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Decisions, decisions: What are the Bruins going to do with their free agents?

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A number of guys have contracts that are up, meaning the Bruins have some deals to make.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Toronto Maple Leafs at Boston Bruins Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The season’s over, but Don Sweeney’s “to-do” list is pretty long.

Preparations are already under way for next month’s NHL Draft. The Bruins won’t have a first-round pick, so maximizing the value of that second rounder will be key.

Free agency will kick off on July 1, as teams will wildly overpay for decent players, as they do every summer. The Bruins aren’t likely to be very active.

In between those two events, the Bruins have some business to take care of closer to home: deciding what to do with their own free agents.

Per CapFriendly, the Bruins have decisions to make on nine guys from the major league roster and eight guys from the minor league roster.

Let’s take a slightly educated guess at who’s staying and who’s going.

Bruins NHL free agents

Anton Khudobin - Unrestricted: This season seemed like the first in about a decade that the Bruins had a steady, reliable back-up (slight exaggeration, but you get the point). Khudobin earned every penny of his $1.2 million salary this season.

He says he wants to stay, but chances are he wants (and deserves) a raise as well. If the Bruins can get him back in the fold for $1.4 or $1.5 million, go for it. It doesn’t seem like Zane McIntyre is ready, and with Malcolm Subban gone, there’s no one ready to step in.

My guess: He’s back.

Matt Grzelcyk - Restricted: This was the year the Boston University kid realized his potential, finally getting regular NHL time, and of course he needs a new deal. Ain’t that how it always seems to go?

Given that he’s an RFA, Grzelcyk has no leverage. He’s eligible for arbitration, but that’s about it. The only way he’s not back in the fold is if the Bruins try to flip him for a draft pick prior to June’s draft.

My guess: He’s back.

Nick Holden - Unrestricted: Like Postma, Holden was brought in for depth. He didn’t get a ton of action, and isn’t likely in the team’s plans for the future.

My guess: He’s gone.

Brian Gionta - Unrestricted: Signed off the Olympic team, Gionta didn’t do a ton in his limited time here. He was a depth signing, like Holden and Postma, and the Bruins are probably going to look to fill that depth role with youth next season.

It’s too bad, but his last image in a Bruins jersey is going to be his front-row seat to Dan Girardi’s OT game-winner in Game 4 against Tampa.

My guess: He’s gone.

Tommy Wingels - Unrestricted: He’s a surprisingly tricky one. The Bruins have some decisions to make about their fourth-line guys, with Wingels being one of them. He brings a decent amount of energy and jam, something the Bruins definitely value.

However, he’s a wing, unlike Tim Schaller and Sean Kuraly, who can also play center. I liked Wingels’ game more than most, but I think the Bruins will use that roster spot on a younger player instead.

My guess: He’s gone.

Tim Schaller - Unrestricted: Dr. Schaller was quite a find for the Bruins before kind of hitting a wall in the playoffs. He can play both center and wing, making him pretty useful.

The trick here is that he’s an unrestricted free agent. He made just under $800k last season; there’s undoubtedly a team out there who saw what he did with the Bruins and would be willing to get him into seven figures.

Will the Bruins want to go that high on a guy they could probably replace? Probably not.

My guess: He’s gone.

Sean Kuraly - Restricted: He’s restricted, plays with energy and is cheap. He’s got a fourth-line spot set aside for him next season, at least in rotational duty.

My guess: He’s back.

Riley Nash - Unrestricted: He was a great pick-up by the B’s, valuable in all aspects of the game. He was cheap too, making just $900k. However, he ended up being a bit TOO good for the Bruins, likely playing his way into a significant raise.

Considering he wasn’t the same player in the playoffs and is likely to get a million or more offer from someone else, I don’t see him coming back unless he elects to take a hometown discount.

Considering he’s already 29 and is coming off the best season of his NHL career, that isn’t likely.

My guess: He’s gone.

Rick Nash - Unrestricted: His tenure with the Bruins was marred by a concussion, so we likely never got to see full strength Rick Nash. I could talk myself into them Bringing him back, but it’d have to be on a cheap, incentive-laden deal.

He probably wouldn’t go for it, and it’d probably be for the best. As much as I’d like to see David Krejci get a full season with his coveted “big winger,” the Bruins are better off using that money elsewhere.

My guess: He’s gone.

Bruins minor league free agents

Justin Hickman - Restricted: The 24-year-old forward appeared in 33 games for Providence last season, recording 5 goals and 3 assists. Signed as a free agent a few years back, the rugged winger is likely to remain in Providence for a while. Given that he’s a restricted free agent, the Bruins are in control, and will likely bring him back.

My guess: He’s back.

Kenny Agostino - Unrestricted: Kenny! His signing turned heads last summer, but his AHL skill didn’t really translate at the NHL level (though in his defense, he didn’t get an extended look). Agostino had 57 points in 68 games for Providence this season. He got five games at the NHL level, recording one assist. He also scored that great OT winner against the Flyers in the preseason.

Whether or not Agostino returns is likely up to what he wants do next. The 26-year-old is likely looking for a shot to crack an NHL roster, and there’s a logjam in front of him here. My guess is that he chooses to move on.

My guess: He’s gone.

Anton Blidh - Restricted: Bleeeeeeeeeeed! The Swede had 28 points in 75 games last season, but points aren’t really his thing. He’s more of a crash-and-bang, throw his weight around kind of player. He’s a restricted free agent, and I’d imagine the Bruins will be bringing him back.

Given the uncertainty surrounding NHL guys like Tim Schaller, Sean Kuraly and Tommy Wingels, there’s a decent chance Blidh gets a look for an NHL spot this coming season.

My guess: He’s back.

Paul Postma - Unrestricted: Signed as a depth guy last summer, Postma spent most of the season on the sidelines. The veteran appeared in just 14 NHL games, then played in another 17 in Providence.

He was a good veteran presence, but at 29 years old, he undoubtedly wants to play. He’ll find more regular ice time elsewhere.

My guess: He’s gone.

Austin Czarnik - Unrestricted: Now this is a tricky one. Czarnik, just 25 years old, is an unrestricted free agent. He can do whatever he wants. BE FREE, YOUNG MAN. He’s a guy that many Bruins fans think has been unfairly buried in the AHL, where he’s been a better than point-per-game guy over the past two seasons.

If he hits the market, he’ll draw interest. With 75 points in 68 AHL games this season, he’d be a boost for any minor league team. However, he wants a shot at the pros. He got a 10-game taste with the Bruins this season, recording four points. That undoubtedly frustrated the kid after a 49-game run with the big club in 2016-2017.

For the Bruins to keep him, they’re going to have to commit to him. Give him a multi-year deal, and make it one-way if you have to. He’s got a valuable skill set and can probably be a versatile NHLer...if the Bruins can find room for him.

My guess: He’s back.

Colby Cave - Restricted: The gritty forward got a brief look at the pros this season, so the Bruins clearly think highly of him.

He’s been a good guy to have in the organization down in Providence, and since he’s an RFA, there’s no reason not to keep him.

My guess: He’s back.

Chris Breen - Unrestricted: The big defenseman has been in the Bruins organization since 2014. He’s never gotten a look at the NHL level here, but has been a dependable blueliner.

He’ll be able to choose his next home, and seems to like it here.

My guess: He’s back.

Tommy Cross - Unrestricted: The Boston College product has been the P-Bruins captain for the past three seasons. During that time, he’s only gotten a brief look at the NHL. He’s a New England native, but does he want to go somewhere where he’ll have a better shot at the NHL?

It’s hard to say. He’s got a pretty good thing going in Providence right now, and will get a chance to be the “first man up” in the event of an injury next season.

My guess: He’s back.


For the most part, the Bruins’ moves are pretty obvious. There are some wild cards (Czarnik, Wingels) and some long shots (Riley Nash), but the rest shouldn’t take a ton of thought or a ton of haggling.