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Boston Bruins Expansion Preview: No Defensemen Left Behind

To maximize his offseason, Don Sweeney needs to keep Vegas away from his defensemen

NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Boston Bruins Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a bit of a log jam on defense. Weird, I know, but sometimes life comes at you fast. Plus owning in bulk isn’t always a bad thing, just ask Karen, Costco’s reigning customer of the month.

Here’s the deal with Boston’s blueline come next Fall, you can pencil in 4 names: Brandon Carlo, Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug and Charlie McAvoy. After these 4, there are 3 defensemen, all right-handed shots, remaining under contract: Adam McQuaid and the Miller’s, Colin and Kevan. Two from this trio will be exposed in the expansion draft. The question becomes, who does Boston expose?

In terms of growth, the Miller named Colin has the highest ceiling. Touted as offensive-minded, the 24-year-old showed a much improved defensive game in 2016-2017, his second season with Boston. McQuaid had a surprisingly strong campaign, but he largely rode as a passenger on the Krug train, hence the bump in possession output. Then there’s the Miller named Kevan. The oft-ridiculed University of Vermont alumnus has established himself as a solid bottom-pairing, in case of emergency middle-pairing, defenseman.

Ideally, you’d like Vegas to take Matt Beleskey and his $3.8 million cap hit. Beleskey struggled last year, largely due to injury, scoring just 3 goals and 8 points in 49 games. Though, it’s not a lack of production that pushes Beleskey out the door, rather, it’s hard to see Boston moving forward with $9.8 million tied to the third line (between Beleskey’s $3.8 million and the $6 million cap hit attached to David Backes).

Of course, the idea of dangling a younger player to entice Vegas into taking on a less-than-stellar contract has been discussed by a number of teams. Chicago may sacrifice Trevor van Riemsdyk in a dummy trade, which ultimately concludes with Vegas providing cap relief by selecting Marcus Kruger. Which, again, isn’t so much an issue with Kruger’s play, in fact he’s one of the best third line centers around. Like Beleskey, Kruger’s simply at the mercy of contracts that have transformed into an albatross.

Boston could put themselves in a similar situation, only instead of desperately seeking cap relief, they’d be dangling a piece in order to keep their seven defensemen currently under contract.

McQuaid is coming off a strong season and there’s a market for experienced defensemen, as there seemingly always is. McQuaid and Kevan Miller are interchangeable, for the most part, though with Kevan posting better metrics, he’s probably the way to go moving forward.

(As I’ve said, as have others, there’s a moronic redundancy in carrying both McQuaid and Kevan on the roster. With that in mind, I protect Colin and expose the grit twins, regardless of ulterior motives. This way, worst case is still helpful, ridding yourself of what is essentially a duplicated contract/roster spot).

Yet, keeping Kevan and McQuaid, in order to move McQuaid via trade, relies on George McPhee’s interest in Ryan Spooner. If there’s interest in bringing the 25-year-old to Sin City, then send him there along with Beleskey. I imagine, and this is just an opinion, really, that there’d be some bite when it comes to bringing in a young, powerplay specialist.

There just seems to be, at this moment, more of a market for dealing a veteran defenseman, opposed to a hot-and-cold forward who struggles to stay afloat at even strength. But hey, I could be wrong. McQuaid could fetch nothing. Or, I could be right, and a team like Dallas could continue its bizarre run of transactions, overpaying for a bottom-pairing defensemen.

Besides, it’s not like Spooner’s has much of a future in Boston. He’s played himself into yet another doghouse, and that’s saying something when you consider his two coaches (Claude Julien and Bruce Cassidy) possess opposite views on the concept of risk taking, and I imagine life itself. I just feel like Claude and Bruce don’t see eye-to-eye on a lot of things. Not that it’s relevant, really, I’m just sort of mentally vomiting at this point.

If all goes according to plan, the exodus of McQuaid and Beleskey frees up about $6.55 million in cap space. An amount that, perhaps, can be used to bring aboard some temporary help up front. And by “temporary help up front”, I’m referring to a free agent by the name of Joe Thornton. Maybe you’ve heard of him.

NHL SuperSkills X
Come home, Jumbo.

Yet, the best part, is the Bruins could find themselves possessing one of the best bluelines in the Eastern Conference, with four (Carlo, Krug, McAvoy and C. Miller) in the midst of, or on the brink of, the primes of their career.