In the two weeks that have passed since the Boston Bruins’ playoff elimination at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning, there has been no shortage of post-mortem reports on the reasons why the team fell short of their ultimate goal. Where does this team need to improve if they’re going to compete for a Stanley Cup in 2018-19? What’s general manager Don Sweeney’s plan? And what do they do continue to reinvent themselves without going into a full-on draft rebuild?
Bruins president Cam Neely was clear on his offseason target: Another mobile, puck moving defenseman. Neely has indicated that the team’s preference is to add “a guy that can skate, retrieve pucks, and is a big body on the back end.”
Spector Hockey’s Lyle Richardson believes the Bruins could seek to fill those needs via free agency, but that the options are limited. Assuming leading defensive scorer Torey Krug remains with the team, it’s likely that Sweeney and Neely will look for a partner with more size and snarl than the 5’9”, 174 pound Matt Grzelcyk. So… who’s out there this summer?
Amongst the free agent options, Richardson highlights the Columbus Blue Jackets’ Ian Cole, Dallas Stars’ Dan Hamhuis, New Jersey Devils’ John Moore and Vegas Golden Knights’ Luca Sbisa as potential blue line options. If none of those names blow off your socks, well…. we don’t blame you. The truth is though that the Bruins don’t need to hit a free-agent home run, so they won’t go swinging after the likes of John Carlson on the free-agent market or Erik Karlsson on the trade market. A steady puck mover with the ability to block shots and clear the front of the net should be just what the doctor ordered.
A player like Cole, Hamhuis, Moore or Sbisa may not exactly turn the Bruins into an instant contender, but by adding such a player to the roster, the Bruins’ young defenders like Grzelcyk, Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy will be afforded some more time to find their footing. After all, the youngsters are just 24, 21 and 20 years old respectively. With pending UFA Nick Holden unlikely to return, the Bruins will most definitely be targeting a replacement. It's just a matter of who and at what cost?