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Don Sweeney has plenty of work to do this offseason. Putting the disappointing first-round exit in the rearview, the next chapter of Boston Bruins hockey is now open. There are vital decisions to make that will shape this roster for next year and beyond. 

However, the salary cap situation is tight. Sweeney will need to get creative and could part ways with key players to add cap space. We’ve discussed why moving Linus Ullmark makes sense, but there is a logjam on the blueline. Moving on from one or two players could give Sweeney the cap space he will need. 

Derek Forbort

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Remember when Derek Forbort was signed and expected to be paired alongside Charlie McAvoy? Yeah, that was a fun time. Instead, Forbort is a steady third-pair defenseman that thrives on the penalty kill. With Derek Forbort in the lineup and on the ice, the penalty kill had an 88.4% success rate. However, without him, it was still good, but the team finished with an 85.6% success rate. This narrative was evident during the beginning of the regular season. However, at the end of the year, the club managed without him. 

Forbort does provide value. In 54 games, he scored five goals, seven assists, and 12 points. Using his big frame, he plays a physical brand of hockey (106 hits). In addition, he is willing to sacrifice his body (88 blocked shots). Forbort spent the majority of the year with Connor Clifton. As a pair, they had the fourth most expected goals against per 60 minutes. They did not do their best job suppressing the opposition’s ability to create chances. This led to them averaging the second most goals against per 60 minutes. This was evident in their first-round series against the Florida Panthers. Game Six alone was abysmal for the pair. 

Individually, Forbort had the worst Corsi For of any Bruins defenseman. With him on the ice, shot attempts were 1077-700 in favor of the opponent. In fact, his expected goals against were the fifth highest (right behind Clifton). In addition, he was on the ice for 42 goals (5th most). 

The Verdict

Forbort has value at the NHL level. His contract is not nearly as bad as Mike Reilly’s. Forbort has one year remaining with a base salary of $3.5 million. A trade route seems likely. Forbort has a three-team no-trade list that kicks in for the upcoming season. Teams that need to reach the salary cap floor could give Don Sweeney a call. Think of teams like the Arizona Coyotes, Chicago Blackhawks, and Anaheim Ducks. Take on a one-year rental that they can flip at the deadline for different assets. A young and cheaper Jakub Zboril deserves more playing time. If a trade does not work out, a buyout could also occur. In total savings, Sweeney could save $1.6 million.  

Mike Reilly

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This one is the most obvious of any possible moves. However, there is only one likely scenario where this makes sense. After coming to Boston in a trade with the Ottawa Senators, there was promise in his game. Reilly displayed a shot-first mentality from the blue line. During the 2020-21 season, his eight points in 15 games were inspiring. Fast forward, and he is now playing with the Providence Bruins. In 36 games this season, he scored seven goals, 19 assists, and 26 points. 

There is clear value in Mike Reilly. However, nobody is going to trade for him. Reilly was placed on waivers twice, and nobody claimed him. No team wanted him for free, let alone paying assets to acquire his services. Another problem that poses is his contract. Reilly has a base salary of $4 million. With no trade partners in hand, a buyout is necessary. The total cost for the buyout is $2,666,667 million, with a total savings of $1,333,333 million. It is a tough pill to swallow, but one that needs to be consumed. 

Matt Grzelcyk

This would not sit well with many, but in terms of real value, Grzelcyk has the most. One of the best offensive threats on the back end, Grzelcyk has so much to like about his game. Grzelcyk has excellent vision, and his ability to transition and push the play forward makes him unique. He finished with 26 points and lit the lamp four times. But his underlying metrics stand out the most. 

With the elite and talented forwards Boston possesses, having a defenceman like Grzelcyk generate offense is terrific to have. He finished fourth in expected goals for (60.53) among the Bruins’ defensemen. With him on the ice, Boston scored 78 times, as opposed to 33 allowed. He generated the fewest expected goals against (among those who played 200 minutes). Grzelcyk has excelled in his two-way game and is a particular player to have in the fold. 

However, given what he can bring to the lineup, he was benched on more than one occasion in the playoffs. Sometimes too much is never a good thing. Having too much depth is a good problem to have until it’s not. The acquisition of Dmitry Orlov was great for the club, but it caused a logjam on the left side of the blue line. Ultimately, Grzelcyk paid the price and was the odd man out. In the event that the club needs additional cap space, moving Grzelcyk makes sense. The team needs a center, and at 29 years of age and one year remaining with an affordable cap hit, the shoe fits. 

Why These Three

It makes sense to part ways with at least two of the three. Depending on what situations present themselves, all three could be on the outs. Charlie McAvoy is untouchable and is the franchise defenseman. Given the price to acquire Hampus Lindholm, he is locked in for the next seven years with a no movement clause. Brandon Carlo was arguably their best shutdown defenseman. He and Lindholm were one of the best pairs all season long. Carlo has four years left with a modified no-trade clause. Safe bets are to say that these three are not going anywhere. 

The players mentioned above can help create cap space. With key free agents and decisions to be made, any dollar amount helps. Not to mention hockey trades are good things. Matt Grzelcyk can help net a good return. Similar to what Erik Haula helped bring in. Sweeney has work to do and plenty of decisions to make.