By: Andrew Johnson | Follow me on Twitter @Justyouknowhyyy
With the news that hockey is back with an agreement that a 56-game season will be going as planned, the main question surrounding the Bruins and the other 30 teams in the NHL is: What now?
With a 32nd team in the Seattle Kraken creeping closer, there is the specter of an expansion draft looming. What is amounting to a second free-agency period, and a few teams needing to get cap compliant through trades before the start of the season, General Managers will have no shortage of paths to take when rounding out their rosters. The Boston Bruins are no exception.
On Monday, I took to Twitter to run a poll to see what Bruins fans think Boston’s next move should be. I gave four choices, there was a large turnout with 196 of you voting, and the results were close, with the winner beating out second place by just two votes. Today I’ll break down all four choices with the final tallies, the ramifications of all four, some Bruins fans’ comments about them, and my takes.
PTO/Stand pat (4.6% – 9 votes)
I wrote about the possibility of a PTO back on December 7th, which you can read about here, and was surprised that this option did not garner more votes. A PTO is a very low-risk move that only costs time and has the added benefit of internal competition. Bruins fans seemed to have mostly rejected this option because of GM Don Sweeney’s perceived tendency to play it safe over his tenure. Whether you believe that is down to personal preference. One clear opinion among fans is that whatever holes Boston has on its roster, another safe move is not the right way to fill it.
Re-Sign Zdeno Chara (24% – 47 votes)
In what was the most divisive of the four choices. Re-signing Boston’s Captain of 15 years elicited passionate, well-reasoned defenses on both sides of the ledger, with fans in equal measure of their comments either clamoring for one more year for the Captain or needing to move on. The question mark on the left side of Boston’s defense is the pressing need of the team heading into the season, and there is an argument to be made that Chara could fill that roster spot.
However, what gives cause for pause is Chara’s steeply declining skating ability in a game that is becoming exponentially faster. With Chara’s “will he won’t he” tête-à-tête with Boston’s front office being the story of the Bruins off-season thus far. Bearing that in mind, it appears that the best option would be to see what we have now in Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon, and Urho Vaakanainen. Unless.
Make a trade for a defenseman (35.2% – 69 votes)
It was here where the debate got interesting. Saying the left side of the defense has a lot of uncertainty is not an earth-shattering declaration. Boston has even been exploring the trade market to bolster the spot. The Bruins have reportedly linked to Calgary Flames Defenseman Noah Hanifin since what seems like the beginning of time. The questions here, however, would be what trade chips does Boston have? Calgary reportedly was interested in Ondrej Kase at one point, but that would create one hole at the expense of filling another. When it comes to improving the left side of Boston’s defensive core, there would have to be quite a few moving parts involved. Ultimately a look at the trading block does not appear to bear much more fruit than Hanifin. But Bruins fans seem to be more in the camp of wanting to make a move for the sake of making a move. Hence the high placement here.
Clear Cap space to sign Mike Hoffman (36.2% – 71 votes)
The poll’s winner saw Bruins fans wanting to find a way to clear cap space to make room for goal scorer Mike Hoffman. I have been vocal about my disagreement with the idea of a Hoffman acquisition. Citing his potential ill fit on the team, his horrible underlying defensive numbers, and his prospective steep cap hit. A majority of Boston’s fans appear to be standing firm in wanting to sign the 31-year-old sniper while knowing that the Bruins would need to make a corresponding move to become cap compliant. Boston would not be in a position of leverage should a trade become an option. Defenseman John Moore and his $2.75-million cap hit would be a candidate for a cap clearing move that would almost definitely have to come with a sweetener included.
Prospects such as John Beecher or Jack Studnicka, the organization’s top prospects, are not players Sweeney and Neely would want to part with at the price of a player that would only be here one season with a steep cap hit and a specialist’s skill set, but that would almost assuredly have to be the cost. Bruins fans understandably want to finally catch the big fish after being in on so many of them throughout the offseason. However, someone like Mike Hoffman is not worth mortgaging the future over.
The spirited debate is going to rage on until the start of the season. Boston has many options from which they can draw. Bruins fans likely do not want to hear this; I predict that Boston holds firm and maybe signs a PTO for camp competition. Sweeney and Neely have given their marching orders to the organization: We want to see what we have in the young D and a full season of Ondrej Kase and Craig Smith. Despite the want for the big splash, I see only small ripples coming from the black and gold as January 13th draws closer.