The whirlwind weekend is over. Dougie Hamilton's not walking through that door, fans. Milan Lucic is not walking through that door. Cam Neely's not walking through that door (he's trading the door).
Despite all of the drama and caps-filled Tweets and rage and "shuld of nevar traed Hamilton!" posts, it's kind of easy to forget that the Bruins do, in fact, have to play hockey next season.
This is a team that missed the playoffs by a game, in a season filled with laughably unlucky shooting, injuries to key players and sub-standard performances from just about everyone on the roster. The Bruins, as constructed last season, were probably good enough to make noise in the Eastern Conference if they hadn't seen Zdeno Chara and David Krejci get injured.
Instead, here we are, a dozen or so weeks before the season starts, wondering if last year's DNQ was a blip on the radar or the beginning of a troubling trend.
The Bruins have plenty of work ahead of them in the off-season. Here's a look at what needs to be done, and what fans can expect to see.
1) Figure out the defense
The Bruins have several defensemen at their disposal. Several veterans are locks to earn their usual NHL minutes, while a number of younger guys will be looking to solidify their spot on the roster.
|Locks:||Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller|
|Next up:||Zach Trotman, Joe Morrow, Colin Miller|
|Stretch:||Matt Bartkowski (UFA), David Warsofsky (UFA), Chris Casto, Linus Arnesson|
The Bruins' top-4 is, for all intents and purposes, set in stone. The pairings may flip around, but the top-4 guys in terms of minutes, responsibilities, etc. will be Chara, Seidenberg, Krug and McQuaid.
The bottom pairing is where things get interesting. Zach Trotman had a quietly great season last year. Joe Morrow was solid as well. Colin Miller, acquired in the Lucic trade, appears to be on the cusp of being an NHL regular.
In all likelihood, whoever has the strongest camp or pre-season will earn that #6 spot. However, it's entirely possible that two of those three could make the jump, pushing Kevan Miller to the press box.
My ideal defense corps, assuming no one else gets traded:
|Zdeno Chara||Zach Trotman|
|Dennis Seidenberg||Adam McQuaid|
|Torey Krug||Colin Miller|
2) Decide who your back-up goalie will be
The Bruins have a glut of great goaltending in their system: a Vezina winner in Tuukka Rask, an award-winning college goalie in Zane McIntyre, an elite prospect in Malcolm Subban and a solid, NHL-ready back-up in Martin Jones.
So..who's staying? Prior to the acquisition of Jones, it seemed likely that McIntyre would back up Rask, enabling Subban to get another full season's work in Providence.
Now, however, it'll come down to choosing between Jones and McIntyre, with Subban being a wild card option. The Bruins will have to sign Jones before getting him between the pipes, but making a deal shouldn't be difficult. Offer him a two-year deal with a slight bump in pay, with the extra year making him more trade-worthy down the line.
McIntyre can get his work in down in Providence at the start of the season, and should be a capable fill-in should Jones falter. It's clear, though, that someone is going to have to go at some point.
|NHL:||Tuukka Rask, Martin Jones (back-up)|
|AHL:||Malcolm Subban/Zane McIntyre tandem|
3) Take care of your RFAs
The Bruins already made their decision about their most important restricted free agent, who is probably putting the finishing touches on a deal worth tens of millions of dollars in Calgary.
The remaining restricted free agents (some of whom have already been given qualifying offers, supposedly) won't cost nearly as much, but their signings and performance will have a huge impact on both the remainder of the off-season and the team's on-ice performance come October.
Who are they, and what will it take to keep them?
- Martin Jones, G Acquired in the Milan Lucic trade, the Bruins will have to get Jones under contract before he can back up Tuukka Rask. Jones signed a two-year, $1.1 million with Los Angeles prior to the '13-'14 season; he put up a 16-11-9 record in 34 regular season games during that deal. He can probably be signed to a two-year deal for $1.8 million ($900k AAV).
- Ryan Spooner, F Spoonman! When he got an extended look last season, Spooner did not disappoint. Spooner showed flashes of brilliance playing with David Pastrnak and Lucic, and probably earned himself another contract in the process. Spooner was pointless in his last four games, but that stretch was preceded by points in seven of eight games. He had 15 points in the last 20 games of the season. Spooner probably earned himself a bit of a bump from his ELC, and can probably be signed to a three-year deal for $4.1 million ($1.7 million AAV).
- Brett Connolly, F Ah, Brett Connolly. We hardly knew ye, thanks to a Dennis Seidenberg slapshot to the hand. Connolly is a guy who can probably be signed to a bridge deal, as he knows he has something to prove and honestly doesn't have a ton of leverage. He looked OK in his brief stint as a Bruin, and would be a great fit on one of the top two wings (Connolly-Spooner-Pastrnak?). He shouldn't cost a ton: try a two-year deal for $4 million ($2 million AAV).
- Matt Lindblad, F Lindblad did OK in his brief appearances with the big club. I'd like to see him stick around as a bottom-six option. He shouldn't cost much, say, a one-year deal at a $850k AAV.
- Adam Morrison, G and Rob Flick, F I'd let these guys walk. Providence has plenty of goalie depth, and there are other forwards who can fill in for Flick.
4) Reassess your cap situation
Based on the RFA signings, I've created a 23-man roster (12 F, 6 D, 2 G, 3 healthy scratches).
|Brad Marchand||Patrice Bergeron||Loui Eriksson|
|Alex Khokhlachev||David Krejci||Reilly Smith|
|Brett Connolly||Ryan Spooner||David Pastrnak|
|Max Talbot||Chris Kelly||Zac Rinaldo (ugh)|
|Zdeno Chara||Zach Trotman|
|Dennis Seidenberg||Adam McQuaid|
|Torey Krug||Joe Morrow|
|Matt Lindblad (or Seth Griffith)||Brian Ferlin||K. Miller (or C. Miller)|
The scratches are fluid. Other guys, like Joonas Kemppainen, Anthony Camara, Tyler Randell, etc. can fill in as needed or as they earn a shot.
The above roster (based on the RFA projections) would cost the Bruins $68,165,667, leaving them $2,694,333 in cap space. Throw Marc Savard on LTIR and the Bruins can exceed the cap by his $4,027,143 AAV, leaving them with (based on my possibly incorrect math) $6,721,476 in cap space. That's certainly enough to play around with.
5) Check the UFA market...
It's pretty bleak. No, not Matt Beleskey and his outrageously lucky shooting percentage. The Bruins don't really need help up front. They should be using kids from Providence, giving them a shot at earning an NHL job.
The back end, however, could use some reinforcing. Realistic options include Andrej Sekera (yes), Paul Martin (eh, kind of old), Francois Beauchemin (old), Johnny Oduya (solid, but getting worn down), Cody Franson ($$$$) Christian Ehrhoff (eh) and Mike Green ($$$$).
The Bruins could probably snag someone, but most guys will be looking to cash in, both in term and in dollars. If the B's are trying to figure out their cap situation, signing a veteran to a five-year deal wouldn't be the best idea. If they could get a Sekera, Zidlicky, Michalek, etc., it might not be the worst move: a veteran guy who can play top-4 minutes.
Prices, however, may exclude the Bruins from doing much, and honestly, that isn't the worst thing: getting guys like Trotman, Morrow and Colin Miller solid playing time could do wonders for their development.
6) ...and the trade market
Anybody out there need an older German defenseman? How about a wing who rides Patrice Bergeron's coattails to success? Anyone?
Now's the time to let the kids you've had in the system get a real shot. Spooner, Khokhlachev, Trotman, Morrow and even Colin Miller come to mind.
The Bruins' don't have a stacked farm system, but they have a few guys who should be ready to make an impact. Now that Claude Julien's Campbell/Paille binkies are gone, set the kids loose and see how they do.
"Dear God, deliver us from having a Zac Rinaldo-led fourth line..."