The Boston Bruins are set and ready to go later tonight. It’s that time again my friends, rev up the engines and let’s get this party started. The Bruins will be in Washington to kick off the 2018-19 NHL regular season in mere hours, watching the club’s first ever Stanley Cup banner get raised to the rafters. After that? It’s time to spoil the party.
In preparation for tonight, the Bruins had to get their roster compliant with the NHL’s salary cap prior to 5:00 P.M. yesterday. They did that, with a few surprises mixed in and a few players stuck in limbo as the B’s open with two games in 48 hours.
Bruins 23-Man Roster
The Bruins placed defenseman Torey Krug on injured reserve as he suffered a foot injury in the preseason finale. Krug will be in a walking boot for three weeks, and then will be reevaluated. It’s the same foot Krug hurt in the playoffs last spring, but luckily it is a different injury according to the club.
Here’s a look at the full 23-man roster.
Forwards: Noel Acciari, David Backes, Patrice Bergeron, Anders Bjork, Jake DeBrusk, Ryan Donato, Danton Heinen, David Krejci, Sean Kuraly, Brad Marchand, Joakim Nordstrom, David Pastrnak and Chris Wagner
Defenders: Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, John Moore, Kevan Miller, Matt Grzelcyk, Brandon Carlo, Urho Vaakanainen and Steve Kampfer
Goaltenders: Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak
When Krug returns, it is highly likely that the Bruins will waive Kampfer. He’s a fine depth defender, but has a minimal cap hit that can be buried and many teams have players like Kampfer, making him a player that isn’t likely to be claimed.
Lee Stempniak is still sticking around skating with the team and practiced on Tuesday. He’s still not signed, and his PTO expires today, but general manager Don Sweeney confirmed that the door is still open for him to sign a deal with Boston. That said, Sweeney also confirmed that Stempniak and PTO signing Daniel Winnik were considering other options. Winnik ended up inking a contract in Europe on Tuesday.
There aren’t many surprises with this 23-man group. Rask and Halak were both locks to get roster spots in net, while all but Kampfer and Vaakanainen were expected to make the team defensively. Kampfer is here to serve as depth with Krug out, while Vaakanainen is here to potentially replace Krug in the lineup and get some NHL experience before likely ending up in the AHL to continue his development.
The Krug injury certainly complicates things for the Bruins and forces some players to step up.
Offensively, this is the forward group that I think everyone paying attention expected. Guys like Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Zach Senyshyn had chances to make this roster but simply couldn’t steal a spot.
Replacing Torey Krug
People love to hate him in Boston, but Krug is a very good defender and is tailor-made for today’s NHL. He’s a dynamic puck mover who can play top-four minutes, put up points and anchor a power play. He certainly has his warts, but overall, Krug is an exceptionally talented and important player for this Boston club. They’ll miss him for at least three weeks, but more than likely it’ll be over a month.
Krug missing time complicates the Boston roster. In a perfect world, Krug anchors the second pairing with Carlo, a duo that had tons of success a season ago and helped set Boston’s top-four behind Chara and McAvoy. With Krug gone, Boston is down an elite puck moving defender and a clear top-four option.
Someone is going to have to step up. John Moore is the likely candidate to get top-four minutes, which is something I doubt he expected right off the hop. Moore is a solid NHLer and someone that can play a role on your team but I have serious doubts he can handle a top-four role for an extended stretch.
Urho Vaakanainen is making his NHL debut a little earlier than hoped as well. The Finnish rearguard selected in the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft has a ton of talent and potential but hasn’t had the chance to develop in North America. The Bruins were likely banking on him coming over and playing a big role in Providence, adapting to North America and slowly adjusting to the style. Now, even though he had a strong camp, Vaakanainen is pushed into the NHL lineup right off the hop.
He practiced on the fourth pairing in yesterday, but the door has been left open for him to be in the lineup over the course of the next two nights and for him to see power play time. That can’t be ideal for the Bruins. This complicated position was set up by yet another tough injury to Krug at a bad time.
It doesn’t help that Grzelcyk is banged up as well and might be out of service for the opener. If he returns, the pain is eased a bit, but he’s another young player likely being pushed into a featured role far too early.
Love him or hate him, the Bruins need Krug back. The 23-man roster looks good, but Boston’s defensive situation has been complicated by this unfortunate injury.