Bruins’ 2022 Offseason Wish List

The Boston Bruins are in for an interesting few months this offseason. The team have been stuck in a rut of sorts for the past several seasons: good enough to make the playoffs but not a real contender. The decisions made by general manager (GM) Don Sweeney put the organization in a bit of a conundrum as there don’t seem to be immediate prospects in the pipeline ready to fill in the holes on this roster and they aren’t looking at a ton of cap space with big contracts for Charlie McAvoy and Hampus Lindholm kicking in next season and only Patrice Bergeron’s $6.875 million being their significant contract coming off the books. 

Related: 3 Takeaways From Bruins’ 2021-22 Season

It’s a tall order, maybe too tall, especially given the Bruins’ hesitancy to make any changes to management. Still, Sweeney is not necessarily the biggest issue facing this team and head coach Bruce Cassidy, who made the most of the roster given to him this season, is not either.

The biggest issue for the Bruins is, and has been, depth. For a moment this season, they really did fool fans into thinking that they had the depth to go far in the playoffs, but of course, as soon as puck dropped in Game 1 that was no longer the case. The Tampa Bay Lightning, who just swept the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Florida Panthers in the second round, are an example of a team built for the playoffs. The stars play like the elite talent they are and the support guys are in the right roles to maximize their talent. 

In a competitive league like the NHL, who truly knows if the Bruins will be able to turn it around this summer and become a real threat and contender for the Stanley Cup next season. But, the below offseason wish list could certainly help.

Patrice Bergeron Comes Back

The ball is completely in the court of unrestricted free agent Bergeron. He will turn 37 this July, and while his age certainly doesn’t show on the ice, he is getting up there in age for a professional athlete. Now, he has made it very clear that if he signs another contract in the NHL, it will be with the Bruins, and Boston has no reason not to re-sign their captain, first-line center, and third on the team scoring chart for the 2021-22 season.

Patrice Bergeron Boston Bruins
Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The question this offseason is whether or not Bergeron can and wants to play another season of hockey. As we all know, hockey is a brutal sport on the body and can have a lasting impact. I don’t think many would blame him for walking away now, hopefully with a fifth Selke Trophy, and still in good shape physically and mentally. 

But, I am sincerely hoping that he will return. Bergeron and Brad Marchand are the heart of this Bruins’ roster and where they go, the team tends to follow. As mentioned above, management is currently very ill-equipped to replace their first-line center. If he doesn’t re-sign, there is a very good chance this team takes a giant step backwards next season, not forward. 

From what we know about Bergeron, he probably won’t drag out this decision, and will make an announcement in the coming weeks. Whatever happens, he will still go down as a Bruins great. Hopefully, though, there will be an announcement of a new contract soon.

Second-Line Center Is Found

Last offseason, with the departure of David Krejci, a huge hole was left on the Bruins’ offense in the second-line center spot, and there was no immediate plan to fix it. Despite coming off of one of the worst seasons of his career, the plan was for Charlie Coyle to take over the spot. While he definitely had a bounce-back year in 2021-22, he wasn’t quite fit for the role. 

Eventually, Erik Haula took over the second-line center spot and while he looked convincing enough at times during the regular season, particularly right around the trade deadline, and Sweeney ultimately decided against getting another center to shore up the depth down the middle. 

Haula was the best free agent signing from last season and became a really important contributor to the Bruins this season. However, in hindsight, this would be a much stronger team with more depth if he was the third-line center with Coyle and Craig Smith on his wings. Once again, the Bruins have another hole on their second line that needs to be filled. 

I don’t know if they will be able to find a suitable match for the role in free agency, but might be able to put together a decent trade package given how much Jake DeBrusk’s stock has risen, and his fairly cheap contract. Above all else, adding another center is a must this offseason, especially since the team seems to have soured a bit on the idea of prospect Jack Studnicka fitting into a top-six role.

GM Situation Sorted Out Sooner Rather Than Later

With all the questions on the ice, the last thing the Bruins need is letting questions off the ice linger for too long. Right now, there is a huge question mark in the future of Sweeney with the organization. His contract is up in a few weeks and he has yet to sign an extension, though in a press conference last week, president Cam Neely said they’re working on one. 

Don Sweeney Bruins
Don Sweeney, Boston Bruins general manager (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Many around Boston are torn on whether or not to bring back Sweeney. But, the most important part of that situation is solving it quickly. If he’s coming back, sign him now and let the focus be on preparing for a very important NHL Entry Draft starting on July 7 in Montreal, and a free agency that begins July 13. Or, let him go and get the next guy in as fast as possible so he can start preparing. 

The last time the Bruins made a GM change was in 2015 when they fired Peter Chiarelli in April after missing the playoffs for the first time in eight years. Sweeney was named the next GM on May 20 and the 2015 NHL Entry Draft took place on June 26, and as we all know, it was a fairly disastrous draft for the team that missed on many future superstars. 

The moral of the story: don’t drag out this decision. Either Sweeney is back or he is not. This question cannot linger too long into the Bruins’ offseason, or else it will start to affect other essential areas.

Good Return for DeBrusk Trade

As mentioned above, DeBrusk’s trade value rose significantly from the start of the 2021-22 season to the end. He was one of the few players who impressed in the series against the Hurricanes and any team that receives him will be lucky to have him. As much as I would like to see him stay with the Bruins, if he still wants out, he deserves to finally be traded after sticking it out for the past season and demonstrating great maturity on and off the ice. 

The return for DeBrusk needs to either be a legitimate center prospect who will be ready to play this season or a first-round pick that will help restock the pipeline. Of those two options, it’s pretty obvious that the center prospect ready to make the NHL jump this season will be the more ideal option. While the Bruins could use some more picks, especially since they only have six in this year’s entry level draft, I don’t think many would want to risk another first-round selection that doesn’t pan out. 

Jake DeBrusk, Boston Bruins
Jake DeBrusk, Boston Bruins (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

I won’t say that a good return for a DeBrusk trade will make or break the Bruins’ 2022-23 season, but things are currently looking fairly bleak. With Bergeron’s potential retirement, DeBrusk’s trade, and Marchand’s recent surgery that will keep him out for six months, the team may potentially be without their entire first line when puck drops in October. This deal could be incredibly important in keeping them competitive next season or getting picks to build for a future beyond what may be a disastrous next season.

Keep An Eye on the Bruins

While the quest for the 2022 Stanley Cup Champions is drawing nearer and nearer to a close, don’t lose sight of the Bruins. With so many questions up in the air, some of which need imminent answers, the offseason will get interesting pretty quickly. We’ll check in later in the summer and see how my wishlist is coming along. 

Related: Bruins Face Big Questions This Offseason

In the meantime, make sure to stick with The Hockey Writers through the rest of the 2022 Playoffs and as the offseason kicks into high gear.

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