BOSTON – This goes without saying, but the Boston Bruins are going to look different next season.
Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney admitted at Tuesday’s end of season press conference at TD Garden that he couldn’t sign Garnet Hathaway, Dmitry Orlov and Tyler Bertuzzi right now even if he wanted to due to salary cap constraints. He said there are no timetables on getting answers from Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci about returning for another season, and once again the B’s are facing a $4.5 million bonus overage penalty on the 2023-24 season cap because of the one-year, incentive-laden deals they signed for this past season.
“The answer is no,” said Sweeney, when asked if the Boston Bruins need a quick answer from their two veteran centers on next season. “We went through this exercise last off season in putting together two kind-of simultaneous rosters. I probably had an indication early enough last summer to go in the direction that we were able to execute.
“Some things came after that, Pavel Zacha is an example of sort of understanding where we may be and where we want to be. The goal was to build the deepest team that we possibly could, and we fell short, ultimately and the goal will be — you look at the core group of guys that we currently have that had very, very successful regular seasons and we’ll build around that, maybe it’ll be integrating younger players. You can already see where our minds are going in terms of running simultaneous things and we’ll respect the timelines on David [Krejci] and Patrice [Bergeron] as necessary.”
There’s also the RFA contracts due to Jeremy Swayman and Trent Frederic that will be considerable raises from their current deals, and other free agents-to-be like Connor Clifton, Nick Foligno and Tomas Nosek will only be returning to Boston if it’s on an extremely team-friendly deal if at all.
Per our friends at PuckPedia, the Boston Bruins have roughly $6 million in available cap space and they currently have only seven forwards and one goaltender under contract to go along with the six defensemen signed to NHL deals. That means Don Sweeney has a lot of work to do to clear cap space via trades this summer and will need to find bargains and young players to couple with players like David Pastrnak and Charlie McAvoy that are making NHL top dollar salaries these days.
Sweeney admitted as much at the season-ending presser, letting everybody know that the Boston Bruins are going to look different than the wagon of a hockey club that disappointed with a first round exit this season.
“Our goal was to put the season on the absolute best roster we could put together and try and take a real legitimate run and we failed, no question. So we have to pay that forward a little bit. That might mean we’re instituting younger players, that might mean roster changes, which we would like to make,” said Sweeney. “That might mean I might be able to sign, as you referenced, one of those three players or other unrestricted players. We have to address the two RFAs in Frederic and Swayman, which we will do. And roster changes are likely coming.
“We’re not going to be the same team, but our mandate internally, collectively as a group, is we have a really strong core of guys that hopefully as Jim was talking about, will continue to grow, will take leadership responsibility moving forward regardless of whether or not Patrice and David walk back through the door because they need to.”
The bottom line for Boston Bruins fans is that next season’s group of Black and Gold players will probably look a lot different than this season’s record-setting group because, well, going all-in has its long run costs for any NHL team.