(Photo Credit: NHL.com)

By Kevin O’Keefe | Follow me on Twitter @Kevin_OKeefe89

Another season has ended with the Bruins falling short of bringing another cup home to Boston. The inevitable is approaching much faster than Bruins fans would like, the core is getting older and the cup window is closing quickly. With the prospect pool running dry and Boston’s top centers being up there in age, one has to wonder just how many cracks left at it this team may have.

According to Bruins president Cam Neely, center Patrice Bergeron and winger Brad Marchand want to take another run at the cup this upcoming season. It’s safe to say that this off-season will be the determining factor on whether or not Neely and Sweeney can make that wish come true.

Could this upcoming season actually be the last time we see this core load up for a deep playoff run? That daunting question ruminates in the minds of many as we approach the most important off-season in recent memory. With a projected $31.3 million in cap space, according to CapFriendly.com, it’s clear the Bruins front office has some serious cash to work with. Re-signing key players like David Krejci, Taylor Hall, and netminder Tuukka Rask, along with the Bruins multiple other free agents, will be number one on the to-do list this summer.

Team-friendly deals will be a must if the Bruins want to fill the holes in their roster – which ultimately lead to their demise against the Islanders in this year’s playoffs. The elusive top-four left-shot defenseman will be a high priority, along with re-tooling the bottom 6 to get that much-needed scoring depth throughout the lineup which has haunted this team for years.

This upcoming season will dictate whether or not Boston has the tools to keep this window open for at least the next couple of years. The biggest factor in the bruins extending this team’s chances beyond next season will be the health of their top two centers David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron. Both players will be 36 years old by the time the next postseason begins. While they both continue to defy Father Time by playing at a high level, you can’t deny that the aging process will start to rear its ugly head at some point in the near future.

Boston, unfortunately, doesn’t have the next Bergeron or Krejci waiting in the wings to take over for the aging centers once they have retired. The Bruins also don’t have the assets to go out and trade for young star center Jack Eichel, who is rumored to be finding a new home this off-season. Unless the Bruins are willing to give up a strong piece of the present and future in David Pastrnak or Charlie McAvoy, they will have to find another avenue to keep this team competitive in the coming years.

If the Bruins can lock up a top 4 left shot Defenseman and find a winger who fits with center Charlie Coyle for the next couple of years, this team may have a chance at running it back after next season. Anything after next season will be met with a wait-and-see approach. There’s an enormous amount of question marks with this team to really decode the future of Boston’s cup hopes.

Realistically, general manager Don Sweeney is going to need a near-perfect off-season to keep this team in the cup conversation. Don’t start planning the funeral for this core just yet, Bruins fans! There could be a couple of seasons left in the quest for another parade in Beantown with Lord Stanley.