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Bruins offseason road map: Where does Don start?

The Bruins have an offseason full of tough questions ahead of them. Let’s take a look at where they could possibly begin.

2023 NHL Winter Classic - Practices & Family Skate Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images

Well, it’s the offseason and...

I am still annoyed at how Round 1 went.

Not at any particular player, though I definitely have come to terms with a couple of names I will be much happier to not see in Black and gold next year. I’m more just sad and perplexed as to where you start on building back up. You already had one of the best regular seasons in team history and got real damn close to having one of the best regular seasons of all time and then you got punked out by Sergei Bobrovsky and a collection of individually talented dudes playing their least fun game possible.

Where do you go from there? How do you go from there?

That’s the question that Don Sweeney needs to answer; with no first round pick, a few million in cap space...and a lot of things that need figuring out.

Let’s start with the Big Question to Bergeron and Krejci

“Are you coming back this year?”

That’s it.

It’s not really much of a question, but it is kind of a huge one that informs the rest of this article. If you get a yes from one but not the other, that gives you a target. If you get a “No” from both, it sets your summer. If you get a “Yes” back, it also sets your summer. As with last year, everything hinges on this pair of guys deciding to run it back.

We’ve currently settled on “I’ll think about it” as an answer for right now. That...really can’t go much farther past June 10th. If there’s a chance you start the season with a gaping hole at center, you need to jumpstart your thoughts of the future or hard pivot Pavel Zacha into a top 6 center role.

And while I absolutely love both of these players dearly and will thank them for their service with a loving tribute if they do end up finishing their careers...I think there’s only one I would actually want back next year.

Father time is undefeated indeed. Except if you’re Patrice Bergeron. Then Father Time will wait for you patiently to just retire.

Which UFA’s do you keep?:

I dunno how often you check the Capfriendly page for Boston, but the Bruins have a ton of Unrestricted Free Agents that need a new sweater.

I mean...a lot of UFA’s that need a new sweater.

There are some real tough choices to make: Nick Foligno didn’t have an ideal playoffs but he certainly looked like he’d finally healed from his myriad injuries and became a decent contributor in the depth, Dmitry Orlov was a revelation on the back-end that made the Bruins attack that much harder to face, Tyler Bertuzzi made tons of fans by being a net-front presence and a nightmare to adequately defend.

...But you got about 4.9 million to work with as of right now. You absolutely could improve it by moving a body or two, but even still, that’s a bit tight.

Which high-energy offense guys do you keep? Do you stick with Bertuzzi, knowing that he’s as high event as they come in both directions of the ice? Do you stick with Orlov, who allowed the Bruins defense to be as formidable (when uninjured, anyway) as it was down the stretch?

What about the depth guys? Do you decide that enough is enough and forcefully inject “youth” into the lineup with a mass-call up of guys like Georgii Merkulov, Fabian Lysell, and Oskar Steen? Or do you think that Foligno, Nosek, and Hathaway have earned a chance to come back?

That doesn’t even take into account that DeBrusk, Greer, Gryz, Reilly and Zboril are up next year. Or the uh...

“Robust.” Let’s call it “Robust”.

...amount of Providence Bruins looking for a new contract.

I know my answer for the NHL roster (GET YOUNGER), but I don’t make that call.

Regarding RFAs:

While there are only a couple of NHL Roster RFAs, they’re big ones.

Trent Frederic was a bit of a head scratcher when he was initially drafted as initial impressions from the draft floor were that the B’s specifically got him so he could fill a role in the Bottom 6, which goes against a lot of good understanding on how all this works.

Turns out, Freddy has become quite an engaging Bottom 6 player. He’s definitely got some warts in his game (particularly regarding his finish), but if you wanted a depth forward who could satisfactorily get the puck going in the right’s hard to pick a better one right now than Trent.

Hard to beat that for league minimum!

But that in and of itself presents an issue. Freddy is a good Bottom 6 forward; a really good one.

Can you really give him a significant raise? What does a significant raise for Trent Frederic look like? 2.5 to 3 million AAV? For how long?

Which then of course, turns your attention to the other RFA.

Goaltender Jeremy Swayman.

Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman are the kind of luxury most teams in the conference, let alone division, would kill for; certainty in net. Ullmark was a surprise to be sure, but a very welcome one. Swayman, while he had his stumbles, finished with an exceptional .920 SV%, especially given just how far league SV% has fallen over the last two or three years. He’s provably one of the strongest parts of the team going forward.

Now he needs a raise.

What do you do for that? Can you do that? You probably should; your team’s understanding of how goaltending works these days seems to be a near 50/50 split of workload. But what does that extension look like? He’s set to be the future of the goaltending corps, so how many years can you give him? Can you convince him to take a “prove it” contract knowing that Ullmark’s deal expires in a short two years?

Should you even keep him at all?

These two players are already a major pair of difficult choices

Oh yeah, and there is a Draft before all of that.

Not much of one for Boston, given that they only have five picks and none of them before Round 3. But there is a draft they are actively participating in.

Namely, one that might behoove the Bruins to maybe try and get into earlier, because all the prognosticators say this is a draft that could be one of the strongest in a good long time; and not just because the top 5; the soothesayers of teenager hockey are very high on this whole package. So it might do a prospect system that has taken some lumps over the past couple of years (as you might expect; the goal is not to build, but to win.) some good to get more of the higher end talent...if you’re willing to part with someone good to get back into the first round.

It’s a painful choice for magic beans.

But those beans are liked by the crystal ball havers more than other previous magic beans. Especially because they don’t know what is coming afterwards thanks to The Thing What Ended Life As We Know It.

The Bruins, to put it bluntly, failed themselves this playoffs. They played some of the best hockey they could, got even better, and are now watching in disgust as Bruce Cassidy and the Knights cruise to a commanding 2-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Finals.

But the NHL is funny. A savvy GM can make the inherent unfairness of it work for them and for the most part, I would say that Sweeney does know how to handle it.

It’s just that now, he has a lot less wiggle room than he did last year to get them back into a playoff spot. If he gets the worst possible news on the subject, he may not have a choice but to make big moves and fast.

The future of the team is once again in your hands, Donnie.

We’ll see what happens at the Draft.