After their embarrassing first-round collapse, the 65-win Bruins are now set for an offseason of changes. The Bruins have several pending unrestricted free agents and limited cap space due to the $4.5 million cap hit penalty for the Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci bonuses. As a result, we could see Dmitry Orlov leave the Bruins through free agency this summer.
Orlov proved to be an excellent rental for the Bruins, as he had 17 points in 23 regular-season games following his trade from the Washington Capitals. He also provided strong offense from the point during the playoffs, as he had eight assists in seven games. He proved to be a major upgrade over Matt Grzelcyk in Boston’s top four, but, unfortunately, there’s a good chance he will be playing elsewhere next season due to Boston’s lack of cap space. Thus, let’s discuss three potential free-agent destinations for him.
Los Angeles Kings
We should expect to see the Los Angeles Kings be among the teams interested in Dmitry Orlov if he hits the free-agent market this offseason. They have needed a legitimate top-four defenseman for a long time, and Orlov would provide them with just that. Although they acquired Vladislav Gavrikov before the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline passed, he is a pending unrestricted free agent (UFA) and could opt to test the market. Therefore, if Gavrikov walks, it will be an even bigger reason for the Kings to pursue Orlov.
If the Kings signed Orlov, he would be an immediate fit on their top pairing with Drew Doughty. However, he would also be a candidate to play second-pairing minutes with Matt Roy. In either role, the Kings’ top four would look significantly better, as Orlov would provide them with much more physicality and offense from the point. With that, he would likely receive time on both the power play and penalty kill.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The 2022-23 season was a complete disaster for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Due to significant injury trouble from the very start of the year, they ended the campaign with a rough 25-48-9 record and had the fewest points in the Eastern Conference. With that, the only team that had fewer points than them was the Anaheim Ducks. Although the Blue Jackets struggled mightily, they are not active rebuilders and are expected to be aggressive in free agency this summer in an attempt to turn things around. Thus, a high-impact defenseman like Orlov could end up being on their radar.
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After trading Gavrikov before the deadline passed, the Blue Jackets should be in the market for a top-four, left-shot defenseman this offseason. There are not too many better pending free-agent defensemen than Orlov this summer, so he is a player who they should look at. They will have the cap space to do it, and Orlov would be a perfect fit on their top pairing, power play, and penalty kill. Therefore, we should not be surprised if the Blue Jackets make a major push for the veteran.
The Buffalo Sabres came inches away from making the playoffs this year, and they are heading in the right direction. However, if they want to finally end their 12-year playoff drought next season, they will need to improve their defensive group. Thankfully, they have plenty of cap space to work with, so they have the means to be active in the Orlov sweepstakes if they wish to.
One underrated element of Orlov’s game is that he can play the right side well, and that is arguably the Sabres’ biggest need right now. As a result, he could play on the Sabres’ top pairing with Rasmus Dahlin or play second-pairing minutes with top prospect Owen Power. In either role, the 31-year-old would be a major addition to a Sabres team that is ready to take that next step.
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In the end, the Bruins should be looking to re-sign Orlov if possible. However, for that to occur, they will likely need to move out salary due to their very limited cap space. If it becomes a task that is too challenging for Sweeney and Orlov hits the free-agent market, expect these three clubs to be in the mix for his services.