Get ready, because the Boston Bruins are about to be very busy on the NHL trade and free agent markets. The Bruins team that walked off the Nassau Coliseum ice for their last time ever is going to look drastically different for the 2021-22 NHL regular season next October.
“I think everyone has the Bruins in a large group of teams that could make a ton of changes,” an NHL executive told Boston Hockey Now on Thursday. “They will be major players on the NHL trade and free agent market and I think they will look a lot different next season.”
When the Bruins gave up three straight goals in the second period to fall behind 4-1 in an eventual 6-2 elimination loss to the New York Islanders, Bruins social media was already abuzz with what current Bruins players could be hitting the NHL Trade and NHL free agent markets within a month?
Who will be exposed in the Seattle Kraken NHL Expansion Draft?
Could some current Bruins players end up calling it a career?
These are all burning questions surrounding the Boston Bruins that are already churning on all cylinders right now. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney has plenty of choices to make in his seventh offseason as GM. There are plenty of paths he could take this storied franchise, that is at a crossroads, on as well. Will one of those paths involve the team putting the last ten years in the rearview mirror and finally stop clinging to their sixth Stanley Cup won ten years ago next Tuesday?
Whatever path Sweeney decides on, he will have a projected $30,075,834 in salary cap space to navigate with and make what may be some of the toughest decisions he’s made since taking over the helm as GM back in May 2015.
The #NHLBruins have $2.02M in bonus carryover overage cap hit for 21-22:
-$1.43M in 20-21 Games Played Bonuses Earned (Miller $577K, Halak $854K) & finished 20-21 w/ $377K Cap Space = $1.05M overage
— PuckPedia (@PuckPedia) June 10, 2021
Deciding to move on from longtime captain Zdeno Chara last offseason was obviously the hardest one so far, but Sweeney could actually let two more members of that 2011 championship team walk this offseason as goalie Tuukka Rask and center David Krejci could become unrestricted free agents for the first time in their respective careers on July 28.
After playing hurt again in Game 6 and allowing four goals on 27 shots, the 34-year-old Rask once again left his future up in the air and did not rule out surgery or leaving the Boston Bruins for free agency or retirement.
As for Krejci, he’s been mum on his future all along and chances are he won’t say much in his exit Zoom call with the media that could happen as early as Friday. Krejci’s season and career were reinvigorated with the arrival of winger Taylor Hall at the NHL Trade Deadline and if the Bruins decide to move on from the 35-year-old winger, there will be a list of suitors for him on the NHL free agent market.
“He’s very well respected and appreciated around the league,” one NHL management source told Boston Hockey Now when asked about Krejci’s value. “I know our team would be fine at $5-5.5 million for a year or two.”
Speaking of Hall, he too can walk from the Boston Bruins on the UFA market but the fact that he vetoed a trade to the Vegas Golden Knights and forced his way to the Boston Bruins at the NHL Trade Deadline means he will likely take less to stay in Boston.
Goalie Jaro Halak, defensemen Kevan Miller and Mike Reilly, and forwards Sean Kuraly and Anton Blidh (arbitration-eligible), can also become unrestricted free agents, while forwards Ondrej Kase, Nick Ritchie, and Trent Frederic and defensemen Brandon Carlo are all restricted, free agents.
Ritchie and Kuraly were part of a bottom-six that never seemed to find an identity this past season and was pretty much a non-factor in a series where the Bruins need a physical and effective Bottom 6. Speaking of invisible, could Sweeney ask center Charlie Coyle to waive his modified no-trade clause and no-movement clause to free up even more money?
Maybe that money goes to more physicality and size on the blue line because that was clearly the Bruins’ biggest need against another over-powering forecheck from the Islanders.
Dare we even list the status of Sweeney and head coach Bruce Cassidy as question marks? Cassidy is now being called to the carpet for starting and then not pulling an injured Rask for rookie Jeremy Swayman for the Game 6 loss after pulling him following the second period of Game 5 on Monday. Rumors were abuzz on Thursday on who actually made that decision and the answer to that could conceivably affect the futures of Cassidy and Sweeney.
No one here is saying it should but it could because make no mistake, any and every change is on the table now for the Boston Bruins heading into the 2021 offseason!