Not that it’s a secret, but don’t expect the Boston Bruins to be major players in NHL free agency when it opens on Saturday at noon.
Instead, the Boston Bruins will go bargain basement shopping and likely use the NHL trade market to form their roster for the 2023-24 season.
The Boston Bruins came into this past week looking to gain salary cap flexibility. They did that by trading winger Taylor Hall ($6M AAV) and buying out defenseman Mike Reilly ($3M AAV) to gain another $2.67 million against the salary cap. However, they still only have $13.6 million in cap space to fill with 13 players on the roster (6F/6D/1G).
“The one thing we’re going to have a tougher time (doing) unless I make a subsequent move would be to chase the upper end of the marketplace from a term and dollar standpoint,” Boston Bruins general Don Sweeney told the media after the 2023 NHL Draft concluded on Thursday. “We’ll have some younger players that’ll have an opportunity & they should be excited. And we’ll bring in some players that we feel we’ve identified in the same capacities that we had current players.”
In other words, Sweeney is about to find out how good his pro scouting staff is and lean heavily on his player development staff to fill out the roster under the $83.5 million salary cap.
Bertuzzi, Orlov, Nosek, Clifton Headed To Market
All week long, Sweeney was blunt about the uncertain statuses of captain Patrice Bergeron and veteran center David Krejci, and the chances of bringing back unrestricted free agents-to-be Dmitry Orlov, Tyler Bertuzzi, Tomas Nosek, Garnet Hathaway, and Connor Clifton. As has been reported, Boston Hockey Now can confirm that as of early Friday evening, Bergeron and Krejci remained undecided, and Orlov, Bertuzzi, Nosek, and Hathaway were headed into NHL free agency. There was chatter that the Bruins and Hathaway could nail down something before noon Saturday, and if not then, soon after, but Orlov, Bertuzzi, and Nosek were all but gone.
Two notes on Bertuzzi:
There has been chatter since Thursday that the Bruins and the Bertuzzi camp had agreed on a $6M AAV, but that the Bruins offered four years on the term and Bertuzzi wants six, maybe even seven.
Also, three teams to keep an eye on in NHL Free Agency as far as where Bertuzzi winds up are the Florida Panthers, Dallas Stars, and Anaheim Ducks. Regarding the Ducks, one NHL source told Boston Hockey Now:
“They got a new sheriff in town with [Greg] Cronin as their head coach, and he’s a badass. He and [GM Pat Verbeek] ‘Beaker’ are on the same page there. They like Bertuzzi, and I think they’re after Radko Gudas too.”
Bruins, Flames Talking Hanifin
Boston Hockey Now has confirmed reports that the Boston Bruins and Calgary Flames are in talks about defenseman Noah Hanifin. Hanfin has asked out of Calgary, and the Norwood, MA native included his hometown team on a list of teams that also included the Florida Panthers that he’d like to go to. That makes tons of sense, given Sweeney’s history of trying to acquire Hanifin dating back to the 2015 NHL Draft.
If Sweeney wants to finally get Hanifin in Black and Gold, though, it will cost him a lot. The heat is on new Flames general manager Craig Conroy to get the Flames back on track, and given he was assistant general manager of the team that missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs this past season, he’s not looking for just picks like he was in the Tyler Toffoli trade last week.
“I think you gotta have at least one established NHL player going into Calgary because there’s going to be a lot of scrutiny on their group,” longtime NHL analyst Pierre McGuire pointed out on the latest National Hockey Now Podcast Friday.
“Craig got the job there, and he’s been working there a long time, so his fingerprints are on the part of it too. If you’re going to replace a general manager like a guy in Treliving too, and you’re going to bring in his assistant, and he can’t get the team to the next level, that’s going to be a problem. So I think that if you move a guy like Noah Hanifin that’s playing over 20 minutes a game and you don’t get some kind of NHL body compensation back, that’s a bit of a problem.”
Hanifin has one year left with a $4.9M salary cap hit. Could Boston Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk (one year at $3.6M) or winger Jake DeBrusk (one year at $4M) be the NHL bodies Conroy needs in return for Hanifin?