A memorable but ultimately disappointing playoff run is over. The Boston Bruins came within one win of hockey’s ultimate prize, but a host of injuries and stellar play by a rookie goaltender sent them home empty-handed. The Stanley Cup Finals are over, but the Boston Bruins off-season has just begun. Several important roster players are set to become restricted free agents, and depth concerns need to be addressed. If the Bruins want to stay competitive in an increasingly strong Atlantic Division, there is work to be done this summer.
Boston Bruins Off-season Priorities
Several key members of the Bruins roster are going to become restricted free agents this offseason. RFAs are hot button issue this summer, but that works to the Bruins advantage. The so-called “summer of offer sheets” will cause headaches for teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs, but the spotlight being off of Boston will be beneficial as they address their contracts. Danton Heinen, Charlie McAvoy, and Brandon Carlo are the RFAs the Bruins have to deal with.
With just over $14 million in cap room, the Bruins must make keeping McAvoy and Carlo priority number one. Both defensemen play vital roles in all phases of play, and Carlo’s price tag shouldn’t be too high. McAvoy may command a premium payday, but nothing like what teams in the Erik Karlsson sweepstakes will have to spend. Getting McAvoy and Carlo on long term deals is the Bruins number one priority this offseason.
While the two defensive RFAs are must-haves, the Bruins should consider moving on from Heinen. He’s spent two full seasons in Boston, and never really found his stride. After an acceptable 47 point rookie season (16 goals and 31 assists), he only managed 34 points this campaign. It’s hard to believe that he’ll eclipse 50 points, even in his best year. The Bruins likely wouldn’t receive much compensation if he picked up in free agency, but there are better options than Heinen already available in the team. It’s time for the Bruins and Heinen to part ways this off-season.
Unrestricted Free Agent Options
When the Bruins acquired Marcus Johansson at the trade deadline, no one knew what the expect. Johansson is a talented forward plagued with injury problems, and there were questions about what he could actually do to help the team. Despite missing most of the remaining regular season, Johansson was a force in the playoffs. He can play any forward position effectively and adapted well to anywhere he was needed. Johansson will not be cheap, and will almost certainly require the Bruins to make other moves to keep on the roster. However, his ability to slot in anywhere in the top nine is vital, and passing on Heinen might help free the cap space.
The Bruins fourth line was vital in their cup run. Unfortunately, the time to let Noel Acciari leave as a UFA is now. The Bruins have plenty of players in their system who can play where Acciari did, for less money. Any cent the Boston Bruins can save this off-season will make Johansson easier to keep. Acciari may be a fan favorite, but it’s time to let him go.
Taking Care of Backes
David Backes has the worst contract on the team, and there’s not much the Bruins can do about it. His cap hit is $6,000,000 and he managed a whopping 20 points last season. He only played in a little more than half of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and sat out the last three games of the finals. Finding a way to get Backes off the books opens up a world of possibilities for the Boston Bruins offseason, but it will not be easy.
A buyout is not an option. Opting to buy out the contract would only clear $333,333 of cap space for the 2019-20 season. At only 35-years-old, the long-term injury reserve route is a stretch, even with Backes’ history of head injuries. The Bruins would certainly need to engineer a trade, but the list of teams willing to take 20-point scorer for $6 million is incredibly small. A few teams may be willing to take on that contract if the Bruins provided some incentives. Pairing Backes with a few high picks may be it takes. The only issue is that Backes has an eight team no-movement clause. The Bruins need to work hard to move the veteran forward. The extra cap space opens the door on keeping Johansson and pursuing other talent in the free agency.
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – MAY 09: Marcus Johansson #90 of the Boston Bruins scores a goal during the third period against the Carolina Hurricanes in Game One of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden on May 09, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)