Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo, Matt Grzelcyk, John Moore, Connor Clifton, Kevan Miller, Steven Kampfer, Jeremy Lauzon, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril...the list seemingly goes on and on with defensemen who either dressed for the Bruins this past season or could be potentially ready to make their move to the big leagues.
Undoubtedly, this is a good problem for the Bruins to have, but with looming decisions needing to be made about the future of the B’s free agents, something certainly has to give with the Bruins’ defense corps.
Needless to say, much will depend on the Bruins’ capability to bring back UFA Torey Krug next season, and hopefully many seasons beyond that as well. Let’s say the Bruins are able to re-sign Krug to a contract north of 7 million dollars a season...what happens to the rest of the Bruins back-end?
It’s safe to say that Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo, who are both under contract for the following year, are not going anywhere next season, and will be a top priority to re-sign in the next couple years.
But what about the rest of the defense?
In spite of Chara being the oldest player in the NHL, he is still effective on the PK and when the Bruins are protecting a lead.
Despite some members of the Bruins’ fan base being eager for ‘Z’ to retire, he holds the key to his return next season in that if he wants to play another year, the Bruins are likely to have him back.
Given that he probably won’t be able to complete the 2019-2020 season, expect the Bruins’ captain to be back next season.
Grzelcyk, who has been very solid on the B’s 3rd defense pairing over the last couple seasons, is set to become a restricted free agent at the conclusion of the season.
Prior to the suspension of hockey, he had already put up career bests in goals, assists, points, and PP points. All these stats point to the fact that Grzelcyk is due for a raise from the $1.8 million AAV the Bruins are paying him.
For the Bruins, who have potentially 20 free agents in their organization, a pay increase for Gryz might not be something they can afford (depending on what happens with other guys).
Combine that with the fact that there are prospects with the P-Bruins ready to step up, and we may have seen Matt Grzelcyk’s final game in black and gold.
When John Moore was signed by the Bruins in 2018 for 5 years at $2.75 million per season, many B’s fans were left a little puzzled.
$2.75mil AAV for a 6th or 7th d-man isn’t great, and the term seems a bit long. Moore actually has the most years remaining on his contract of any of the defensemen, but does that mean he’ll remain a Bruin for long?
Given the fact that Moore was relegated to the 9th floor for large portions of this season, there probably isn’t much of a market to trade him. The Bruins could consider buying him out, which would save around $1.4mil next year, $1.9mil the following year, and $1.4mil the next.
The only problem with this math is the Bruins would still be on the hook to pay Moore at least $800K over the next 6 season and we all know the Jacobs family isn’t a big fan of giving out money to people who aren’t working.
Clifton made a big impact on the Bruins in their 2018-2019 play-off run, but hit a major wall this season after after he was injured in a Dec 29th match-up against the Sabres.
The injury, which put him on the shelf for more than 3 months, really didn’t give B’s fans or management a chance to see his game grow this season. The first few months of the 2019-2020 season were not particularly great for #75, but given Cassidy’s faith in him during the playoffs last year and the very cap-friendly contract extension he signed this year, you can expect that Clifton will be given the opportunity to be an everyday player either when (if) this season comes back or next season.
While many Bruins’ fans (and possibly Bruce Cassidy) were ready to write-off Miller’s professional hockey career, GM Don Sweeney mentioned at a press conference that Miller will be offered a contract next season.
What kind of contract remains to be seen, but given Miller’s injury history, this news was surprising to say the least. Miller has played in 0 games this season, missed 14 last season, and 24 games the season before. If Miller does come back next year, it’s hard to tell what he can offer and what role he’ll play on the Bruins.
When healthy, Miller has become a steady, strong, physical presence on the blue line, but with serious knee issues, what can he bring now? In addition, a new contract for Miller means a player like Jeremy Lauzon will have to wait patiently for another shot in Boston.
Steven Kampfer has quietly done a very admirable job during his time in Boston. When called upon, which has been very infrequently, Kampfer has been able to step in and do pretty much all you could ask from a 6th defenseman. Not flashy in any way, but reliable enough to fill in when needed.
Kampfer is signed through 2020-2021 for an affordable $800K AAV and will most likely bounce between Providence and the 9th floor of the Garden next year, with the occasional injury fill-in when the B’s get desperate.
Jeremy Lauzon, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril
On to the kids!
This season was kind of a break-out year for Jeremy Lauzon in Boston. Due to injuries on the back-end, Lauzon was given the opportunity to play in 19 games for the B's, where he clearly showed his game had matured to the next level.
Though his offensive game still needs development, Lauzon was able to bring some physicality when the Bruins needed it and showed confidence and mobility with the puck. Sweeney pulled off a great deal signing Lauzon to a 2-year extension at $850K per season. Lauzon could very will be the replacement if Grzelcyk or Moore are moved this off-season.
Although many Bruins fans are anxious to see Urho Vaakanainen in Boston sooner than later, they'll probably have to wait another year. Offensively, Vaakanainen has had a disappointing season in Providence, and while his defense has been been better (according to some scouts), it’s still not as strong as Lauzon or Zboril.
Speaking of Zboril, you can expect he will get a long look at next year's training camp. Zboril, who has been proclaimed a bust by many, has gotten stronger and become more reliable in his own end.
His offensisve abilities really haven't changed much, but he could become a nice depth defender in a year or so.
If you were Don Sweeney and Co. what would be your strategy going into the off-season with regards to the defense? How much is Torey Krug worth to you? If he re-signs, who stays and who goes? Is it time to bring up some youth?