If you’re feeling wholly underwhelmed about the offseason thus far for the Boston Bruins, you are far from alone.
High-powered offensive D-man Torey Krug left for free agent dollars with the St. Louis Blues amidst clearly strained negotiations with the Bruins, and the B’s only current move to upgrade their back end was re-signing the oft-injured Kevan Miller. That’s the same Miller that hasn’t played an NHL game in over 18 months due to an assortment of injury setbacks stemming from a pair of kneecap fractures.
The only other significant back-end move was re-signing defenseman prospect Jakub Zboril to a two-year, one-way deal that will give the former first round pick a chance to audition for an NHL job this season after a long development track following his 2015 NHL Draft.
On the front end, the Bruins signed free agent Craig Smith to a three-year contract that should shore up a third line that clearly also needed upgrading. Smith provides the B’s with another player with good 5-on-5 offensive numbers on his resume and the $3.1 million cap hit was a good bargain, so that was a lone bright light in a murky offseason for the Bruins.
There was no Taylor Hall. They were beaten to the punch for a pair of wingers in Josh Anderson (via trade) and Tyler Toffoli (via free agency) after the Black and Gold displayed strong interest for both players over the last season. Getting beaten to the punch for Anderson was particularly devastating for a Bruins team that yearns for that kind of top-6 power forward rarity in today’s NHL.
That doesn’t even factor in the significant injuries that both Brad Marchand (sports hernia) and David Pastrnak (hip surgery) will be working back from headed into next season, whenever it even gets going.
Even worse, the Bruins have been unable to unload John Moore, Nick Ritchie or any other NHL salary they’d like to shed to create workable cap space. In essence, that’s what is keeping them from making any big moves as any free agent signings are dependent on the Bruins making salary cap space with most of their remaining $10.3 million in cap space devoted to re-signing Matt Grzelcyk, Jake DeBrusk and Zdeno Chara.
Getting their offseason work done while maintaining a vital $1-2 million cushion within the salary cap is the way it’s going to go done for the Black and Gold.
That cap situation has the Bruins currently mired in an offseason swamp, and it’s left NHL pundits like Pierre McGuire labeling their offseason moves as merely “pedestrian.”
Ouch, that stings.
McGuire went so far as to say that the Canadiens have passed both the Boston Bruins and the Maple Leafs in the Atlantic Division based on their big offseason splashes.
“On paper, [Montreal] better be one of the better teams in the Atlantic Division,” said NBC hockey analyst Pierre McGuire during his Tuesday segment with Melnick in the Afternoon on TSN 690. “I think they’re ahead of both [Boston and Toronto] to tell you the truth. I know they don’t have the name brand recognition of Toronto with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner and John Tavares. They don’t have those high names and those high-infrastructure-type personalities. They don’t have the Perfection Line like in Boston with [David] Pastrnak, [Patrice] Bergeron and [Brad] Marchand, but then again you saw the news out of Boston with Marchand having sports hernia surgery and Pastrnak having significant [hip] surgery.
“That’s going to keep both of those guys out for a while and that’s going to impact Boston’s infrastructure significantly. Boston has been very pedestrian this offseason and there’s been no question about that. I think everybody around the league knows that. I don’t know what their media has been reporting, but I can tell that it’s been pedestrian for them. They’ve got some serious work to do if they’re going to get to the levels they were at this past season as a President’s Trophy-winning team. I would say Montreal is ahead of both of them right now.”
Those are sobering words for any Bruins fans that’s still been stunned by the complete lack of activity from the B’s front office over the last week. It’s not likely to change unless the Bruins can find some takers for some of their NHL contracts, and that’s no easy task given the flat salary cap all NHL teams face over the next few seasons.
Factor in that the Bruins have an aging core group likely with one kick left at the Stanley Cup can if at all, and it doesn’t feel like there should be tons of optimism flowing on Causeway Street right now. Particularly when you consider that the powerhouse Tampa Bay Lightning are fresh off a Stanley Cup title with their young core group still more or less intact headed into next season.
“You can look at the big names on both Boston and Toronto, and both of those teams are well-built. They are. There is some serious star power on their roster. I don’t agree with what they’ve done on defense. They’ve overlooked it. I don’t agree with what they did with their draft this year. We’ll see if that pans out,” continued McGuire. “But I would tell you in Boston that they are an older team. Do they have some young assets? They sure do. Charlie McAvoy is an outstanding young talent, but losing Torey Krug is going to affect their power play. It just is. Grzelcyk has arbitration, but he and McAvoy ran one of the best power plays in college hockey when they were together at Boston University.
“The Bruins have tried them together on the PP in Boston and they’ve been pretty good. Are they going to be able to usurp the kind of points that Torey Krug? I don’t know if they can or can’t. We’re going to have to see. But I can tell you that the Bruins aren’t as good today as they were before they headed into the playoffs after the pause. They’re just not as good as a team…they’re just not.”
That’s a stinging dose of reality for you, Boston Bruins fans. It might taste a little bitter, but that’s exactly what the insiders around the NHL are saying about the Black and Gold right now after an underwhelming week of offseason inactivity.