As has been the case in previous seasons, right wing was a position that the Boston Bruins could have used an upgrade with at the trade deadline back in March. Things got so bad this season that coach Bruce Cassidy had to move Jake DeBrusk to his off-wing in late February on the first line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. To his credit, DeBrusk played well, but top-six right wing at the deadline would have supplied the Bruins with only depth, but more secondary scoring.
As we continue to hand out player grades for the Bruins for the 2021-22 season, we will now look at the right wings.
Despite missing 10 games this seasons, Pastrnak still managed to score 40 goals, the second-highest total of his career following his 48 goals in 2019-20 when he shared the Maurice Rocket Richard Award in the 70-game shortened season with Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals. He was moved down to the second line in January with Erik Haula and Taylor Hall and the trio put together some of the best hockey of the season for Boston.
Hall thrived next to Pastrnak following the change, as did Haula. Who saw Haula becoming as important to the Bruins as he was when he signed last offseason? Pastrnak registered 37 assists and had three goals and three assists against the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round of the playoffs. He is entering the final season on his six-year, $40 million contract next season and it would be in the Bruins’ best interest to lock him up with an extension as possible as they did with Charlie McAvoy.
Signed in October of 2020 as a free agent, general manager (GM) Don Sweeney was hoping that Smith could provide depth scoring behind Pastrnak, but it has never been consistent in his first two seasons in Boston. In five out of his nine seasons with the Nashville Predators, Smith found the back of the net 20 or more times, but he has yet to with the Black and Gold.
After scoring 13 in the 56-game shortened 2020-21 season, Smith finished this season with 16 goals and was moved up and down the lineup anywhere from the first line to the third line. He found some consistency with Charlie Coyle and Trent Frederic on the third line, but in the overall picture, the Bruins needed more than 16 goals from him this season. The playoffs were a disaster as he failed to record a point in seven games and finished with a plus/minus of minus-5.
Entering the final year of his three-year, $9 million contract, the Bruins have a decision to make with Smith this summer, run it back and hope he finds in goal-scoring touch in a contract year or look to move him in a trade.
When the Bruins acquired Hall from the Buffalo Sabres in April of 2021 at the trade deadline, Lazar was part of the deal and he has turned into a nice piece of the deal. This season, he brought energy, and spunk, and was an important penalty killer for the Bruins, while putting up a career-high eight goals. He was the most consistent fourth-line player Boston had all season long.
He is a free agent this summer and the Bruins would like to re-sign him, but with his 2021-22 season, he might be too expensive for Sweeney to re-sign as he will get an upgrade in pay from his expiring two-year, $1.6 million contract that carried an $800,000 cap hit. He’ll likely get around $2 million per season, something that the Bruins will unlikely be able to match.
There are no other right wings that could be graded this season. Cassidy spent the majority of the season playing DeBrusk and Nick Foligno on their off-wings to fill in holes on the right side. The Black and Gold were able to survive the regular season, but against the Hurricanes, they were not as lucky to survive. There could be reinforcements on the way with prospect Fabian Lysell, but that might be a year away from a permanent NHL spot. This is another position that could have some subtractions or additions this offseason, or maybe both.