For the past few seasons, the Boston Bruins have kept their strong core of players. Save for a few players who have moved in and out, the roster has largely remained the same. However, in the 2020 offseason, two core players departed: Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug.
As the end of the 2020-21 season draws nearer, it’s time to give some thought to the offseason and the odds of who will be getting a contract extension. The Bruins have 10 unrestricted free agents, not including those on the taxi squad and non-roster pieces. The list includes David Krejci and Tuukka Rask, who have been cornerstones of the team for almost a decade, and the shiny trade deadline acquisition, Taylor Hall.
The Big Names
Krejci has the highest cap hit on the Bruins at $7.25 million. While he’s had plenty of great moments since he signed his six-year deal in 2014, he’s had his struggles as well, a lot of which can be attributed to his rotating cast of linemates. But, he is a consistent presence and a leader, centering the second line behind Patrice Bergeron.
The Bruins don’t have a lot to lose if they sign him to a two or three-year contract. No player is waiting in the wings to take the second-line center spot. Jack Studnicka is the Bruins’ best center prospect, and he struggled in the first half of the season playing in Boston. He likely won’t be ready to take on that role by the start of the 2021-22 season.
Even if the Bruins manage to sign a center in free agency, they can then bump Krejci or the new signee to the third line spot and move Charlie Coyle, who has struggled this season, to the wing. The organization is not particularly strong at the center position right now, so letting their second-line center go, even if he had a rough start to this season, would not be in the team’s best interest.
Odds of Extending: 60%. At the end of the day, this will come down to what Krejci wants. If he is okay with playing for less money, since the Bruins will not be offering him a contract worth more than what Bergeron is making, then I don’t think the team is really in a position to let him walk. Sure, they can try to replace him on the market, but there is no guarantee they will be able to sign someone equal or better. Also, given how well he has been playing with Hall in recent weeks, if Hall re-signs, Krejci may have another reason to stay in Boston.
Hall has been a game-changer since the Bruins acquired him at the deadline. The former first-overall selection struggled with the Buffalo Sabres this season. In 37 games, he had two goals and 19 points. Already, in eight games in Boston, he has three goals and six points. He’s also a plus-six, a big jump from the minus-21 rating he had in Buffalo.
Hall has already expressed his desire to stay in Boston, and he almost signed with the club as a free agent in 2020 before landing with the Sabres. In the small sample size, he has made an impact and is showcasing what made him the Hart Trophy winner three years ago.
Odds of Extending: 85%.If someone is taking bets, this is a good one to make. Hall wants to be in Boston, and so far, he has provided a solution to the struggling winger spot on the second line playing alongside Krejci. The team has tried many players in that spot over the past few years, and if something is finally working, they shouldn’t mess with it. This final stretch of games and hopefully a deep playoff run will play a role in determining how much money he gets and how long the extension is for.
Rask has been a phenomenal goalie for the Bruins, despite what the anti-Rask contingent thinks. In 19 games this season, he has an 11-4-2 record with a .913 save percentage and a goals-against average of 2.36. He’s a Vezina and a William M. Jennings Trophy winner. He’s getting older, but he was a finalist for the Vezina in 2019-20 as a 33-year-old. Even with the injuries this season, he has still managed to put together a good collection of starts.
Jeremy Swayman has been great in goal this season, but handing him the starting position right now isn’t in the Bruins’ best interest. Look at Carter Hart (Philadelphia Flyers) or what the Pittsburgh Penguins did with Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray a few years ago. It’s important to be cautious with young goalies who are phenomenal in only a small sample size. Keeping a veteran like Rask would be wise.
Odds of Extending: 75%. Is this going to be a long-term deal worth a lot of money? No, he’s 34, but a three-year deal should firm up the Bruins’ goaltending situation for the next few seasons and make Rask happy. Swayman is hopefully the future, but Rask is still playing at a high level, and the two should make an excellent tandem. Before the 2020 NHL Entry Level Draft, Rask also made it clear that he wants to stay in Boston. If that hasn’t changed, this should be an easy deal to get done this offseason.
The Middle Tier
With Swayman’s ascent in the second half of this season, it may be the end of Jaroslav Halak’s tenure in Boston. He and Rask have been a great tandem for a few years now, and while he’s done well in Boston, the team’s goalie depth, and with cheaper options, he may be pushed out of the lineup.
He has shown that he can be a valuable piece and as teams look to share the goaltending load during the regular season, Halak should garner some interest on the market. He’s making $2.25 million and could probably get a similar offer around the NHL.
Odds of Extending: 20%. If Swayman really falls apart down the stretch and looks like he needs more time in the AHL, then maybe the Bruins will consider signing Halak to a one-year deal. Still, Dan Vladar has also had good moments in 2021 and would be another option to play with Rask if Swayman needs more time to develop. Both are cheaper options. As likable and as reliable as Halak has been, it doesn’t make sense to offer him an extension.
The 2020-21 season has been rough for Sean Kuraly. He tested positive for Covid in March and, before that, struggled to stay in the lineup. In 39 games this season, he has two goals, six points, and is a minus-11. In 71 games in 2018-19, he had eight goals and 21 points and was a plus-six.
This has been a tough season for numerous reasons, but Kuraly hasn’t looked like the same player that he was two years ago when the Bruins’ fourth-line was a real pain for opponents. Things have looked better of late, but it may be a little too late.
Odds of Extending: 20%. He’s been a clutch player in the past with many memorable moments in Boston, but the Bruins haven’t held onto many bottom-six players. They let Noel Acciari leave in 2019, and Joakim Nordstrom left last offseason. Trent Frederic is a cheaper option with experience at center and should be ready to step in, which makes an extension for Kuraly unlikely.
Mike Reilly may turn out to be an underrated deadline deal. The 27-year-old has 24 assists in 49 games this season and immediately generated offense from the blue line, something the Bruins have struggled with this season, especially when Matt Grzelcyk has been injured.
The Bruins only gave up a third-round pick to get him, and his current deal only has an AAV of $1.5 million. If he continues to play at this level, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for the Bruins to keep him around. While their young blue line has been better than expected this season, they haven’t been the dynamic offensive force that so many teams have these days. Reilly takes the pressure off of Grzelcyk and McAvoy and could be a cheap option.
Odds of Extending: 50%. The first few games have been impressive, but Reilly has a habit of bursting onto the scene with a new team and then fading away. He may prove to be a good option, but the Bruins should have a fair amount of cap space to play with this offseason and may look for a flashier, more established option. It could go either way with him, and the next few weeks will be very telling on whether or not this extension will happen.
It’s been a rough go for Kevan Miller recently. He missed over a year with a broken knee cap that took multiple surgeries to repair. In the 2020 offseason, he was surprisingly signed to a one-year, $2 million contract. Things started off well for him in 2020-21, but issues quickly arose with his repaired knee and a recent undisclosed injury that kept him out for five games in April.
He has played 21 games this season and has one goal, three points, and is a minus-two. When he’s on the ice, he can still be that physical presence that made him a force only a few seasons ago. But with his struggles to get and stay healthy, it may not be a good idea to sign him for another year.
Odds of Extending: 35%. He is a favorite in the locker room, and it was surprising that he was re-signed last season, so a deal is not impossible. Still, with Jarred Tinordi, and decent play from younger players like Connor Clifton, there may not be a spot for Miller next season.
Rounding Out The UFA Pool
Tinordi was a necessary waiver pick-up when the Bruins were mired in injuries, especially on the blue line. While he has had some injury problems since he has shown strength and physicality that may be enticing to Boston. He’s 6’6’’ and knows how to use his size to his advantage. He plays a similar game to Miller but is a younger and cheaper option.
He’s not a big point-getter. In 101 NHL games, he has 11 points. But he could provide a good, stay-at-home option behind Brandon Carlo on the depth chart, and his current two-year deal only has an AAV of $700,000.
Odds of Extending: 55%. The Bruins have been fairly happy with him when he has been healthy. Between him, Miller, and Kampfer, Tinordi should have the highest chance of being extended, assuming they only go with one of them. They have Clifton signed to a three-year deal with an AAV of $1 million, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a one or two-year deal with a similar AAV.
One of the surprises of this season has been Steven Kampfer. In 19 games, he has two goals, five points, and is a plus-four. He’s was a good addition when injuries hit the team hard.
His last contract was a two-year, two-way deal with an AAV of $800,000. Given how well he has played this season, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Bruins offer him a similar deal. He still spends most of his time in Providence, but when injuries hit, he has been a good depth blueliner who can jump between leagues.
Odds of Extending: 40%. While I think the Bruins could be interested in extending him with a similar contract, given his physical playing style and decent points per game this season, he may get a better offer elsewhere. Similar to Miller, Kampfer is older at 32, and if he becomes too expensive, the team has other options in Tinordi and Clifton.
Anton Blidh has spent most of his career in Providence, with the occasional call-up. He’s played 37 NHL games in his career and has two goals – one scored this season – and one assist. He’s shown some potential in those games, but he has struggled to find a consistent spot in the lineup.
Odds of Extending: 25%. It may be time for both sides to cut their losses. Blidh could try for a bigger role elsewhere and the Bruins have other depth forwards. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him re-signed, but I don’t know if it would be the best move for either side.
Of this bunch, I think Krejci, Hall, Reilly, Tinordi, and Rask will re-sign with the Bruins. Given that Krejci and Rask have the biggest salary hits on the team and will presumingly be signing cheaper deals at the backend of their careers, the team should have more money than in previous offseasons to make a big signing. This could play a factor in how quickly these deals get done and in what form they take.
But, the Bruins let Krug and Chara walk last year, which means they aren’t afraid to let go of cornerstone players. Still, I think their forward depth is weaker than their defensive depth was a year ago, so losing Krejci would be a bigger blow. For goaltending, Swayman needs more experience before he can completely take over for Rask.
As the season hits its final stretch, these players will be important to keep an eye on. Just as some can play themselves into a good contract extension, others can just as easily play themselves out of one. With Boston’s hope for a deep playoff run after a disappointing 2020 Playoffs, it will be on these players to step up.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Do you agree with my odds? Who do you think should be the Bruins’ top priority to offer an extension this offseason?
I’m Hannah Garfield, a graduate of Elon University with degrees in Film and Media Analytics. I’m a lifelong, passionate Boston sports fan and love all things Bruins.