We are now several days into the NHL free agency, and the question needs to be asked, what is the plan, Don?
Heading into the offseason, the Bruins find themselves in a peculiar situation with an aging core that is aging fast. Many believe, and rightfully so, that they can still compete for a Stanley Cup. However, they will need to get better and the answer may not be the flashiest to Bruins’ fans and that is… forego the free-agent “splash” and build from within.
The Bruins did add a very good winger in Craig Smith. It may not “move the needle” with the fanbase but he is a player who loves to shoot and is a perennial 20-goal scorer who will fit nicely with Charlie Coyle. Book it. With that said, the signing of Smith does not offset the loss of Torey Krug who signed with the St. Louis Blues.
The loss of Krug is much bigger than one might think. The knock from “critics” was always that “he wasn’t very good on the defensive end“. Good. Great. How do you replace his offense and work on the power play? Perhaps Charlie McAvoy gets his shot on the top unit or even Matt Grzelcyk who is currently entering arbitration with the team. Or, the Bruins do have options within the system. Players such as Lauzon, Zboril, and Vaakanainen come to mind. A trade could be an option and hell, maybe they even play John Moore. Seriously. Bottom line, the Bruins are not a better team than they were when the season ended (for them) just over a month ago.
Then, there is Zdeno Chara.
The longtime captain remains unsigned as of this week. He has reportedly garnered some interest from several teams (the thought of seeing Big Z in another uniform gives me indigestion) but it seems the obvious outcome here is that ‘Big Z’ returns to the Bruins or retires. Is he a top-pairing defenseman? No. But he can play an important role in a limited capacity for the Bruins in 2020-21. If this is it for Chara, “the captain” has worn the “C” (and spoked B) pride and deserves the respect put on his name.
On the offensive side, the Bruins released news on the health of David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, and Charlie McAvoy. All three had offseason surgeries. The most alarming news is that both ‘Pasta’ and ‘Marchy’ will not be ready for the beginning of the season, assuming the new year begins around January. In addition, the Bruins still have several restricted free agent forwards. Most notably, Jake DeBrusk as well as Karson Kuhlman and Zach Senshyn. DeBrusk has been mentioned in various trade scenarios so far this offseason. Could he or Anders Bjork get moved for a left-side defenseman? However, that will once again leave a hole within the Top-6 forwards. This would be in addition to Pastrnak and Marchand missing time to start the season. Could Evgenii Dadonov be an option?
At this point, no matter what the Bruins do, they will be questioned (deservedly so) unless they make the “big” move. For most Bruins fans, a “medium” move would suffice as they have watched the other Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division teams get better on the heels of the Tampa Bay Lightning winning the Stanley Cup. This Bruins team can still compete for a Stanley Cup but they MUST get better.
What is the plan, Don?