By: Spencer Fascetta Twitter: @PuckNerdHockey
Much has been made in recent weeks about the Bruins’ supposed depth issues, and how they need to be addressed at the trade deadline. However, I believe that there is, in fact, a roster jam, the likes of which are quite difficult to manage. So, let’s figure this out.
This group all belong in the NHL and have spent no time in the AHL this season. They are on 1-way contracts and are not waiver-exempt OR are on entry level contracts, and made the team out of training camp, but have yet to set foot in the AHL this season. For the purposes of this article, let’s assume that their spot in the lineup cannot be touched.
Danton Heinen – Entry Level Contract, Waiver Exempt, Currently in Boston
Anders Bjork – Entry Level Contract, Waiver Exempt, Currently on IR
Sean Kuraly – Entry Level Contract, Waiver Eligible, Currently in Boston
Peter Cehlarik – Entry Level Contract, Waiver Exempt, Currently in Providence
Frank Vatrano – Entry Level Contract, Waiver Eligible, Currently in Boston
Austin Czarnik – Entry Level Contract, Waiver Exempt, Currently in Providence
Kenny Agostino –NHL Contract, Waiver Eligible, Currently in Providence
Jordan Szwarz – NHL Contract, Waiver Eligible, Currently in Providence
Matt Beleskey – NHL Contract, Modified No-Trade Clause, Currently buried in Providence
According to the table above, there are four forward spots on this roster that are relatively in flux. Two of those are easy. Danton Heinen is 4th in team scoring and should be receiving legitimate Calder Trophy consideration. He’s on the team, no question. Sean Kuraly has been part of the best 4th line the Bruins have had since the famed Merlot Line with himself, Schaller, and Acciari. I don’t foresee him going anywhere. That then leaves two forward spots for the remaining 7 guys that have played in the NHL this season. I don’t see Beleskey being recalled anytime soon, especially with the injury trouble he’s run into down in Providence. Unfortunately, that contract has the appearance of a sunk cost right now. Agostino has already been up and down this season and has cleared waivers every time. Although he has been good for the Baby B’s, he hasn’t done nearly enough while with the big club to indicate that he should be the next guy up. The same can be said for Jordan Szwarz, who I have never been tremendously thrilled with at the pro level. Just like that, we’ve pared the list down to four guys and two spots to be filled.
These two spots are not going to be regulars at the NHL level, and that’s important to understand. Of the four remaining, Cehlarik and Bjork are still on their entry-level contracts – this means they are waiver exempt and will be for the remainder of their contracts. Austin Czarnik can spend literally a single day more on an NHL roster before he becomes waiver eligible – indeed, he was recalled specifically for the games he played in his most recent stint and promptly sent back to Providence immediately afterward so as to prolong his waiver-exempt status. Frank Vatrano is the only one who isn’t waiver exempt – because he likely would be claimed the second he gets placed on waivers, he gets the nod despite being underneath Bjork and Cehlarik in the pecking order. I don’t think Vatrano fits as a 4th liner, and he isn’t consistent enough to play in the Top 6. Unfortunately, this pigeonholes him to the point where it would be beneficial for Boston to explore what the trade market looks like for him. It’s always preferable to get an asset in return for a player rather than simply losing them on waivers. So, Vatrano is (currently) the 13th forward.
Much like Vatrano doesn’t fit as a 4th liner, I don’t think it behooves the Bruins to stick Anders Bjork in the bottom six and to give him zero powerplay time. In Providence, he can gain some confidence, and be a go-to guy. Unfortunately, Heinen has become what they thought Bjork would be much more quickly that Bjork has been able to. He has also had a few injury issues. He should spend the rest of the year in Providence unless multiple Top 6 forwards end up unable to play or injured.
Cehlarik is a little more nuanced. Based on this analysis, he would be the 14th forward, but I prefer to have him playing on a regular basis, not sitting in the press box every 3 out 4 games. He also has had a lot of poor injury luck throughout his career, so I’d like to see him get through a full season healthy before he makes the jump full time.
Matt Grzelcyk – Entry Level Contract, Waiver Exempt, Currently in Boston
Adam McQuaid – NHL Contract, Waiver Eligible, 2 years remaining, Currently in Boston
Paul Postma – NHL Contract, Waiver Eligible, 1 year remaining, Currently in Boston
Rob O’Gara – Entry Level Contract, Waiver Exempt, Currently in Providence
Now, there are only 4 d-men who have seen the light of day this year who I feel are battling for position on the roster. Matt Grzelcyk has spent the least amount of time at the NHL level, yet he has been far and away the best of the group. He has done more than enough to force the Bruins to keep him not only in the NHL for the duration of the season but in the lineup on a night to night basis. That makes him the 6th defenseman. McQuaid isn’t going anywhere on this roster despite my hesitation with such decisions, so that makes 7.
Now, if you’ve been keeping count, that leaves a single roster spot available between Paul Postma, Rob O’Gara, Austin Czarnik, and Peter Cehlarik. Cehlarik and O’Gara are waiver exempt – they have a place in Providence, so that’s where they will be. Czarnik retains his waiver exempt status as long as he remains in Providence, so unless something changes drastically, I doubt we see any more of him this season apart from the occasional emergency loan recall (which allows for a recall for a brief period of time without having to pass through waivers in either direction). Now, I cannot confirm nor deny that Paul Postma still exists, but he appears to be that 21st skater on this roster, as he would likely be lost if placed on waivers. So, the three scratches would be (in an ideal world) McQuaid, Postma, and Vatrano.
Hopefully, this has cleared this up for anyone confused to why there seems to be quite a bit of roster shuffling as of late. I also hope that people can see that the Bruins do not and SHOULD not have to add anything at the trade deadline. They have plenty of depth as it is.
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