By: Kevin O’Keefe | Follow me on Twitter @Kevin_OKeefe89
Tomorrow at noon, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney will have all eyes on him entering this year’s free-agent frenzy. This is the most important off-season of Sweeney’s tenure as general manager to date; it is critical that he addresses the needs of this team going into the season, as this could end up being one of the final stabs at a cup with this aging core. There are still plenty of question marks surrounding this team. David Krejci, Boston’s second-line center, still hasn’t decided on whether he will return to the team for another year. Tuukka Rask has yet to undergo surgery that will keep him out until around February of next year and has also not signed a contract.
Defensive depth on the left side must be addressed since moving on from Torey Krug and Zdeno Chára last off-season. The loss of Jeremy Lauzon in the expansion draft also furthers that narrative. Re-tooling the bottom-6 forward group will be essential to Boston’s success entering this upcoming season. Charlie Coyle and Jake Debrusk will need to bounce back if Boston has any chance at making a deep run in the playoffs. Adding another winger to that line who can add scoring should be on the mind of Sweeney. With so many holes and questions unanswered, free agency will need to be a home run for Sweeney. Here, we will break it all down and go over the options available.
When it comes to addressing the forward group, the Bruins need a third-line winger and possibly a replacement for David Krejci. There isn’t much on the market for second-line centers, and none can give you what Krejci could. Ryan Getzlaf is rumored to test the free agency market. While he’s not the same guy he was years ago, he still could be a serviceable veteran piece for the bottom-6 of your lineup. According to Nick Alberga, the bruins are a team to watch when it comes to Getzlaf when free agency opens. As a last resort, he could be a replacement for Krejci, but not one that would be very fruitful. Another option could be versatile center Mikael Granlund. He can play all positions and could possibly see an increase in productivity next to a guy like Taylor Hall.
The only other option I see here would be Canadiens center Phillip Danault. I wouldn’t classify him as a second-line center, but going off just free agency, he is one of the better options. He’s very sound defensively and, like Granlund, could possibly have better offensive numbers playing with Hall. If the Bruins end up needing to replace Krejci, it seems as though the trade market would be the best bet when it comes to replacing him, unless Sweeney decides to promote Charlie Coyle, which I wouldn’t advise.
As far as the bottom-6 goes, there are many options to help provide depth scoring. Blake Coleman would be my number one option here. The two-time Stanley Cup champion is hitting the market and would be a great addition for any team looking for a solid middle-six winger. Coleman would check off many boxes for the Bruins, who are desperate for more scoring depth throughout their lineup. He may prove to be too costly, though, as he is rumored to get a huge pay raise in the area of $5 million per year.
Another option that may be more affordable would be Marcus Johansson. Yes, you read that correctly, the same guy who helped this team get within one win of winning the Stanley cup back in 2019. What better way to get Coyle back to form than to give him the guy he had so much success with? With Johansson on Coyle’s side, he was able to put up 9 goals and 16 points in 24 games. That is the type of production needed from Coyle, and I’m sure if the Bruins could have, they would have wanted to re-sign Johansson after that run. The only question mark for me would be, is Johansson still that same player?
On defense, the Bruins could use two pieces on the left side. With Martinez rumored to be signing back with Vegas and the Bruins being out on Suter, there isn’t a lot of options here. Jake McCabe would be a great fit for either McAvoy or Carlo. If you want to read more into what McCabe can bring, read this article written by our very own, Max Mainville. A solid option for the third pairing could come in the form of Derek Forbort. Forbort is a big left-shot defenseman who could be had for pretty cheap. He was playing top 4 minutes for Winnipeg this past season but would probably be better suited for a third-pairing role. Elliot Friedman predicts the bruins will sign Forbort in his quickie article posted about free agency.
Bringing in a veteran goaltender in place of Rask is a must. You cannot go into the season with two rookies as your tandem. Whether they decide to bring back Rask or to move on, the goaltending situation needs to be addressed. Antti Raanta, Frederik Andersen, and James Reimer could be possibilities. This is another area where the trade market may be your best bet to finding a suitable replacement. Darcy Kuemper would be the perfect target for this team if a trade can be facilitated.
Whatever Sweeney decides to do, he must investigate filling every hole in order to get back to being a true cup contender. Krejci re-signing seems like a must for this team if they truly do want to compete. The lost important position to fill will be the left-side of the defense. A combination of McCabe and Forbort could be a great compliment to what the Bruins already have in place on their blue-line. Adding some size and grit to the bottom-6 should be investigated as well. Buckle-up Bruins fans, this is going to be one wild ride!