With the draft over and done with, and a year of extreme change ahead for the B’s, there’s a mere two days before free agency begins, and the NHL goes nuts in trying to move assets around.
For the B’s, it could very well be the last season for awhile where they are contending seriously, but it also could be the wonderful last dance of Patrice Bergeron. There are many paths in front of the Bruins in this upcoming free agency. All of whom could change the team siginificantly.
But first, how they’re doing on the “Re-sign everybody of value” front
At the Draft, Sweeney suggested that talks with David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron are going well, though of course wouldn’t commit to saying beyond “Progress made”, and certainly no numbers thrown around yet.
The Pastrnak one is likely to come much sooner; both sides recognize that over the past few years, very few players have been an arbiter of how well the Bruins are doing than he is; only surpassed by Marchand and Bergeron. They spoke to his agents, they made it clear they want him to stick around, and both sides want to get this hammered out as soon as possible. He’ll likely become quite moneyed, if that’s the case, but Boston is pretty good at getting stars to cut back, so we’ll see.
Bergeron’s possible deal is much murkier however, as he is still recovering from injuries sustained last season that needed attention, and as a result neither side seems to want to rush this in case of setbacks that could draw out the amount of time Boston is without Bergeron. They’re letting him make his decision at his own pace, though they expect something by Wednesday.
As for rumors of David Krejci, they’ve been in touch, he’s in Boston for...well, I’m sure he has plenty of good reasons to visit Boston, but right now it’s up to him to make the call on returning. Personally speaking, given the very long-term, “My kids can’t understand what Babička says when she talks”-reasoning behind his initial departure, I’d plan for life without Krejci, while seeing his return as a very welcome surprise if it does happen.
Road 1: Go all in.
If the most fan pleasing scenario of Bergeron and Kreji come back for one more go, then the Bruins will need to go make whatever moves possible to ensure that the season goes as long as possible into the spring and summer of 2023. Whatever it takes, and make it abundantly clear to the organization; this is the last possible chance you get with Bergeron, and there’s an implicit message that if it doesn’t happen...it will be very hard to go that far again.
As a result, they will need to start making cuts to their cap and their roster in order to do it. They might have to make extremely difficult choices on whether or not players like Mike Reilly or even Taylor Hall could stay Bruins if they can address the needs possible to get back into the playoff race and stay in for the long hall. This road will be the most aggressive of the bunch. The Bruins by the end will be very different from where they started.
But if you can go the distance? It’ll be worth the agony on the other side.
Option 2: Laser focus in on key neglected positions.
The Boston Bruins need a 2nd line center.
I know they have winger concerns and I know their depth isn’t very punchy and half their defense is going to be playing their first games of the year closer to American Thanksgiving, but this remains the smoking gun that killed the Bruins last year and the year before; lack of depth at Center remained a key issue that the team couldn’t overcome when it mattered most. Which means that if you’re getting one of Krejci and Bergeron back, you need that extra punch. Erik Haula is a good hockey player, but he’s not going to cut it if they want to make another run at the playoffs; they need an upgrade badly.
They need a 2nd line center in order to make any other decision this offseason even close to worth it.
Option 3: Prepare for the Worst.
On the very off chance that the worst case scenario happens on Wednesday and Patrice Bergeron decides he cannot come back to the Boston Bruins, Everything said above will be even worse than before and will need extremely quick correction.
On the bright side, it does put Boston back in the market for a player along the lines of Nazem Kadri, who is technically younger than Bergeron...
...But still, those are gigantic shoes to fill. And I think we all know that there’s no real “replacement” for Bergeron that isn’t already locked up to tons of cash. If this happens, Don’s entire offseason suddenly revolves around getting a #1 center, regardless of what other holes need filling...and the fact that much of your d-corps is now very, very injured.
Option 4: Run most of it back, assume everything’s fine.
I mean...it’s an option.
It’s a bad option, but it’s there.
And while the road is there, I need you to understand blowing it up is not an option right now.
I know what a few of you are thinking. Some of you who can’t see a path to the cup right now would rather rip the band-aid off and begin what you’re expecting to be the next chapter of the Boston Bruins rather than let this variation of the team languish.
That is not going to happen while the Jacobs's are in charge, and furthermore even if they did end up being unable to make the playoffs this year, they still do not have the lack of talent necessary to lose enough to get into the race for Michkov, Fantilli, Dvorsky, or god forbid Connor Bedard. If you can believe it, they’re just not bad enough to contend for the first overall pick at the 2023 draft.
Blowing it up does not just mean all the depth guys you don’t care about disappear from the team. It means a lot of players most people kind of like and own jerseys for disappearing for picks and prospects; It means McAvoy, since he’s no longer a rookie. It means Pastrnak. It means Marchand. It might mean Swayman.
That’s blowing it up.
You really want some of that? That’s what you’re looking for.
Regardless of what road Sweeneely chooses for the B’s this offseason, a lot of it hinges on one player; something that probably should’ve been avoided years ago, but it’s where we are now.
Let’s see on Wednesday where this goes.