By Spencer Lindsay | Follow me on Twitter @dispencer88
The Bruins season is over. After losing in six games to the New York Islanders, the summer break is sadly here. In a typical offseason, teams re-assess their roster to try and figure out what went wrong or how they can improve. They’ll then turn their attention to free agency and the trade market to try and better their teams for the upcoming season.
This offseason, however, will not only include all of that, but it will include an expansion draft for a new NHL franchise. Taking place on July 21st, the new Seattle Kraken will have their pick of players from thirty teams in the NHL (Vegas being the one team excused from the draft). So, who will be protected, who will be exposed, and ultimately who will the Kraken take from the Bruins? Read on to see my predictions.
Guaranteed to be Protected
The Bruins will be allowed to protect either a.) Seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie or b.) eight skaters (forward or defense) and one goalie. It seems likely, given the current makeup of the Bruins roster, that they will go with option a. They won’t have to protect any of their upcoming free agents (Krejci, Hall, Rask, Carlo, to name a few), players with two or fewer years of NHL experience, or unsigned draft prospects.
The Bruins must protect Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and Charlie Coyle due to no-movement clauses in their contracts. So that leaves four forwards, three defense, and a goalie that needs protection. It’s very safe to say that David Pastrnak will be protected, as well as Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo. Matt Grzelcyk is probably safe to say as well, given how good he’s been for the Bruins, but I’ll say that it’s slightly less of a lock that he gets protected than, say, McAvoy or Pastrnak. Still, a good chance Grzelcyk is protected, though. The goalie protected will likely be Dan Vladar, given he’s the only signed goalie with more than two years of experience.
Who Else Should Be Protected?
So with all of that covered, now we’re talking about three forwards. The names we haven’t covered are Craig Smith, Jake DeBrusk, Trent Frederic, and Nick Ritchie. Four forwards, with only three able to be protected. So who should be protected and who should be exposed? I think Craig Smith showed down the stretch and in the playoffs just how important he was for this team. His connection with Krejci and Hall showed how talented he really is, and their line was scorching hot following the trade deadline.
His absence in game two against the Islanders was fairly noticeable, as was his return in game three. Smith should stay. Of the remaining three, I would protect Ritchie and Frederic. Ritchie had a better season than DeBrusk statistically, and I would say fulfilled his role on the team better than DeBrusk did. Keep in mind, Ritchie is supposed to provide depth scoring, DeBrusk is supposed to provide primary scoring. When it comes to Trent Frederic, I think he showed some good flashes throughout the season, and he costs you less money against the cap. It seems silly, but I think DeBrusk should be exposed for more reasons than one.
Who is exposed?
As I mentioned previously, I think exposing Jake DeBrusk makes the most sense. A big reason for this, aside from the ones I already laid out, is the other players who would be left exposed. Jeremy Lauzon, Jakub Zboril, and Connor Clifton would all be available for Seattle, and I think a case can be made for all three of them as to why they’d be a good pick for a new franchise. Another big part of the reason I would expose DeBrusk is that if he’s exposed I would say it’s much more likely that he gets picked instead of one of those defensemen than if we exposed Trent Frederic.
All three of those defensemen had inconsistent seasons with flashes of solid NHL play and some rookie mistakes. But Lauzon looks like he could develop into that top four left-handed defensemen that this team has been crying out for, and those kinds of guys don’t grow on trees. Zboril still has the pedigree of being a first-round pick, and at times this season showed that maybe he is just a late bloomer. Clifton offers you a good depth defenseman and one who can actually move the puck quite well up ice. Now there’s no guarantee that Seattle would pick DeBrusk over one of those defensemen, but I think the Bruins offer themselves a much better chance of keeping those defensemen if DeBrusk is the one left unprotected than if it were to be someone else.
It’s going to be an interesting few weeks leading up to the expansion draft, the entry draft, and the start of free agency. The Bruins will have a lot of work to do in order to improve this team and give their core at least one more shot at another cup. So buckle up; this offseason looks like it could get pretty interesting.