By: Andrew Lindroth | Follow me on Twitter @andrewlindrothh
With the 2019-2020 season on pause due to the unprecedented pandemic, Don Sweeney has all the time in the world to weigh out all of his roster options and began the firework ceremony for the Bruins a few days ago with the re-signing of goaltender Jaroslav Halak. The netminder agreed to a team-friendly, one-year deal with a cap hit of $2.25M ($1.5M bonus if Halak plays ten games), solidifying the Bruins’ dominant goalie tandem for another year.
With yet another vital player on the Bruins roster taking a pay cut to stay with the team, Sweeney knows he has the advantage with contract negotiations. In my opinion, I don’t see him overpaying anybody at this point. With that being said, the Bruins have $18M left in cap space, and I believe Sweeney will continue to use the “winning culture” argument to sign his players under a team-friendly deal.
Update. Bruins extend Halak for one more year. Great deal IMO. About $18M projected in cap space whenever the offseason begins. pic.twitter.com/foSTOoWaul— $18M=OffseasonCapspace (@bruinscapspace) May 1, 2020
Torey Krug (UFA)
Without a doubt, the Bruins’ main priority should be to re-sign 29-year-old defenceman, Torey Krug. There has been plenty of speculation on what Krug is worth, but if he wishes to stay in Boston, he will need to take a team-friendly deal and has claimed he is willing to do that. His current cap-hit stands at $5.25M.
Krug is a vital piece to the Bruins blue-line and continues to quarterback one of the top power-play units in the league. Before the world was put on pause, Krug had a stat line of 9-40-49 in 61 games played. He has managed to maintain 50+ point campaigns since the 2016-2017 season and has developed solid chemistry with his defensive partner, Brandon Carlo.
Injuries haven’t been a problem for Krug until the 2018-2019 season where he missed 18 games, and during the 2019-2020 season he had only missed a handful of games, so if he continued to remain healthy, he would’ve surpassed 70+ games played if the season had not been put on halt. Krug has been nothing but consistent his entire NHL career, so his argument will be strong, but the Bruins obviously cannot and will not dish out an $8M-$9M contract that he may be valued at.
With Krug already being the top-paid defenceman on the Bruins, and David Krejci as the top-paid player on the Bruins ($7.25M cap-hit), I personally do not see Sweeney willing to offer him more than $7M per year. Therefore, if Krug decides to opt for a team-friendly discount to stay with the Bruins, I predict he will sign a contract worth $7M per year.
Jake DeBrusk (RFA)
The 14th overall pick in the 2015 draft, Jake DeBrusk, has found himself in a peculiar position in regards to contract negotiations. Although he is known for his elite speed and goal-scoring ability, he has yet to remain consistent throughout the regular season. That will be the target area he will be looking to improve on according to a recent interview with Boston Bruins media.
After the acquisition of Nick Ritchie and Ondrej Kase, the left-winger found himself on the 3rd line with Charlie Coyle after spending most of his NHL career so far playing alongside David Krejci. So far this season, DeBrusk produced 19-16-35 numbers in 65 games played, a regression compared to his first two NHL campaigns. Even though DeBrusk has had trouble finding his spark so far this season, he posted a career-high 27 goals last season, proving he has the capability of being a 30+ goal scorer. If he can sustain steady chemistry with either Krejci or Coyle, I believe he will become a force to be reckoned with.
With DeBrusk facing a regression this season and struggling to remain consistent, this will give Sweeney the upper hand in negotiations and could lead to offering a ‘prove-yourself’ bridge contract. With that being said, if both parties agree to terms, I predict he will sign a deal worth $3M per year.
Zdeno Chara (UFA)
The 43-year-old Iron Man, Zdeno Chara, recently stated in an interview that although he does not want to get ahead of himself, he believes he will be willing to return to Boston for another season. Let’s not forget, Sweeney has also made it clear last season that as long as Chara feels he is healthy enough for another season, they will offer him a deal. “As long as his game aligns with his pride and preparations that he wants to put forth to keep it at the level he’s accustomed to having it to then we are going to explore having him as part of our group. He’s an impactful player.”
Chara continues to be a valuable asset for the Bruins, scoring five goals and 14 points with a whopping +26 rating so far this season. He also maintains 20+ minutes of ice-time per game and plays a massive role in the Bruins penalty-kill unit. He is also the longest-serving captain for the Bruins (since 2006-2007), and his legendary leadership qualities continue to shape and influence the entire team, sustaining the successful system he has helped implement for many years.
As long as Chara feels healthy enough to suit up after the conclusion of the 2019-2020 season, I predict he will sign a one-year deal worth $1.5M.
Kevan Miller (UFA)
The rugged 32-year-old defenceman hasn’t seen any NHL action since the tail-end of the 2018-2019 season, after suffering multiple knee-cap fractures in a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. According to Sweeney, he will not be expected to return this season or for the playoffs, given the NHL eventually resumes this season but also stated they are willing to offer Miller a deal if he entertains the idea of playing again.
With Miller heading to free agency, there is a chance other teams may be willing to pick him up, but with a small sample size over the past few seasons due to serious injuries, the Bruins could be the only contenders at this moment.
The issue with re-signing Miller is finding him a place in the line-up, even as a depth player. Defencemen John Moore and Connor Clifton are continually fighting for a spot in the line-up, and with Miller often facing setbacks in his recovery, I do not see where he fits in the line-up anymore. I have always adored Miller as the fearless shut-down defenceman, but I predict he will not re-sign with the Bruins.
Matt Grzelcyk (RFA)
The 5’9, 174-pound defenceman has used his phenomenal skating ability and offensive-minded skills to cement his position in the Bruins’ lineup. So far this season, Grzelcyk posted career highs in goals (four), assists (17), points (21), power-play points (seven), blocks (67), hits (56), and games played (68). He also carries a heavier work-load, averaging a little over 18 minutes of on-ice time per game so far this season.
Grzelcyk also plays a vital role in the Bruins’ second power-play unit as well as their penalty-kill squad. Although fans often overlook the value of Grzelcyk due to his size, there is no doubt he is a valuable piece to the Bruins’ blue-line and has continued to improve each year. He currently has a cap hit of $1.4M.
It would benefit the 26-year-old defenceman if the 2019-2020 season resumes and finishes appropriately, but regardless, I believe Grzelcyk has proven himself as a valuable asset for the Bruins. I predict he will sign a deal worth $2.5M per year.
Anders Bjork (RFA)
Anders Bjork has built a lot of hype regarding his potential since his successful run with the University of Notre Dame from 2014-2017, amassing 40-69-109 numbers in 115 games played. Since turning pro in 2017, the left-winger has split his time between the Providence Bruins (AHL) and Boston Bruins, but unfortunately, his first two seasons were cut short due to shoulder injuries requiring major surgery.
So far this season, Bjork found his rhythm and has managed to stay healthy, suiting up for 58 games and posting 9-10-19 numbers. Although consistency has been a struggle for the forward this season, he has flashed moments of his incredible talent and speed. A message was sent to the 23-year-old forward after the acquisition of Ritchie, and Kase forced Bjork to the press box for a stretch of games, reminding the winger that there is plenty of room for improvement before he can cement a permanent position in the line-up.
Even with the current NHL season on hold, Bjork has been taking the time to re-watch games and note how he can improve his performance, according to a recent interview with the Bruins’ media.
“That’s always been a motivator. But with the trades and going out of the line-up right after that, I feel like I’ve got to put my work in to earn my spot back. That’s the culture on the team, for sure. That’s how we’ve been successful. Guys are constantly pushing each other. You have to if you want to play…. My game wasn’t exactly where it needed to be at before this pause, so I have time to work on it as much as I can.”
With a small sample size stapled with two season-ending shoulder injuries, Bjork knows he needs to make up for lost time quickly. According to Cap Friendly, his current cap-hit stands at $925,000, and he will also be eligible for salary arbitration after the conclusion of the current season. If both parties agree to terms, I predict he will sign a deal worth $1.5M per year.
Joakim Nordstrom (UFA)
The 2015 Stanley Cup champion, Joakim Nordstrom, has been a critical piece to the Bruins fourth-line and penalty-kill unit. Although the forward is more known for his blue-collar shifts than his offensive abilities, he has been a reliable 13th forward that makes an impact when slotted into the line-up. So far this season, Nordstrom has suited up for 48 games, notching four goals and seven points with 31 blocks and 91 hits.
With the acquisition of Ritchie and Kase, Nordstrom has found himself in the pool of depth players along with Anton Blidh, Par Lindholm, Karson Kuhlman, and Bjork, who is continually trying to crack the line-up. With the emergence of younger players like Trent Fredric and Jack Studnicka in Providence, the competition is becoming incredibly tight in Boston, and with the salary cap staying flat at $81.4M, it seems the writing’s on the wall for Nordstrom. I predict he will not re-sign with the Bruins.
In a perfect world, my predictions would leave the Bruins with $2.5M leftover, enough room in case players like Krug and Debrusk end up taking $500,000-$1M extra depending on how the deals work out of course.
It is also important to note that Sweeney could opt to use a compliance buyout on a player or orchestrate a trade to free cap space. Buying out or moving a player like Moore ($2.75M cap-hit until 2024), for example, could significantly help in creating more cap space.