The Boston Bruins are looking to make some upgrades. That much is clear after restricted free agent Joe Morrow did not receive a qualifying offer on Monday.
General manager Don Sweeney has admitted that he is looking to improve the team in its present form. Reports have also surfaced that Boston was willing to trade their first-round pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
Don Sweeney offered No. 18 for a "target-specific" player. Was not accepted.
— Fluto Shinzawa (@FlutoShinzawa) June 24, 2017
The Bruins were able to land defenseman Urho Vaakanainen with that draft pick—already a serious upgrade from Morrow. Fans and critics alike, however, expect the team to make some big moves this offseason.
Joe Morrow UFA
Joe Morrow has been on the bubble for the entirety of his professional career.
Racking up 151 points across 227 with the WHL’s Portland Winter Hawks, Morrow was selected by the Pittsburgh Penguins 23rd overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
He split the 2012-13 season between the AHL’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Texas Stars, registering 19 points in 66 games. Dallas then sent Morrow to the Bruins who was the sole piece remaining in Boston from the Tyler Seguin trade.
Morrow has played a total of 65 games in the NHL, all with Boston, over the course of three seasons. During that time, the Edmonton, Alberta-native has produced two goals and nine points. He has a rating of minus-8 while averaging just short of 16 minutes of ice-time per game.
Morrow failing to receive a qualifying offer indicates that Sweeney is looking to make immediate upgrades at the position. Though a starting six of Zdeno Chara, Brandon Carlo, Torey Krug, Charlie McAvoy, Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller is a good start, don’t expect Sweeney to merely bring in a seventh defenseman to replace Morrow. He likely has his sights set higher than that.
Free Agent Frenzy
While Sweeney failed to move the 18th overall pick, that doesn’t mean he’s done looking to make immediate improvements. The Bruins have $13 million worth of cap space before re-signing David Pastrnak, allowing them to make a big splash in free agency if they please.
Michael Del Zotto, Nick Bonino, Joe Thornton, Kevan Shattenkirk, and Thomas Vanek are just a handful of unrestricted free agents this season. If their teams are unable to reel them in, expect Sweeney to go fishing for a new addition.
While the Bruins could best bolster their defense through trade, the Bruins could address the forward position via free agency. Sweeney should be looking for a top-six rental to play alongside Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, and David Backes.
The Bruins will be able to fill out their bottom-six with guys already on the roster or in Providence. Guys like Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen, Anders Bjork, and Jacob Forsbacka-Karlsson are expected to break into Boston’s lineup this season. Beleskey and Hayes could remain a part of that group if they are not dumped by Sweeney. Riley Nash will find himself centering a line in that bottom-six after a campaign with the team last season worthy of being protected from the expansion draft.
That leaves one hole on the roster that needs to be filled once the market opens on July 1st. If the Bruins can land a top-six rental, they’ll be in for a good regular season.
However, Sweeney will have to make some trades if the Bruins are going to be Stanley Cup contenders.
Considering every team lost someone to the Vegas Golden Knights, one would expect GM’s around the league to be active this offseason. That is something the Bruins have already looked to capitalize on.
Boston has been connected to Jonas Brodin and Marco Scandella of the Minnesota Wild. Brodin is a proven top-four defenseman and Scandella could easily break into the starting lineup. Though both could remain with the Wild next season, it doesn’t change the fact that Sweeney is looking for a defenseman.
Though Boston has up-and-coming blueliners like Jakub Zboril and Jeremy Lauzon, adding a top-four defenseman via trade is not a waste. That is especially the case if the Bruins are only required to give up assets they don’t need.
Ryan Spooner has drawn criticism from ex-head coach Claude Julien as well as current head coach Bruce Cassidy. The media is calling for him to be traded while it has been reported that the Bruins were shopping the 25-year-old.
Spooner has recorded 32 goals and 117 points over the course of his 214-game career with Boston. Spooner is no stranger to the Bruins special teams unit as 46 of those points came on the power play. His face-off percentage of 42.4-percent is sub-par.
The Bruins were willing to part ways with the 18th overall pick, so why not the first round pick of 2018? A deep prospects pool allows them to do just that. The long offseason will give Sweeney time to craft a mutually beneficial deal.
All signs point towards Sweeney making some big moves this offseason. Time will tell when and what form those transactions come in.
I cover the Boston Bruins and NCAA Hockey here at The Hockey Writers. Born and raised 10 miles north of Boston, I developed a love for the game of ice hockey at a very young age. There’s really nothing better than this sport, though steak is a close second.