( Mandatory Photo Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports )

By: Mark Allred | Follow me on Twitter / X @BlackAndGold277

The Boston Bruins are at a pivotal juncture as they look to bolster their roster during the off-season. Coming off a season filled with highs and lows as an overachieving franchise, the Bruins need to make strategic moves to strengthen their lineup if they want to be serious Stanley Cup contenders. One of the primary areas of focus is acquiring a top-tier forward. While Elias Lindholm is the ideal target in the upcoming free agent market, the team must be prepared with a solid Plan B. If they cannot land Lindholm, Chandler Stephenson emerges as a highly viable alternative for future help up the middle.

The 6′-1″ 195-pound Lindholm has carved out a notable career, posting 218-339-557 numbers in 818 games while showcasing his abilities as a dynamic forward. His impressive statistics and consistent performance history make him a prime target for any team looking to enhance its offensive capabilities, particularly up the middle. Lindholm’s key strengths include his scoring ability, playmaking skills, and versatility as one of the National Hockey League’s best defensive forwards.

Lindholm represents a seamless fit within the Bruins’ structure and strategy. His playing style aligns perfectly with the team’s emphasis on speed, skill, and robust two-way play. Securing the 29-year-old Lindholm could significantly elevate the Bruins’ chances of success in the upcoming seasons, providing them with a formidable presence both offensively and defensively.

However, signing Lindholm is not without its challenges. The competition for his signature is fierce, with several other franchises also vying for his talents. This potential bidding war could drive up financial demands, posing a significant challenge for the Bruins’ salary cap management. Per the Cap-Friendly website, Boston is expected to have close to $21 million in available salary cap space and $26 million if the organization can move on from goaltender Linus Ullmark, who has one year remaining on his current four-year deal.

Moreover, Lindholm’s personal preferences and priorities will heavily influence his decision. Factors such as his comfort with his current team, desire for a long-term contract, and geographical preferences could sway his choice, making it uncertain whether the Bruins can secure his services. Elias carried an annual average value of $4.8 million last season, splitting time with the Calgary Flames and finishing the year with the Vancouver Canucks. Many speculate Lindholm’s value will rise going into this summer’s free agency, and the potential bidding war amongst other NHL clubs could drive that price even further, having the B’s looking for other centermen options.

Introducing Plan B: Chandler Stephenson

If the Bruins cannot land Lindholm, turning to Chandler Stephenson as Plan B is a strategic move. Stephenson has steadily risen in prominence, demonstrating his value as a versatile forward. His recent performance with the Washington Capitals and Vegas Knights highlights consistent contributions that underscore his capability to strengthen the Bruins’ lineup.

Stephenson’s key strengths lie in his versatility and flexibility. Stephenson can adapt to multiple positions and responsibilities, unlike many forwards who excel in a single role. This ability to play various roles makes him an invaluable asset, capable of filling gaps and enhancing the team’s overall performance. The 6′-0″ 209-pound Saskatchewan, Canada native plays a lot like veteran and current Bruins forward Charlie Coyle, where both player’s possession metrics are off the charts.

Additionally, Stephenson’s potential for growth as a potential Bruin cannot be overlooked. At 30, he has shown considerable promise and still has room to elevate his game further. His age and career trajectory suggest a long-term potential that aligns well with the Bruins’ goals of building a sustainable, competitive team. In 75 regular season games last year for the Golden Knights, Chandler posted 16-35-51 numbers and has taken significant strides forward in his NHL career since joining the Vegas organization via trade from the Capitals organization.

From a financial standpoint, targeting Stephenson could be a more cost-effective solution. Given the anticipated high demand for Lindholm, the Bruins may find a more favorable contract negotiation with Stephenson. This cost-effectiveness allows the team to manage their salary cap more efficiently while acquiring a high-quality forward. Stephenson is in the final season of a four-year deal worth $2.75 million and would be an attractive addition to any team, knowing he will earn a significant raise.

Strategically, signing the two-time Stanley Cup champion offers a balanced approach to immediate needs and long-term planning. His addition would provide depth and skill to the Bruins’ lineup while enabling the team to make other roster decisions supporting their future aspirations in a salary-cap world. This would ensure that the Bruins remain competitive now without compromising their long-term vision.