By: Ryan Duffy | Follow Me On Twitter @Rduffy26
The 2022 offseason for the Boston Bruins has been a whirlwind of emotions with the firing of Bruce Cassidy in early June, the rumors surrounding Patrice Bergeron returning, and the multi-year contract extension of general manager Don Sweeney. While some offseason questions have been answered, many remain regarding the construction of the Bruins roster entering the 2022-23 season, including the second-line center position.
There are multiple options for the Bruins’ management to investigate to fill the role. The Bruins currently have $2.38 million of cap space available and still have pending unrestricted free-agent, and captain Patrice Bergeron unsigned. If or when Bergeron decides he wants to return to the Bruins, he will need to sign a team-friendly deal for management to have cap maneuverability to sign another center. Regardless of Bergeron’s contract status, Sweeney will need to get creative to move some cap space to land a proven second-line center.
Here is a look at what options the Bruins have to acquire a center:
One of Don Sweeneys free-agent signings in the 2021 offseason to add depth to Boston’s lineup. He was initially pinned to play a bottom-six role for the Bruins but eventually managed to work his way up the lineup to become the second-line center between Taylor Hall and David Pastrnak.
Haula’s performance on the second line was impressive, considering the speed and skill of his wingers he had to keep up with. But Haula has never been an explosive point producer like Hall and Pastrnak. Haula had a career year during the Las Vegas Golden Knight’s inaugural season in 2018, as he put up 55 points in 76 games. Haula had a solid year with 44 points in 78 games with Boston, but he was forced to play a more defensive role on the second line as Hall and Pastrnak aren’t necessarily great in their own zone.
Overall, Haula played well during the regular season on the top-six, but he is best suited to playing a bottom-six role on a contending team. While Haula filled the second-line center admirably, Boston needs to find another two-way center to remain in playoff contention.
There has been plenty of speculation around the Bruins’ kicking tires on former second-line center David Krejci, as his agent has been rumored to be in contact with Don Sweeney. Analyst Kevin Weekes went to Twitter and raised the possibility of the 36-year-old center returning to Boston, which sent Bruins fans into a frenzy on social media. There has been nothing confirmed about whether Krejci desires to return to the NHL, but it remains a possibility.
The Czech native spent the 2021-22 season with HC Olomouc and led the team with 46 points in 51 games. Although he’s another year older, Krejci would be a solid addition to the Bruins’ top-six with his solid two-way play and great vision. Recently, Krejci played for Team Czechia in the 2022 World Championships with former teammate David Pastrnak. The two showed tremendous chemistry on the same line as they combined for 22 points in seven games. If Krejci were to return to Boston, it’d be interesting to see if they can continue that strong chemistry while also playing alongside Taylor Hall.
Another option the Bruins have is to explore the free-agent market as free agency opens at noon on July 13th. Some free agents that the Bruins may look into include Nazem Kadri, Vincent Trocheck, and Andrew Copp.
Nazem Kadri may be the most sought-after free agent on the market, coming off a career year (87 points) in the regular season and winning the Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche. The 31-year-old center is a proven top-six center that brings physicality and elite playmaking. Once again, the Bruins struggled with 5v5 scoring last season with the lack of depth throughout their forward group. Kadri can produce in all situations as he averaged three points per 60 minutes of play at 5v5 and had 29 points on the power play last season.
The main issue the Bruins will run into in attempting to acquire Kadri is his eventual cap hit. As a UFA, Kadri will be looking to cash out with a team contending for a Stanley Cap with plentiful cap space. Assuming Bergeron returns to Boston, the Bruins are a couple of pieces away from becoming a contender. They currently lack the cap space to land an elite second-line center like Kadri, so they need to part with a few roster players to make a splash in free agency.
Bruins fans got to know the type of player Vincent Trocheck is after Carolina eliminated Boston in seven games in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Trocheck scored 51 points in 81 games for the Hurricanes last season and had 10 points in 14 playoff games. Although he’s not as gifted offensively as Kadri, Trocheck has similar characteristics as a two-way center with a chippy edge to his game. Trocheck would be a more affordable option to fill the second-line center position. Carolina has expressed interest in resigning Trocheck, but if contract talks begin to fall between the Hurricanes and Trocheck’s agent, expect Sweeney and Bruins’ management to express significant interest in Trocheck.
Another potentially affordable option the Bruins have is Andrew Copp. The Bruins were rumored to be in on acquiring Copp during the 2022 trade deadline, but Boston couldn’t reach an agreement with the Winnipeg Jets. Copp was ultimately dealt to the New York Rangers, and the Rangers gave up multiple draft picks for the 27-year-old center. As reported by @PuckReportNHL on Twitter, Copp, along with a couple of other Rangers, intend to hit the free-agent market on July 13th.
Copp played a crucial role for the Rangers in their run to the Eastern Conference Finals. Copp recorded 14 points in 20 playoff games for the Rangers while averaging nearly 20 minutes of ice time per game. With Bergeron turning 38 next season, the Bruins need a center who can log significant minutes. Copp would be a valuable addition to the Bruins, but it’s uncertain whether he’d be the right fit to play between Hall and Pastrnak.
The last route the Bruins may take to acquire a second-line center is trade. The market for second-line centers has become extraordinarily expensive, with asking prices being upwards of top-six roster players, high-end prospects, and multiple draft picks (including first-rounders). The Bruins’ prospect pool and draft picks have been lacking over the last couple of seasons, which may inhibit Boston’s ability to trade for a center. They have some prospects that could draw some interest, such as Fabian Lysell, Mason Lorhei, Brett Harrison, and John Beecher.
Depending upon the player the Bruins pursue in a trade, they would need to give up more than one of their upper-end prospects to acquire a center. The Bruins don’t have a first-round draft pick in the 2022 draft, but they still hold their 2023 first-round pick. On the other hand, the Bruins need to replenish their prospect pool, so trading a first-round pick could sabotage the future years of the team. Despite their lack of young talent, the Bruins have some desirable roster players, such as Jake DeBrusk, Matt Grzelcyk, and Brandon Carlo, who could be used in a trade.
Regardless of how the Bruins attempt to get a second-line center, Bruins’ management will need to be creative to ship off cap space and assets so the Bruins can make one last push for the Stanley Cup.