By Jack Cinquegrana | Follow me on Twitter! @bruinsjc
Following the signing of 26-year-old RFA defenseman Matt Grzelcyk, Boston Bruins fans are speculating the rise of the new guard on the blue line. Captain Zdeno Chara is an unrestricted free agent, and Bruins management is unsure of his future.
The 43-year-old defenseman is evaluating his options if he wants to play another year in the NHL, and there is a possibility that he will not be sporting the black and gold in 2020-2021. Pierre LeBrun of TSN reported that “it may not necessarily be Boston as a slam dunk [decision] if he decides to play another season.”
Don Sweeney and Bruins management may not be able to bring him back, but Big Zee’s teammates will undoubtedly miss him if he does decide to retire or sign with another club.
Zdeno Chara is still considering playing depending on if there will be another “bubble” for this upcoming season. If the Bruins lose Chara to retirement, he will be missed, and his jersey retirement will be glorious. If the Bruins cannot re-sign him, TD Garden will be rocking for his welcome home party.
The New Big Three
Matt Grzelcyk, Charlie McAvoy, and Brandon Carlo have all signed deals to be with the team for at least another year and hopefully many more. Carlo only has signed a two-year contract last season at a $2.85 million average annual value. He will be an RFA at the end of this season with arbitration rights.
McAvoy signed a three year, $14.7 million deal last season, and Grzelcyk signed for four years, $14.75 million. The means our top three defensemen currently are taking up $11.4375 million of the $81.5 million cap space allowed for this season, a little bit over 14% of the cap, a bargain.
If Chara does not re-sign, Matt Grzelcyk will have a ton of responsibilities to take over. He will likely get more power-play minutes behind McAvoy due to the lost of Torey Krug and will need to fill the void of one of the best shut-down defenseman in the league’s history in Big Zee.
Expectations for the 2020-2021 Season
Uncertainty looms over the NHL’s upcoming season; will there be another bubble? Some reports from Vegas Golden Knights ownership mention that the divisions may change to reduce travel even more and for the Canadian teams to have a Canadian division due to border complications.
The Bruins would be in a new division with Buffalo, New Jersey, the New York teams, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Washington. The scheduling and divisional format are all still up in the air, but it could be true and seems to be a viable option due to the issues surrounding COVID-19.
With that said, this defense corps in Boston will have to step up big-time if the Bruins are going to make the playoffs or even be considered contenders.
Grzelcyk and McAvoy would logically make up the top pairing in Big Zee’s absence, based on experience and skill level. Jeremy Lauzon plays a strong physical game; he was sheltered slightly, not getting too many defensive-zone starts. Brandon Carlo did not see as many defensive-zone starts as expected because of Torey Krug’s puck-moving ability in the past. Look for a Carlo-Lauzon pairing this year.
The third pairing would come down to a couple of guys rotating potentially. Kevan Miller remains on the Injured Reserve, with Urho Vaakaneinen, Connor Clifton, and John Moore available to start the season. If the Bruins can run a third-pairing of Vaakaneinen-Clifton, they could see strong three pairings of young, cheap defensemen that might be willing to sign long-term.
Urho Vaakanneinen has played 84 games, scored nine goals with 28 points, and a plus/minus of 20 for the Providence Bruins. Statistically, Urho looks good with the naked eye, a smooth skater with height, and plays a two-way game, but a concussion in his second NHL game set him back a couple of notches on the depth chart. Hopefully, he can develop into the 2017 first-round pick that Boston thought he could be.
With a young, puck-moving backend like this, Boston Bruins fans should be excited to see how this all plays out. The Bruins prospect pool has been bottlenecking for years, and now with long-time Bruins on their way out of the door, it is time to see what the P-Bruins can do in Boston.