For much of the summer, the talk surrounding the Boston Bruins focused on one thing: signing 21-year-old phenom David Pastrnak to a contract extension. After a long set of negotiations, the Bruins’ brass finally got the job done on Thursday, inking the right winger to a six-year contract extension worth $40 million.
With Pastrnak locked up, Boston’s biggest storyline this offseason is over. So, what lies ahead for the Bruins? Here’s a look at 3 storylines to keep an eye on as the season inches closer:
Bruins Backup Battle
The Bruins have a number of positional battles that will be settled in the coming weeks, and the backup goalie battle will rank among the most important. Over the past few years, the Bruins have had trouble locking down one consistent backup.
Last year’s netminder, Anton Khudobin, struggled at the start of last season before finding his game in the latter half. With one year remaining on a two-year, $2.4 million deal signed prior to last season, Khudobin has the most NHL experience of Boston’s backup candidates.
Meanwhile, 24-year-old netminder Zane McIntyre, who the Bruins inked out of the University of North Dakota in 2015, has exceeded expectations in Providence. In just his second professional season, McIntyre led the P-Bruins with a 21-6-1 record, .930 save percentage and 2.03 goals against average. However, he looked shaky in his limited NHL opportunities, which raises the question as to whether or not he needs to develop more before seeing consistent NHL action.
Khudobin and McIntyre will be the two main candidates for the backup role when training camp starts. The Bruins may be hesitant to throw McIntyre directly into the backup role due to his limited NHL experience, but a strong showing from him in camp could change that.
Which Youngsters Make the Cut?
If you’ve followed the Bruins over the past few seasons, then you’re already aware that this offseason has had a bit of a different feel to it. After failing to make the playoffs in consecutive seasons, the Bruins made their return last year, and the future is getting brighter. For the first time in a while, the Bruins are experiencing a youth movement, with a plethora of young talent working towards cracking the NHL roster.
For some youngsters, a spot on the 2017-18 roster is guaranteed. Charlie McAvoy, for example, who made his NHL debut in last year’s Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, will don the spoked B on opening night.
Of course, not every prospect is in the same position as McAvoy and the spotlight will be on the kids as well as more experienced players who will be competing for a spot on Boston’s roster to open the season. THW’s Drew Johnson already looked at some forwards, defensemen, and goaltenders ahead of rookie camp, so you’ll want to keep an eye on those players in the coming weeks.
Late last month, I penned a piece on Patrice Bergeron’s inevitable takeover of the Bruins captaincy when Zdeno Chara leaves. Big Z is entering the final season of his contract and at 40 years old, he is at the back end of his career.
However, the chances of him leaving Boston after this year diminished on Thursday when Bruins GM Don Sweeney made it clear that there was mutual interest in extending Chara beyond this season.
“I’ve had talks with [Chara]. He has indicated to us that he would like to keep playing, and we have indicated to him that we would like him to keep playing for the Boston Bruins,” Sweeney said, per CSNNE. “As we go through camp and as we go through the regular season, we’ll continue to have those talks. But I thought it was important to let him know we’re in his corner in that regard.”
Despite his age, Chara is still a very effective defenseman and with so many youngsters making their way onto the NHL scene, a player with as much experience as Chara is especially valuable. In the coming weeks, keep an eye on Chara’s contract negotiations with the Bruins.