It’s been over a month since the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning eliminated the Boston Bruins in five games. But alas, the NHL off-season is officially here.
Expect a busy off-season — with the league’s proposed startup for the 2020-21 season in December or January — beginning next week with the NHL Draft and the start of free agency.
Boston’s general manager Don Sweeney has several significant off-season decisions ahead of him to shape the team’s path for next season and beyond.
Will the Bruins trade Torey Krug? Do they go all in for a big name to solidify the second line? What do you do with Zdeno Chara?
The Bruins recently found themselves on the rumor mill regarding several big names, including Arizona’s Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Buffalo’s Jack Eichel. Whether or not those names are realistic to pull off or just a pipe dream is anyone’s guess.
But without further ado, here are the top three items on Sweeney’s to-do list.
The top item is a pretty significant one for Sweeney and Boston’s front office.
Krug’s looming free agency was the elephant in the room throughout the 2019-20 season. And neither side appeared willing to make the first move.
The 5-foot-9 defenseman confirmed that there was very little discussion during the season about a contract extension during his year-end media availability.
Earlier this week TSN’s Frank Seravalli confirmed that the Bruins remain in talks with the 29-year-old defenseman, with their latest offer coming in at $6.5 million a year over the next six years. That’s a fair increase in pay for the NHL’s sixth-highest scoring defenseman since 2016, but, the salary itself doesn’t appear to be enough to secure Krug in Boston.
A handful of teams, including Colorado, Detroit, Vegas and Florida, expressed interest in Boston’s power-play quarterback and most of them have the cap space to offer him a higher salary. Should Sweeney and Krug not come to terms, the Bruins may look to trade him to one of his suitors. We will know more in the coming weeks.
As tough as it is for the fanbase and for the organization to move on from the outstanding captain, model citizen and consummate professional that Chara is, it might be time.
Regardless, Chara’s days as a top-pair defenseman is over. The 43-year-old is most certainly past his prime. While he was a significant veteran presence in the locker room, his play on the ice diminished significantly inside the Toronto playoff bubble.
Chara was slow and turned the puck over far more than we are accustomed to seeing from the seasoned vet. In all honesty, Charlie McAvoy carried Chara for the bulk of his minutes this postseason.
The Bruins may re-sign their captain for another one-year minimum deal. Chara had a heck of a run in Boston, but it’s time for the Bruins to move on.
Truly game-changing players hardly reach the market.
Usually, around the trade deadline, we’re left debating whether teams should secure a second or third line commodity for a playoff push in exchange for top prospects and/or high draft picks. More often than not, they aren’t worth the asking price.
But there are a few players in this league that are worth it. Eichel fits that description to a T.
This past week, TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported that he had heard the star forward’s name in some trade chatter around the league.
It appears that these rumors are all smoke and mirrors with no substance, but that’s beside the point.
If Eichel is available, Sweeney should go after him regardless of cost, draft picks, prospects, or NHL players. The 23-year-old former Hobey Baker winner from Boston University is a bonafide star in this league, amassing 337 points (137 goals, 200 assists) in 354 games during his first five seasons in Buffalo.
Imagine a team lead by Eichel and David Pastrnak — who turned 24 this season — for the next decade. Not only does that make the Bruins an instant contender for the rest of Patrice Bergeron’s tenure in Boston, but it also sets the Bruins up for the future.
And that is certainly worth the price.
Matt is a recent graduate from the Pennsylvania State University with a degree in sports journalism and a minor in business. He currently reports on the Boston Bruins and writes featured stories and game recaps for both Bruins Daily and Boston.com
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