On Wednesday, the Boston Bruins officially put a bow on the 2017-18 season when owner and chairman Jeremy Jacobs, CEO Charlie Jacobs and president Cam Neely addressed the media at TD Garden in their annual end-of-season press conference. The Bruins management group was overall satisfied with the club's performance, despite the fact that their run ended in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, where the Tampa Bay Lightning eliminated the Bruins in five games, but did mention there was much room for improvement.
Joe Haggerty of NBC Sports in Boston has reported that Neely has made his offseason shopping list public, and put together seven targets from the Bruins during the summer, following the team's president's comments during the club's end of the season press conference.
“Right now, I think we need to figure out what we’re doing with the backup goaltender. That’s an important piece. If we’re going to have the goalie be expected to play at least 25 games, then you’re going to need one that’s going to give you some really good starts,” said Neely. “Then after that, you could pick between the forward group. I think we have enough skill and offensive talent, but it just dried up for us for whatever reason in the playoffs.
Bruins current backup Anton Khudobin was great when called upon this season. The veteran netminder played 31 games to starting goalie Tuukka Rask’s 54 games for the Bruins in 2017-18. Those 54 games represent the fewest Rask has played in a season since he and Tim Thomas were splitting starts five years ago. In other words, Khudobin did a fantastic job of pushing Rask. Still, based on Neely’s latest assessment, the Bruins need someone to push him even more.
The free agent market this offseason is a veritable goalie graveyard with players like Kari Lehtonen, Jaroslav Halak, Cam Ward, Jonathan Bernier, Eddie Lack, Andrew Hammond and… Khudobin himself. Whether or not any of the above options represent an upgrade over Khudobin himself is anyone’s guess.
Neely also pointed out the need to upgrade the defense, and Haggerty gave him loads of options on who to get to cross that off his shopping list. Haggerty listed Minnesota Wild's Jonas Brodin, Edmonton Oilers' Oscar Kelfbom - not the first time you hear his name in trades speculation with the Bruins - and Noah Hanifin of the Carolina Hurricanes.
“We just weren’t getting anything five-on-five, or from the secondary piece of it. On the back end, I think you see what happens when you watch enough of the playoffs. Everything gets ramped up, even the physicality. It’s not quite where it used to be, but it still really gets ramped up in the playoffs. So in an ideal world, you find a guy that can skate, retrieve pucks and be a big body on the back end, then that’s what you would love to have.”
A lot of work to come, especially since the Bruins will also keep an eye on Toronto Maple Leafs pending free agent forward James van Riemsdyk. Let's see what Neely will have crossed off the list once October rolls around.