Welcome to The Hockey Writers’ 2023 Free-Agent Targets series for the Boston Bruins. During it, we will be looking at a handful of free agents from each NHL team who the Bruins should consider pursuing this summer.
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In this latest edition of the series, we will be focusing on the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Bruins have a handful of solid pending free agents who they should consider pursuing from Toronto. Let’s go over them now.
The Bruins’ defensive group could take some notable hits this summer. Dmitry Orlov and Connor Clifton are pending unrestricted free agents (UFA), while players like Matt Grzelcyk and Derek Forbort have come up in the rumor mill due to Boston’s limited cap space. As a result, if the Bruins lose multiple defensemen, they should be in the market for some cheaper options in free agency. One Maple Leafs’ free-agent defenseman who could make sense for them because of this is Erik Gustafsson.
In 70 games this season split between the Washington Capitals and Maple Leafs, Gustafsson had seven goals and 35 assists. Overall, it was a big offensive year for the 31-year-old and his best season since his 60-point campaign in 2018-19. The Bruins could use that kind of production from the point, so perhaps Gustafsson is a player who they should take a flyer on.
If signed, Gustafsson would be a solid option for the Bruins’ bottom pairing due to his ability to play both sides. With that, he also would be a notable addition to their power play, given his offense-first nature.
The Bruins have multiple pending bottom-six UFA forwards like Nick Foligno, Garnet Hathaway, and Tomas Nosek. As a result, the Bruins could be in the market for a bottom-six forward this summer. One Maple Leaf free agent who the Bruins should consider is old friend Noel Acciari. The 31-year-old just had a solid 2022-23 season, as he had 14 goals, 23 points, and a career-high 244 hits in 77 games played. The Bruins could certainly use that kind of secondary scoring and physicality in their bottom six, so he would make for a solid addition if signed.
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If the Bruins signed Acciari, he would be a worthy candidate to retake his former role as the club’s fourth-line center. However, when noting that the Bruins could lose both Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci to retirement this summer, he also could be in the running to be the team’s 3C. Acciari also would be a solid addition to the team’s penalty kill, as he is known for his reliable defensive play.
Leading up to the 2023 Trade Deadline, the Boston Bruins were one of the many teams linked to Luke Schenn. Given their previous interest and fellow right-shot defenseman Clifton being a UFA this summer, the Bruins should explore pursuing Schenn again. After all, the 33-year-old just had one of the best seasons of his career, posting four goals, 22 points, 318 hits, and a plus-8 rating. The Bruins could certainly use a physical shutdown defenseman like him on their roster.
If the Bruins signed Schenn, he would be an immediate fit on their bottom pairing. However, he also displayed this season that he can handle top-four minutes, so he could be an option to take over Brandon Carlo’s spot on the second pairing if Boston wanted to switch things up. With that, the 2008 fifth-overall pick would instantly become one of their most important penalty-killers if signed.
Related: Several Bruins Being Listed as Possible Trade Candidates
If the Bruins move out some money (which is expected), it would open the door to a potential Schenn signing. When noting that they do not have too many NHL-caliber right-shot defensemen, it is something that the Bruins should consider.
The Bruins have intriguing free-agent targets from the Maple Leafs. Although none of these three players are stars, they each have the potential to provide Boston with better depth heading into 2023-24. We will need to wait and see if the Bruins sign any of them this summer.