one of his more consistent seasons in a Bruins uniform.

    Will it be enough to keep him over either Miller however? At $2.75 million per year for the next two seasons, compared to ($2.5 million for Kevan in next three years and $1 million due for Colin next season), McQuaid’s salary may leave him exposed.

    Colin Miller

    Coming over from the Kings in the Milan Lucic trade on Draft Day two years ago, the Bruins were hoping to get the most out of Miller’s potential. It may not have been the prettiest of developments, but the 24-year-old may be coming into his own after finding his way as a regular on the Bruins’ blue-line.

    Slowly but surely, Miller is starting to develop into a two-way defenseman. There’s some upside to protecting Miller, but will it be enough to choose him over McQuaid or the other Miller?

    Malcolm Subban

    Unlike the aforementioned names above, Subban is guaranteed to be left unprotected.

    Despite a solid first season in Providence in 2014-15, Subban could never regain his confidence after a suffering a scary larynx injury last season. Out of all of the names on the list, the 2012 first round pick is the best candidate for a change of scenery.

    Other potential candidates: Stafford, Jimmy Hayes, Anton Khudobin

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    Tim Rosenthal

    Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.


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