It’s safe to say that the 2022 offseason is going to be a big one for the Boston Bruins. There are so many “what if’s’’ surrounding the organization on so many fronts. What do they do with their own free agents? How do they build the roster for the 2022-23 season? How active are they going to be on the trade market and free agency, all while not having their first-round pick in July’s Entry Draft? Will they rebuild? I don’t believe (although they should) they will go that route, unless their hand is forced by some players off-season decisions.
So many questions will be answered over the summer with the Black and Gold and here are some predictions for the Bruins’ 2022 offseason.
Jake DeBrusk Gets Traded
I know, I’m, not going out on a limb with this one, but it’s time to end the DeBrusk saga and move on, despite Bruce Cassidy’s firing. His value was pretty high around the trade deadline and the Bruins held onto him after signing him to a two-year contract extension for $8 million. He finished the season with 25 goals, two shy of his career-high in 2018-19 and he played some of his best hockey after being moved up to the first line in late February.
Once again, you could make the case that DeBrusk’s stock is high right now and this could be the time to move him this offseason, whether it’s with a package deal or a straight-up deal. Holding onto him does not guarantee that he has the same season in Boston next season. Despite the recent news of Brad Marchand’s surgery that will keep him sidelined for six months, a change of scenery might do DeBrusk good and a deal could fill a void on the roster.
Bruins Buy-Out Nick Foligno
General manager (GM) Don Sweeney said this won’t happen, but I believe it could be and should be on the table, especially if the Bruins run it back with the idea of trying to win next season (from ‘General manager Don Sweeney concedes that Bruins could be facing a rebuild after firing Bruce Cassidy,’ The Boston Globe, 6/8/22). The idea was good at the time, bring a veteran into the locker room as a bottom-six forward and even mentor DeBrusk on the third line, but things did not go the way that the Bruins or Foligno had hoped. He had two goals and 13 points while finishing with a plus/minus of minus-13.
It was never a good fit for Foligno and the Bruins. It’s best if the Bruins buy him out, cut their loss, and move along and he can try to catch on with another team. He carries a $3.8 million cap hit for the 2022-23 season, which is a steep price for someone who had the year Foligno had.
Bruins Trade Mike Reilly
At the trade deadline, the Bruins landed the prize left-shot defensemen when they got Hampus Lindholm from the Anaheim Ducks. After acquiring him, Sweeney signed Lindholm to an extension for eight years and $52 million to be Charlie McAvoy’s partner on the top pairing. On May 16, the Bruins announced that they are bringing back Jakub Zboril on a two-year deal, which leaves the Black and Gold with a crowded left side.
Reilly signed for three years last summer for $9 million and following the Lindholm trade, he found himself as a healthy scratch a lot of nights. He did fill in during Lindholm’s injuries, but looking at the depth chart on the left side right now, he is the odd man out. Dealing Reilly, who recently had ankle surgery and has a three-month recovery period, could fetch a draft pick in the middle rounds, but would take $3 million off the books for next season and open up more cap space. Despite his surgery, still look for Sweeney to try and trade Reilly.
Bruins Sign Pastrnak to an Extension
Fluota Shinzawa of The Athletic threw out there that trading David Pastrnak amid a rebuild is possible, but until it happens, I don’t believe it will happen (from ‘A David Pastrnak trade and full rebuild loom as a possible next step for Bruins,’ The Athletic, 6/7/22). One thing that Sweeney has been good with is locking up players on extensions before they hit free agency. He did in the last eight months with McAvoy and Lindholm. Now, another name that needs to be locked up for the future before he hits free agency is Pastrnak. His team-friendly six-year, $40 million deal expires following the 2022-23 season and the Bruins can not afford to let him hit free agency.
Sweeney has locked up his top pairing on defense for nearly the next decade and he would be wise to do with his gifted right wing this offseason to avoid that hanging over Pastrnak and the team next season. The Bruins GM made it clear at his end of the season media availability that when it’s time to talk, he will try and has out a deal.
“He knows that there’s mutual respect from David, me and his camp,” said Sweeney. “And we’ll dive right into it at the earliest possible time that we’re allowed to and get that indication. There’s never been an indication otherwise that this is where he wants to play. He wants to win. He’s obviously a great player and an important player for us. And we’ll attack it like we have done with all the other players that we feel the same way.”
This could happen quickly or it could go up until training camp like McAvoy did last season, but when Pastrnak takes the ice on opening night, he should have a new contract extension worked out.
Bruins Hire Jay Leach as Head Coach
Following the fire of Cassidy, Sweeney is on the hunt for a new head coach, and the name that makes the most sense is Leach. He spent time as head of the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League for four seasons from 2016-21, before leaving last summer to join Dave Hakstol’s staff with the expansion Seattle Kraken.
Leach has very good knowledge of the Bruins roster and coached current Boston players DeBrusk, Matt Grzelcyk, Trent Frederic, and Connor Clifton with the P-Bruins. Sweeney wants a new voice in the locker room and no one that’s available knows the room better than Leach. Going into a new position in Boston with first-hand knowledge of the roster is a huge plus to begin the 2022-23 season.
The direction that the front office is going to take this summer is going to everyone a lot. They should go into a rebuild, but to me, that’s not Sweeney or in Cam Neely’s DNA. Until they announce that they are making drastic changes and hitting the reset button, we’ll go with these predictions.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.