By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Bruins may be in a bit of a “holding pattern” with their offseason moves right now, but their plans for next season continue to become more clear.
David Pastrnak’s extension, which is holding up the rest of Don Sweeney’s blueprint for the 2017-18 Bruins, will be the first and largest domino of several left to fall before the season. But the Bruins just completed their annual Development Camp, and it sounds like Sweeney prefers to fill remaining roster voids in-house.
According to the Boston Herald’s Steve Conroy, Sweeney is still looking for “veteran help” outside the organization. But after the B’s passed on the initial burst of veteran free agents, it’s likely that Sweeney would feel comfortable handing key roster roles to rookies and rising prospects.
The kids – and there are a lot of them – look like Plan A.
Conroy described Sweeney as “publicly bullish” on the Bruins’ deep crop of prospects that will get a real chance to crack the NHL roster. Left winger Anders Bjork headlines the list of newcomers with a chance to seize an important role early on.
Bjork’s potential role is David Krejci’s left wing, but he won’t be without competition. Former 2015 first-round pick Jake DeBrusk could also have a chance.
On the third line, Matt Beleskey could land next to either Ryan Spooner or 20-year-old Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson at center, depending on what they B’s do with Spooner. His potential arbitration hearing with the B’s would take place July 26, but it’s more likely they come to an agreement on a one or two-year deal that pays him $2-3 million per season. This could complicate JFK’s short-term future.
Sweeney is reportedly still “in contact” with 2017 deadline addition Drew Stafford, but it’s likely that he is more of a “Plan B” option at this point. If Sweeney got his way, he’d likely rather give other prospects a chance to make the jump. Zach Senyshyn, another 2015 first-round pick, could get a shot. Danton Heinen and Peter Cehlarik, both of which made brief cameos at the NHL level last season, will also likely get a look in training camp, and Frank Vatrano also remains in the mix as he enters the final year of his rookie deal.
The fourth line looks locked in with Tim Schaller, Riley Nash, and Noel Acciari all signed on for 2017-18, but the two aforementioned wing spots have a good chance of being scooped up by one of the team’s many promising young players.
The defense, however, could be where Sweeney turns to a veteran stopgap. Sweeney sounds hesitant to pair Charlie McAvoy with one of his many young left-shot defense prospects.
“We’ve got some great internal competition set up, and I do believe there’s a couple [young players] that aren’t here that got a taste last year that will also challenge, particularly up front. Probably on the back end not as much, which has led me to look outside,” said Sweeney.
It can’t be ruled out that Jakub Zboril, Rob O’Gara, Jeremy Lauzon, or Matt Grzelcyk make the team as the left-shooting defenseman to play next to the right-shooting McAvoy. But Sweeney sounds prepared to sign a veteran in their place, as long as it’s for an affordable one-year deal. Perhaps remaining UFAs like Johnny Oduya, Francois Beauchemin, or Mark Streit would be options in that department.
But ultimately, Sweeney is looking to the future rather than the present or the past. He knows there are a limited amount of spots to fill on the roster and plenty of young candidates who could seize them in training camp. He’s best served giving them that chance before making the team older.
Matt Dolloff is a writer/producer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @Dolloff985 and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.