BOSTON (CBS) — The Bruins have some holes to fill on their roster, and they could do so as quickly as noon on Saturday, July 1 when the NHL free agency period kicks off.
The B’s made one of the biggest splashes of the offseason last July 1, when their five-year deal with David Backes was announced mere minutes after the start of free agency. Backes’ first season in Boston wasn’t the best of his career, but Backes still has time to bounce back and provide the same combo of scoring, toughness, and leadership that he brought to the Blues.
There won’t necessarily be another major move from the Bruins in this year’s relatively thin free agency class, but they have been linked to Kevin Shattenkirk. Still, Don Sweeney may be best served extending restricted free agent David Pastrnak while filling roster voids with mid-level free-agent signings.
Here’s a look at the Bruins’ biggest positions of need, and who they could end up signing.
CBS Boston Sports’ Matt Kalman went over the Bruins’ options at the left wing position, among other spots, in free agency. Some of these names popped up (for better or worse), and they all follow the same theme of veteran short-term options – which is most of the market if the B’s want to land someone who could make an impact on David Krejci’s left wing.
Thomas Vanek: The Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo tweeted on Friday that a “handful” of teams have inquired on the 33-year-old Vanek, who could still pot 20 goals if he can stay on the ice. But his wild streakiness (and potentially high price tag) could ultimately turn the Bruins away.
Chris Kunitz: The four-time Stanley Cup winner would provide the Bruins with experience, toughness, versatility, and (hopefully) a scoring touch. But Kunitz’s agent told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that there are as many as 10 teams calling on his client, which would certainly complicate things.
Patrick Sharp: At least nine teams have reached out to the veteran sniper, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie. Sharp, 35, has battled injuries over the last few seasons and could very well be on the decline, but so is pretty much every viable free-agent left winger out there this summer. His shooting could be a nice complement to Krejci’s playmaking, if Sharp can stay healthy. (UPDATE: Bob McKenzie tweeted that Sharp is expected to sign with the Blackhawks.)
Scott Hartnell: Kalman would not be happy if the B’s went the “big bad Bruins” route and signed Hartnell, who does appear to be rapidly declining at age 35. But the veteran has always felt like a natural fit for Krejci’s wing and could provide added leadership, especially with so many young prospects on the way. As long as the financial commitment isn’t too high, the Bruins could do worse than Hartnell.
The Bruins are in the market for a left-shot defenseman, likely to pair with Charlie McAvoy in his rookie season (and perhaps beyond) or perhaps with Kevan Miller. Shattenkirk rumors aside, Sweeney would be better served trading for the Wild’s Jonas Brodin or adding one of these available veterans.
Johnny Oduya: The Swedish vet could be a great compliment for McAvoy, covering well in the defensive zone and keeping up with dynamic rookie in the skating department. But if a team that’s closer to contending for the Stanley Cup comes calling, it will be tough to acquire him.
Dmitry Kulikov: Kulikov, 26, could provide stability for the next 3-4 years and be a solid, if streaky, two-way defenseman to pair with McAvoy. TSN’s Darren Dreger tweeted on Friday that Kulikov has narrowed his list to four teams before making a decision.
Trevor Daley: The former Penguin would be mobile enough to keep up with McAvoy, or even complement Miller on the third pairing. The Boston Herald’s Steve Conroy reported on Wednesday that the Bruins were talking to Daley, while Pierre LeBrun tweeted on Thursday that the Bruins and Red Wings are competing for his services. (UPDATE: McKenzie tweeted that Daley is expected to sign with the Red Wings.) Michael Del Zotto: He would certainly have the skating and puck-moving ability to work well with McAvoy or Miller, but wouldn’t be an ideal fit at the defensive end. However, Rick Dhaliwal of 1130 Sports Radio in Vancouver tweeted on Friday that the Canucks are the frontrunners to sign him. (UPDATE: McKenzie tweeted that del Zotto is indeed signing with Vancouver.)
The Bruins have been vocal about their quest to find a more viable goaltender to back up Tuukka Rask. They seek a netminder who can be solid enough for 30-plus games and reduce Rask’s workload to keep him fresh for later in the season, ideally someone with starting experience who would represent an upgrade over Anton Khudobin.
Darcy Kuemper: If the Bruins want to aim younger for their backup goalie position, they could turn to the 27-year-old Kuemper. However, he has never started more than 28 games in a season.
Steve Mason: TSN reported on Wednesday that the Jets are likely to sign Mason to share duties with up-and-comer Connor Hellebuyck. Mason could benefit from a reduced role, as he would in Boston. (UPDATE: McKenzie tweeted that Mason is indeed signing with the Jets.) Ondrej Pavelec: Speaking of the Jets, they are moving on from Pavelec. He has declined in recent seasons, but was a workhorse in Winnipeg from 2011-2015. In a reduced role, Pavelec on the Bruins could benefit both himself and Rask. (UPDATE: McKenzie tweeted that Pavelec is expected to sign with the Rangers.)
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