By: Andrew Lindroth | Follow me on Twitter! @andrewlindrothh
The National Hockey Leagues’ free-agent market is scheduled to open on October 9th at noon ET, or at least seven days after finishing the Stanley Cup Finals, whichever happens first. The Boston Bruins’ General Manager Don Sweeney, has his work cut out for him this off-season, and his most significant task is deciding on re-signing Torey Krug, or let him walk and use that extra cap space on other free agents.
According to Cap Friendly, the Bruins have roughly $15M available in cap space, but Sweeney may want to leave around $2M-$3M leftover if injuries occur. With that being said, the Bruins will have approximately $13M available for re-signing players like Krug, Jake DeBrusk, Zdeno Chara, and Matt Grzelcyk.
Krug spoke to media recently and stated he is not interested in a one-year deal and wants to cash in on his value by signing a long-term contract. I predict the Bruins have a chance to sign Krug to a 5+year deal worth $7M-$7.5M per year, but the defenseman knows his value is worth more than that. If Krug doesn’t believe what the Bruins offer (if they even do) is enough, he will walk and get anywhere between $8M-$9.5M per year from another team.
As of this moment, there are a plethora amount of UFA and RFA players the Bruins could look at, many big names and even more depth-pieces. I’m not sure if Sweeney is looking to continue building by adding a few depth-pieces or make a big signing whether it be a forward or defenseman to replace Krug. For a complete list of all 31 teams’ UFA and RFA players, Sporting News has it covered here. Here are some free-agent options for the Bruins if Krug decides to walk.
Update with @CapFriendly reporting B's will have a $1.9M Bonus Overage. They have option to pay all of it next season or pay half next year and half the following year. #NHLBruins pic.twitter.com/bxxN7MTzqS— $15M=BruinsCapspace (@bruinscapspace) August 31, 2020
Evgenii Dadonov (F/UFA)
Evgenii Dadonov has shined the past three seasons with the Florida Panthers. Over the past three years, Dadonov has played 225 games, contributing 81-101-182 numbers, 25 power-play goals, and 47 power-play points.
The 31-year-old forward is set to become a UFA, and his last contract was a three-year deal worth $4M per season. I’m not an expert on predicting a player’s value in terms of AAV (average annual value), but the Bruins could make an offer worth $5M-$5.5M per season. Although he may be worth more in the open market, I do not see the Bruins over-spending on any player.
The Bruins could use Dadonov on the power-play and David Krejci’s’ or Charlie Coyles’ right-wing. Ondrej Kase began to create solid chemistry with Krejci and Jake DeBrusk during the Carolina Hurricanes series. Still, he is often injured and, before arriving in Boston, had only played a career-high 66 games back in 2017-2018. DeBrusk has also shown many potentials but has not shown consistency in his offense, so a player like Dadonov could help spark any of those lines.
Mark Borowiecki (D/UFA)
Mark Borowiecki could be a reasonable defensive option for the Bruins. If Krug decides to leave, I imagine Grzelcyk will pair with Brandon Carlo and split power-play duties with Charlie McAvoy. The Bruins’ third defensive-pairing isn’t solidified, but Borowiecki could be an option to consider along with Connor Clifton, John Moore, or Jeremy Lauzon. His last contract was a two-year deal worth $1.2M AAV, so he would not be a massive cap casualty to the Bruins.
The 6’1, 207-pound defenseman plays a very physical brand of hockey and isn’t afraid to stick up for his teammates. These are player attributes Sweeney has been looking for and was hoping Brett or Nick Ritchie could be that player, but they have not worked out so far.
Borowiecki also had offensive career-highs this past season, scoring seven goals and 18 points in 53 games played. He also averages over 200 hits per season, and just last season had a career-high 120 blocks. I believe he is a reliable option for the Bruins if Sweeney deems it necessary to sign additional depth defensemen.
Conor Sheary (F/UFA)
Conor Sheary would be a reliable forward option that could spark the bottom-six. The Winchester, MA native, first suited up in the NHL for 44 games during the 2015-2016 season and contributed enough to help lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to capture the Stanley Cup in 2016 and 2017. He also eclipsed his career-highs during the 2016-2017 season, scoring 23 goals and 50 points with a +24 rating.
The 5’8, 175-pound forward has a lot of speed to his game and could fit in well with either Coyle or Kuraly. Sheary just finished a three-year deal worth $3M AAV and is set to become a UFA.
$3M+ per year is most likely too steep for the Bruins, especially for a bottom-six forward, but he can also be utilized on the second line with Krejci in case DeBrusk doesn’t stay consistent. After achieving 20+goals just a few seasons ago, Sheary has shown the potential to be a productive middle-six/bottom-six forward.
Vladislav Namestnikov (F/UFA)
Vladislav Namestnikov is another forward the Bruins could consider in the free-agency. The 27-year-old forward is trying to find his offensive consistency and a team to grow with long-term. This past season, Namestinikov suited up for three different teams (NYR, OTT, COL), playing 65 games and contributing 17 goals and 31 points.
Namestnikov ended the season with the Colorado Avalanche and is set to become a UFA. He is finishing up a two-year deal worth $4M AAV. For a forward who has yet to hit the 50 point mark in his career, anywhere near $4M AAV is well out of the Bruins price range. If Sweeney could get Namestnikov to take a reasonable discount on a prove-yourself contract, we could see Namestnikov possibly reach his full potential.
Not only could Namestnikov be slotted onto any of the Bruins’ lines, but the team can also use him on the power-play and the penalty-kill unit. This past season, he also led the league in short-handed goals (four).
Brenden Dillon (D/UFA)
Last but not least, if Krug does not re-sign with the Bruins, Brenden Dillon would be a reliable option to beef up the blue-line. The 6’4, 225-pound defenseman uses his size to his advantage and makes it very difficult to play against, especially in a playoff series. Dillon was traded to the Washington Capitals shortly before the 2019-2020 season paused, but is now set to become a UFA. His last contract was a five-year deal worth $3.27M AAV.
Dillon suited up for 69 games this past season, contributing 14 points, 74 blocks, and 194 hits. Before the trade deadline this past season, the Bruins were linked to having considerable interest in Dillon, so now that he is set to hit the open market, Sweeney will have his chance once again.
It’s important to note that Dillon is 29-years-old and may be looking to cash in on his value at full. Sweeney may not be keen on paying more than $3M+ per season but could use the winning culture argument to sign Dillon on a discount.
Overall, there are a plethora of options the Bruins could consider. There are also a lot of players who are RFAs that may not sign with their current team, giving the Bruins even more options. I also predict Sweeney will be attempting to make trades during the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. With that being said, the Bruins’ future is up in the air, but that is not necessarily a negative thing. I’m very excited to see what Sweeneys’ plan is to improve this team.