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A quick list of painful questions the Boston Bruins should answer this Free Agency

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Look, this offseason’s gonna have the potential to be weirder than usual. Let’s take an objective, not super fun look at the Bruins options.

2019 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Three Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

After the absolutely crazy season the B's had, there's a lot to go over now that the Free Agent Frenzy has begun. Some of it is pretty easy to figure out (bury McAvoy and Carlo in enough money so that they stick around)...and then there are the un-fun questions.

Like the following:

What is your realistic expectations of...

...David Backes?

At some point, I think we all began to mentally assume this season was the beginning of the end for David Backes; Boston Bruin. And it’s not like fans being unreasonable here; dude fell off a cliff production-wise, by the end was getting scratched left and right and replaced with Karson Kuhlman or some other prospect, and even in the pivotal game where you’d expect Backes to be 100% can’t miss him in the lineup there...he was on level 9. And he owned it. He didn’t think he was at the level the B’s expected, and it cost him. While there's always some merit to having a vocal leader hanging around, and especially a great physical mentor for the youth of the team that seems to love being with the guy...at $6m per year, he'd better be a coach.

The issue is that, in all honesty, while he had some things he did that drove me personally up the wall, he wasn’t necessarily that bad. He was just...off, somehow. And I think he knew it.

Problem is, with the injuries he’s had, the hard miles he’s put on that frame of his, and the rapidly surprising youth of the Boston system slowly bubbling to the surface, he’s on borrowed time. His NMC is now modified. His eight team list of teams he could be traded to should be in by the beginning of next season. Season after that, he’ll have to make it fifteen. Of course, this could all be mitigated by the training camp of the gods and he’ll rebound for one really good year. Maybe.

But if not...If you’re Don Sweeney, you’d be a fool not to take a hard look at the teams on that list and seeing if there’s a fit somewhere.

Your now extra tight cap room will thank you.

...Kevan Miller?

Kevan Miller is generally quite liked for his hard-nosed play and quality , but is also becoming increasingly more infamous about the sheer amount of time he’s spent on Injured Reserve, with a 2018-19 campaign that had him play less than 40 games and featured such injuries as:

  • Fractured Kneecaps, broken practically every way you can!
  • A Broken Hand!
  • Fractured Larynx!
  • Pulled Oblique!
  • Multiple undisclosed lower and upper body injuries!

Indeed, Killer’s injury-prone nature brings to mind thoughts of Adam McQuaid in his final years as a Bruin, who was also often on the IR for one reason or another, and that..doesn’t bode well for the poor guy given how that ended. Like many of the guys who rotated through the third pairing this year, Miller has the veteran’s advantage and is a generally solid third pairing guy...but that’s about it in terms of upside at this point. There are younger, hungrier, probably much better, and more importantly a lot less injured defenders waiting in the wings for that spot to be vacated.

Do you wanna give the 31 year old one more go? or do you think it’s time to let a new generation take the reigns here? Speaking of which...

...John Moore?

It feels extremely unfair to pile on John Moore knowing what we now know about the guy. His humerus was broken for some time, and he was playing in pain practically every second he was on the ice, he was messed up and the B’s either didn’t let him get surgery and end his season prematurely, or he plowed ahead anyway. I felt extremely bad for the dude because he will be out for an extended amount of time through absolutely no fault of his own.

But...none of my criticisms of John Moore have anything to do with whether or not he could throw body checks, make a slap shot, or even raise his arm above his head. My issues always had to do with his decision-making and spacial awareness on the ice. His positioning was putrid for a defender. I should not be thinking out loud “why is that defenseman floating in space around his goaltender instead of the one place he’s supposed to be?”. Instead of getting the puck to a very open player who could get the thing up-ice, he often just swung it around the boards directly onto the stick of a forechecking opponent. And to top it all off...he got replaced late in the season by Connor Clifton on his second try. And only returned when players either got hurt badly or had games bad enough to warrant a temporary replacement. Granted, a big part of why was injuries, but he rarely got

And that’s just the eye-test. Of all the B’s defenders this year, his on-ice impact was dreadful.

If something that red and big shows up anywhere it’s time to call your doctor.
Micah Blake McCurdy @ Hockeyviz.com
One of these things is not like the others.
Evolving-Hockey.com

Moore’s contract currently sits at 2.5 Million AAV for the next four years, currently the longest tenured Bruin defender, and for arguably the most important stretch of year one...he spent it on level nine getting schooled by a 5’10 dude making league minimum. Moore’s contract goes from “Meh, serviceable depth” to “That 2.5mil could have been used on practically anybody. Literally anyone else, and it would have been a better use of the money.”

And with that empty roster spot, there’s no reason not to assume that guys like Urho Vaakanainen, Jeremy Lauzon, Jakub Zboril, and of course, Connor Clifton won’t be chomping at the bit to take his spot full-time while he’s healing. Any rookie jitters or mistakes could be well on their way to ironed out by the time he gets back and then...well...

2.5 million sitting on level 9 in his hometown. Again.

Don’t assume Seattle will just take him because he’s free, younger than Kevan Miller, and a body. They got 30 other teams to do that with. With how low his value as a defender is right now, you’re either going to have to boost it with a big comeback when he’s absolutely at 100%, or come up with a solution.

And what are your realistic options for signing or extending guys like...

...Torey Krug? And who replaces him if you do decide to trade him?

A lot of attention has been paid to Torey Krug’s meteoric rise in the bald-oakleys-and-patchy-goatee (AKA: your uncle you don’t hear from that often and spends a lot of time in our mentions) market from “bum who should be traded because he cannot defense and is small” to “single greatest tradeable asset the Boston Bruins have and should be traded because of it.” done all within the confines of a single playoff run where he both tightened up his defensive game and also ran the show for blueliners on offense, the reasons why you can read about here.

A lot of the talk around Torey Krug appears to largely be in the form of cap relief or possibly picking up more draft picks/prospects or the most coveted of all things: a winger for Krejci, even when Don Sweeney has up and said the offer for Krug would have to “blow them away” in order for him to even consider moving him due to his on-ice contributions and his leadership qualities.

Which, if you pay attention to the team dynamics on and off-ice, it’s unquestionably clear that Krug has created a special place for himself in that locker room, from his pre-game ritual with David Pastrnak, to his friendly rivalry with fellow small person Brad Marchand, to being filmed on Behind The B basically being the veteran in the room at Dev Camps, he would be a difficult sell to the locker room to move, even if this has happened before and they turned out fine or even better for it.

An even bigger question is, if you lose Krug, where do you get that production back. In a forward? Probably, if you were looking to trade, but most of the guys who produce at Krug’s level not from the blueline make slightly more money than he does right now, and so if you’re looking for relief there, you probably aren’t gonna get it. Prevailing thought among fans is that guys like Charlie McAvoy can and will slot in and replace him, arguing because they play similar styles, can hit similar passes, and have good shots, they can do what Krug does for the Bruins and possibly even better.

My question is simple:

McAvoy has not shown to have been especially great or even that interested at creating the sheer volume of attempts, shots, or chances that Torey Krug does (even though the vast majority of whom are low danger shots) himself, and while they have had some success on the power play, its clear he’s more interested in making safer plays than scoring plays. According to the numbers, it’ll probably be Gryz who should take his place...

...Assuming he’s encouraged to shoot some more after an absolutely bizarre worst-Sh% of his life kind of season. Hell, he should probably be encouraged to do it at nearly every opportunity.

Until then, you’re gonna have to think hard about how you make a player like Krug move without getting something great in return. Or gamble on a player who needs to do specifically the thing Krug does a lot more than either of the two supposed heir apparents.

...Danton Heinen?

A lot of people hate Danton Heinen’s guts because of his absolutely brutal offensive skills that either see him get swarmed by the opposition or whiff on a shot that absolutely should’ve gone into the back of the net. But just as many people recognize Danton Heinen’s value as a defensive forward, especially both with the puck and away from it in extending plays and with forechecking, even if not much comes of it.

Therefor, I have determined that Danton Heinen is the heir apparent to Chris Kelly; defensive juggernaut, offensively next-to-useless, and extremely versatile regardless of either of these things.

...Which makes signing him kind of awkward, because unquestionably you’d like to have him back to shore up the more defensively minded depth and be a great forward to have to maybe fill in if a player is injured, you can’t really justify a super big contract because he wasn’t exactly a dynamite powerhouse difference-maker type forward...but on the other hand, it’d be hard to imagine what the third line would’ve been like without him, as the B’s certainly tried their hand at several players that just could not stick like Heinen could. And all things considered, he didn’t have atrocious production this year either.

So what’s a number that feels fair and also not an overpayment? 1.5 Mil? 2 million? What seems like reasonable term for a defense-first kinda guy that isn’t a blueliner? Three years? Four?


July 1st is upon us, and Don Sweeney is hard at work. Whether or not he comes up with a solution to all or even just one of these questions will be instrumental to how the B’s move on through their 2019-20, or even deeper into the future.

Let’s see what you got, Don.