Two years ago, the Boston Bruins were one win away from lifting Lord Stanley’s Cup on home ice against the St. Louis Blues. Unfortunately, they went on to lose again to the almighty Tampa Bay Lightning who took home the Cup this season.
The Bruins have watched as other teams have made huge waves on the free agent market while the B’s barely make a splash. The only free agent move the Bruins have made is the signing of ex-Nashville Predator Craig Smith to a three-year, $9.3 million deal.
Smith is a perennial 20-goal scorer and a solid two-way player who can fit into this lineup anywhere, but his main spot will be on that third line. The 6-foot-1-inch forward shoots right and shoots often which is what the Bruins have desperately missed for the past few seasons. Smith should be a seamless addition to the roster as he could slide in next to a puck possession master like Charlie Coyle.
Along with signing Smith the Bruins have retained some of their own talent like restricted free agents Karson Kuhlman, Matt Grzelcyk and Jakub Zboril. Signing Grzelcyk could be the best move the Bruins have made this offseason locking him in the black and gold for another four seasons avoiding his arbitration hearing. He will receive a total of $14.75 million through the 2023-2024 seasons and could get another contract after that.
A lot of uncertainty surrounds Jake DeBrusk who remains unsigned and is a restricted free agent. There have been rumors that he could get traded for cap space to be able to bring in another top-six winger, but this is unlikely as the free agent pool has been dried up of this type of player. Debrusk could see a hefty pay raise from another team but with him being restricted it gives the Bruins an opportunity to match it if they choose.
Signing these players, however, means that they had to let some of their favorite players walk away. To start, Torey Krug is no longer a Bruin and actually broke fans hearts even more by going to the St. Louis Blues. Krug inked a seven-year deal worth $45.5 million total and $6.5 million per year. This is the exact number that the Bruins had sent Krug before free agency started but apparently pulled their offer once the clock struck twelve to open free agency. The B’s had offered the same amount of money but with one less year on the deal and Krug decided he wanted the extra year of security. It is a tough pill to swallow for the Bruins and the fans, but it was time to move on from the 29-year-old and allow him to go make the money he deserves to make.
Another player the Bruins saw go to another team is Joakim Nordstrom. The solid two-way forward signed a deal with the Calgary Flames for one year worth $700,000. It was clear that Nordstrom wasn’t going to be able to re-sign in Boston as management wants to test their younger talent on this roster.
As for the biggest man on the free agency market, Zdeno Chara, nobody knows what is in store for him as he remains unsigned but is “looking at all options” according to his agent Matt Keator. The 43-year-old defenseman is looking into all of his possibilities and is in no rush to decide what he will do next season. If Chara returns to the Bruins, it would be in a lesser role with reduced minutes for the big man.
Chara averaged 21:01 minutes per game last season which would be a huge number to replace for guys like Jeremy Lauzon and Connor Clifton. Who knows what the future will hold but it’s tough to imagine a Bruins team without Chara on the back-end protecting the crease.
PHOTO COURTESY OF JEFFREY MCWHORTER