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The Bruins Need to Go All In to Win the 2019 Stanley Cup

A year ago, nobody thought the Bruins would be in this position, but here we are. The Boston Bruins need to go all in to win the 2019 Stanley Cup. Don Sweeney and co have found the perfect mix of youth and veterans, leading to a team that is a true Stanley Cup Contender, and they can’t waste this window.

Zdeno Chara was resigned for another year at 41 years old, David Krejci is 32, Patrice Bergeron is 32, Brad Marchand is 30, Kevan Miller is 30, and Tuukka Rask is 31. Mix these players at the end of their prime with a second core of up-and-comers like David Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy, Jake DeBrusk, Brandon Carlo, Anders Bjork, Ryan Donato, and others still to come. The Bruins time is now.

After a magical regular season, decimated by injuries and with many improbable comeback victories, a Round 2 loss to Tampa was disappointing, but the season overall was considered a success. That won’t be the same in 2019, it’s Stanley Cup or bust. With a strong core both up front and on the back end, the Bruins have as solid of a team as any in the NHL, but adding a few pieces up to put the team over the top needs to be Don Sweeney’s goal this offseason.

But it’s not as easy as that. Young players on the fringe of being NHLers are knocking on the door, and shouldn’t be blocked in their path to the NHL. Bjork, Donato, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Peter Cehlarik are all likely capable of being NHL players, but there simply isn’t enough room for all of them. The Bruins could stay quiet and let these young players grow into larger roles like they did in 2018 (See Jake DeBrusk), or they could look to the outside, and bring in a big name or two to really go for this thing.

However, they need to be careful when it comes to the salary cap. The cap is project to go up $3-5 million in the next couple of days, but the Bruins have some key young players to sign a year from now. Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Danton Heinen, and Ryan Donato are all RFAs, and the Bruins can’t risk losing any of them. Do what you can to get better, but they need to be caution of any multi-year commitment.

Here’s a visual of the entire Bruins organization, top to bottom, with Free Agent status:

UFAs

Riley Nash

Rick Nash

Tommy Wingels

Tim Schaller

Austin Czarnik

Nick Holden

Anton Khudobin

Chris Breen

Tommy Cross

Kenny Agostino

Brian Gionta

Paul Postma

Riley Nash is the big one. He had a career year with 15 goals and 41 points, and did a more than adequate job filling in for Patrice Bergeron while he was injured, playing at over a point per game. The Bruins depth really felt his late season concussion, as he wasn’t the same player in the playoffs. This is Nash’s time to get paid, and it’s possible that he’s priced his way out of Boston, but the Bruins should do everything they can to keep him around.

Rick Nash is still a prolific goal scorer, but not at the rate he once was. His concussion really ruined his short stint with the Bruins, as he tallied just 3 goals and 5 points in the playoffs. He could he back if the Bruins lose out on Ilya Kovalchuk or if they don’t feel comfortable moving a young guy into the top 6, but chances are he moves on.

Acquired for a 4th rounder at the deadline, Wingels was a serviceable depth player who came in handy when injuries hit, but isn’t a need for the 2019 Bruins and will hit free agency, possibly heading back to Chicago.

Tim Schaller was a great 4th liner last season, was big on the penalty kill, and has a great personality. I’d like to see him brought back, but if the Bruins feel they’d rather promote somebody from providence into his spot (hey, Ryan Fitzgerald) they could let him go. That said, the Bruins 4th line was good as it’s ever been in 2018, and there’s no guarantee they’ll find a better option.

Austin Czarnik is an interesting case. He’s made the team out of camp back-to-back seasons, but hasn’t stuck in the NHL, and it’s not entirely his fault. Czarnik played 10 NHL games last season, putting him at 59 career games. Had he played one more, he would have had to clear waivers to be assigned to the AHL, and almost definitely would have been claimed. He’s now a Group 6 Free Agent (see here), and deserves to be in the NHL next season, because, well, he’s an NHL player. The Bruins would like to bring him back, as they should, but it’s up to Czarnik to decide his future.

Nick Holden was acquired at the deadline as defensive depth, but didn’t play much in the playoffs. He’ll likely go elsewhere to find a full time top 6 role.

A Backup goaltender is a need for the Bruins, and resigning Anton Khudobin would be the logical move. The 32 year old was fantastic for the Bruins last season, even briefly taking the starting job. He wants to be back and the Bruins want him back, but it will come down to money and term whether or not he stays. I’d say it’s likely that he re-signs between 1 and 2 million.

Agostino, Gionta, and Postma will not be offered contracts per Don Sweeney.

Tommy Cross is the only true untouchable on the Bruins 🙂

RFAs

Sean Kuraly

Anton Blidh

Colby Cave

Justin Hickman

Matt Grzelcyk just re-signed on a two year deal worth $1.4M per year. That’s a good deal for both sides, as it’s a nice cap hit for the team and Grzelcyk sets himself up for a nice payday in two years.

Sean Kuraly played a useful 4th line center and penalty kill role for the Bruins last season. It was a good first NHL season, but the Bruins would like to see more offense from him. He was trusted with a bigger role in the playoffs and it wouldn’t be a shock to see him replace Riley Nash at 3rd line center.

Anton Blidh has been good when given a chance, and could be a sleeper to take a 4th line spot out of camp. The same goes for Colby Cave as he filled in as an injury replacement for 3 games last season, and he has a fan in coach Bruce Cassidy.

Draft Picks

2nd (57), 3rd (77 from FLA), 4th (119), 6th (181), 7th (212)

The Bruins are shallow on draft picks this season after drafting heavily the prior 3, with 6 first rounders, and 5 second rounders. Their first was dealt for Rick Nash this season and 5th for Drew Stafford last season, while they swapped a 3rd for Nick Holden and acquired one for Frank Vatrano. In the late second round, the Bruins could be looking at forwards Jake Wise and Niklas Nordgren, defensemen Filip Johansson and Martin Fehervary, or goalie Jakub Skarek.

Team Needs:

2nd line Right Wing, Left-Shot defenseman

With Nash’s likely departure, and Ryan Spooner’s departure in the trade for Nash, 2nd line right wing is a spot that needs to be filled. The Bruins would love to see Anders Bjork step into that spot, as he actually started the season in that spot before his injury. Ilya Kovalchuk has been rumored as a possible solution, and Don Sweeney has been public in his interest of the Russian winger. The deal would likely be in the $4-5 million range on a two year deal and would give the Bruins a bona-fide goal scorer in that spot. James Neal is also a big name free agent, but is likely out of the Bruins price range.

You know your team is in a good spot when one of the biggest concerns is that Torey Krug and Matt Grzelcyk are your 2nd and 3rd defensemen on the left side. The concern is that they need to groom an heir to Zdeno Chara, and that having two 5’9 defensemen in Krug and Grzelcyk isn’t ideal. However, upgrading on the left side would force them to trade one of Krug or Grzelcyk. Grzelcyk was just resigned and is coming off of a great rookie season as a 24 year old, so trading him seems unlikely. Trading Torey Krug has also been rumored, but he is one of the best offensive defenemen in the league, and trading him makes the Bruins automatically worse. Noah Hanifin is the pipe dream, but swinging a deal with Carolina seems unlikely.

 

Don Sweeney’s goal for this summer needs to be to put the best team he can on the ice for the Bruins come October, and he can’t settle for putting a less good team on the ice than he could have.

Just win, baby.

 

Follow me on twitter @jIabruins

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