Over the next couple of months, I will be taking a closer look at each of the Eastern Conference teams to show what their current status is and where their offseason focus lies. Knowing a team’s strategy should provide extra assistance in any offseason trading or keeper decisions. First off, we’ll start with the Boston Bruins.
Rostered players signed for next season: 18*
Available cap space: $5.27M*
The Boston cap space above (taken from capgeek.com) includes Marc Savard’s $4M cap hit, so technically the Bruins have about $9.2M of available cap space dedicated to nine forwards (if you include Jordan Caron for next season which should be a safe bet), six defensemen (if you include Torey Krug’s $1.7M cap hit – although he very well may end up in Providence), and two goalies (Thomas and Khudobin).
With this setup, the Bruins top six is fairly solidified with Lucic-Krejci-Horton and Marchand-Bergeron-Seguin occupying the two top lines. That leaves Rich Peverley fighting to get back in the fold, but if Horton is still out at the beginning of the season, he may just have a top six role after all. What that leaves is Jordan Caron and Shawn Thornton for third and fourth line minutes. With Chris Kelly’s huge year, he will likely ask for more money than Boston is willing to pay, but at least one if not both of Greg Campbell and Daniel Paille could be brought back. If not them, similar role players will acquired through free agency or trade.
In terms of forward prospects, the top candidates to graduate to full time NHL duty are Jordan Caron, Carter Camper, Craig Cunningham, and Kirk McDonald. Caron has seen the most time in Boston, but Camper and Cunningham have decent offensive skillsets (though small) and could turn a few heads if given the right opportunity next season. McDonald is not known for his offense, but has taken on more leadership in Providence, most recently being named alternate captain for the 2011-12 season. He could potentially slot in as a cheap depth forward, although if the Bruins choose this route they will likely be in the market for additional veterans to balance the locker room presence.
On defense, the Bruins are locked in with Chara and Seidenberg as their top pair. After that pair, Ference, Boychuk, and McQuaid are all under contract for at least next season. Zanon and Mottau are almost certain to be let go, which leaves Joe Corvo’s status up in the air. The Bruins will most likely walk from Corvo’s contract as they look to bring in the highly touted Dougie Hamilton. Although most Dobberites are familiar with Hamilton’s hype, one of his main competitors will be 2011-12 CCHA player of the year Torey Krug. For those who don’t recognize the name, the undrafted Krug was also a Hobey Baker finalist and after signing with the Bruins in March, he stepped right into NHL action for two games at the end of the season, registering one assist. The one knock on Krug is his size (5’9”, 180 lbs), but he is certainly strong competition.
Lastly, the Bruins have one of the best goaltenders in the game still under contract in Tim Thomas. The problem is that they also have one of the best emerging goaltenders in the game in Tuukka Rask, and Rask needs a contract extension. While it’s unlikely that Rask is moved, the Bruins do have a very promising – although relatively untested – goaltender in Anton Khudobin. Khudobin has only been able to get into NHL action for a handful of games each of the last three seasons, but he has been dominant almost every time. His only NHL appearance in 2011-12 was a 44-save victory (.978 save percentage) over the Ottawa Senators on the road. In seven NHL appearances, Khudobin is 5-1, with a 1.32 GAA, .961 save percentage, and a shutout. Although it would not be the ideal set of circumstances, the Bruins could potentially move Rask if the value is high enough and still be set with a solid backup in Khudobin. This may not be the best long term move though, which is why the Bruins will do everything in their power to keep Rask in Boston.
As good as Khudobin has been, he has had a hard time getting a full time opportunity. While it might be a bit risky, the Bruins could have a phenomenal goaltending tandem if they moved Tim Thomas and opened the season with Rask and Khudobin. If that were to happen, Khudobin would provide significant fantasy contributions in a backup or 1b role.
Biggest holes to fill: The Bruins really need to decide how they plan on filling out their depth lines next season and beyond. Depending on how much the existing crop will command, they may need to look to the UFA market to fill these holes. If they go that route, players like Sami Pahlsson, Jay McClement, Dominic Moore, and Ryan Carter could be viable, affordable options.
It will also be interesting to see how much scoring the Bruins decide to carry on their third line, specifically if they want to give Peverley some talent to skate with in hopes of having a deep offensive attack. Besides Peverley, the Bruins have a light cupboard of players who have top line NHL experience under their belt. For insurance reasons alone, the Bruins might look to bring in two or three more versatile players who can play on any line.
Priorities: The number one priority for the Bruins has to be to get Tuukka Rask’s situation handled. While Rask is an RFA who could only be signed to an offer sheet, that is one headache that nobody needs. Next would be to add a few depth forwards who can play strong two-way hockey.
All in all the Bruins are not in terrible shape. Their top six forwards are locked and depending on which direction management goes, the third and fourth lines should not be too difficult to fill. On defense, most of the roster is solidified and they have two emerging, fantasy relevant defensemen who will engage in healthy competition – that situation will be very interesting to watch from a fantasy perspective. In goal, the Bruins could certainly continue to move forward with a Thomas/Rask combination, but they also have the luxury of rolling the dice on a Rask/Khudobin combination if they choose.
If you can own any of the top six Bruins forwards, they should all be in great shape to continue producing, but there is not much value outside of those players (although this may change depending on what kind of third line talent is brought in). Depending on your scoring categories, Boston has a few defensemen that are certainly worth owning, especially if they keep Thomas and Rask in town (plus/minus doesn’t hurt too badly when your goaltender is amazing). Lastly, whoever Boston decides to roll the dice with next season, both the starter and the backup should be good options.
Got anything to add? Feel free to add your opinion below.