It’s been an unsettlingly quiet offseason for the Boston Bruins marred by a lack of true involvement in the big name deals that have actually gone down, and a massive roster subtraction with the free agency loss of Torey Krug to the St. Louis Blues.
The straight truth: The Black and Gold front office has frustratingly fallen short in pursuits of big-named wingers like Josh Anderson, Taylor Hall and Tyler Toffoli. Now those big names are off the board a week into the opening of the free agent market, and the Bruins are left to regroup and make the best of what’s still out there.
The good news is that there are still some useful players out on the free agent market watching and waiting for NHL gigs, and they added a good one in Craig Smith. It also could be a good, long stretch before the NHL 20-21 regular season finally gets going given the COVID-19 landscape, so there’s still ample time for the Boston Bruins, along with everybody else, to make trades and improvements.
In the meantime, here are the top candidates still out there for the Black and Gold:
*Mike Hoffman – The lefty shooting Hoffman is the biggest offensive name still unsigned and became the top available candidate for the Boston Bruins once Montreal inked Tyler Toffoli to a four-year contract. Hoffman has six straight seasons of 20-plus goals and five straight seasons with at least 56 points and is a deadly shooter from all over the offensive zone. He would be a fantastic finisher paired with David Krejci and could be the kind of shoot-first player that the Bruins second PP unit has been lacking the last few seasons. Clearly, he’s not perfect as some of the team chemistry issues in Ottawa revealed during his exit from the Senators organization. But Hoffman averaged 32.5 goals and 65 points in Florida while not missing any time with injuries over the last couple of seasons, and he avoided any more team chemistry questions as well. Hoffman is coming off a four-year, $20.75 million contract he originally signed with the Senators. Given the three-year, $15 million contract his former teammate Evgenii Dadonov signed with the Ottawa Senators, Hoffman could get something in the neighborhood of a three-year, $16-18 million contract if he wanted every last dollar. There are also rumblings from Elliotte Friedman that he’d take a one-year deal with the right kind of team, and probably for something closer to Taylor Hall money. That’s pretty reasonable for a proven scorer even if he’s no great shakes defensively. Fit for the Bruins: Perfect, if they can move some other players to free up the cap space.
*Anthony Duclair – The 25-year-old lefty shooting Duclair is well-traveled with stops in five organizations, but he’s also got a couple of 20-goal seasons under his belt at the NHL level. Duclair had something of a career resurgence in Ottawa last season when he posted 23 goals and 40 points in 60 games, and showed once again he can finish off plays when put in a top-6 position. Duclair is coming off a one-year contract for $1.65 million, so he isn’t going to break the bank while flashing top-6 finishing skills and an ability to play at either wing. A player like Duclair is what the Boston Bruins should be looking for: A potential bargain with high-end talent that could give them some serious value with the salary cap looking like a real problem for the Black and Gold. Fit for the Bruins: If the price is right for Duclair, they should pull the trigger after he showed real offensive explosiveness in Ottawa and has proven he can be a 20-goal scorer at the NHL level.
*Mikael Granlund – The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Finnish winger clearly isn’t a perfect fit as a right winger that’s a couple of years removed from his last 20-goal season. He finished with an unsatisfying 17 goals and 30 points for the Nashville Predators last season and had 16 goals and 54 points the previous campaign split between Minnesota and Nashville. He’s also got three goals in his last career 26 playoff games played for the Wild and Predators, so we’re not talking about an explosive player that’s going to pop against the Tampa Bay Lightning in a postseason series. He’s coming off a three-year deal that paid him $5.75 million per season and he’s going to be hit with a major, major pay reduction based on the way things have gone recently. Granlund is young enough at 28 years old to revert back to his 20-goal, 60-point form from his early years with the Wild, but the consistent, dynamic play just hasn’t been there from him. Fit for the Bruins: Perhaps if he came at a bargain basement price, but Granlund doesn’t feel like an upgrade from the status quo on Boston’s roster.
*Ilya Kovalchuk – The Bruins have had interest in Kovalchuk over the last few years, but things never seemed to line up for the Black and Gold and the former No. 1 overall pick. Could that change this offseason if the Bruins get desperate for some offensive pop on the wing? The 37-year-old had a bit of a career resurgence in Montreal last season after dying on the vine with the Los Angeles Kings, and finished with 10 goals and 26 points in 46 games for the Canadiens and Washington Capitals. He can still score both 5-on-5 and on the PP, and he’s also a bona fide shootout weapon that could aid a Bruins team that’s traditionally struggled in that area. But it was also a warning sign to see the goose egg Kovalchuk posted in the playoff bubble with zero goals and just one point in eight playoff games for the Capitals. The five shots on net in eight games certainly seemed like a player disinterested with sticking around the playoff bubble in Toronto. That made him par for the course with the rest of the Washington Capitals, but perhaps that’s a warning sign for a team like the Boston Bruins. The good news with Kovalchuk is that it’s going to be a cheap price tag on a one-year deal for the aging superstar. Perhaps the Bruins can use him as an emergency option of sorts. Fit for the Bruins: There are better options than Kovalchuk, but he’s there as a Plan C or Plan D if all else fails.
*Conor Sheary – Since he’s a Melrose kid and he played in Hockey East for UMass, he can’t be ruled out given Boston’s propensity to go after local kids that played college hockey. Sheary is 5-foot-8, 179-pounds and that really doesn’t check the size/strength boxes for Boston, but he’s a two-time Stanley Cup winner with a season under his belt where he scored 23 goals and 53 points for the Penguins. Sheary is exactly the kind of player that might end up signing a one-year deal for very short money once NHL general managers get their financial footing in this new normal, but he feels more like a third line candidate rather than somebody ready to spark up David Krejci’s playmaking game. Fit for the Bruins: He absolutely looks, plays and feels like a Bruins type of signing, but they need to do better than Sheary to really move the needle this offseason.