The Boston Bruins are heading into the 2022 offseason with plenty of questions regarding their current roster. Their first-round loss to the Carolina Hurricanes was devastating, so it’s clear that they need to make some changes. One area that the team should focus on this summer is their defensive group. This year’s free agency class offers some pretty solid options at that position, so the Bruins should weigh all of their options. Let’s take a look at three specific players that general manager (GM) Don Sweeney should consider targeting.
The Bruins were reportedly interested in John Klingberg before the trade deadline passed. Thus, it doesn’t seem too out of the question that Sweeney would take a look at the 29-year-old defenseman again. This is especially true when noting that Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk will be missing the beginning of the season due to offseason surgeries.
Klingberg would provide a major upgrade to the right side, there’s no denying that. The truth is in his statistics from last season. In 74 games with the Dallas Stars, he scored six goals and recorded 47 points. That kind of production from the point would be massive for the Bruins, as they of course had serious scoring troubles throughout the season. He could be a perfect match to play with defensive defenseman Derek Forbort. With that, he of course would provide the club with a major boost for their power play as well.
For the Bruins to bring in a high-impact defenseman like Klingberg, they would need to move out salary. Although the team is heading into the season with injury troubles, they still have a surplus of defensemen. Grzelcyk, Brandon Carlo, and Connor Clifton are some players who Sweeney could consider moving this summer. It would be worth it if it allows the Bruins to bring in a defenseman like Klingberg.
Josh Manson plays the game much differently than Klingberg as he is an old-fashioned, defensive defenseman. Even so, he would also be a good addition to the Bruins’ roster. In 67 games this season between the Anaheim Ducks and Colorado Avalanche, the 30-year-old scored six goals and recorded 16 points. He also has been effective during the playoffs, as he has six points in 14 games so far.
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Manson would be a solid addition to the Bruins’ top four. Yet, if the team elected to keep Carlo, he also could play bottom-pair minutes if needed. At the end of the day, he would add far more stability to the right side and take a player like Clifton out of the lineup. Furthermore, he would be a guarantee to play on the Bruins’ penalty kill, as he thrives in that sort of setting.
Manson would also provide the Bruins with far more toughness on the blue line. This is something that the team desperately needs. For several seasons, the team has been criticized for being far too weak to play against. Adding a player like him would help change that narrative. In his 67 games played last season, he had an impressive 172 hits to go along with 65 penalty minutes.
Erik Gudbranson could be a solid under-the-radar option for the Bruins. Although he doesn’t possess the same popularity as Klingberg and Manson, he could be an excellent addition to the team’s right side. The 30-year-old just had the best season of his 11-year career, so that naturally should get Sweeney’s attention. In 78 regular-season games, he set new career-highs with six goals, 11 assists, and 17 points. With that, he also sported a plus-15 rating, so it was an all-around solid year for him.
Gudbranson would not be in the running to make the Bruins’ top four, but he would be a notable upgrade to the bottom pair over Clifton. Even if he doesn’t replicate the same kind of offensive production next season, he would provide more stability on the backend due to his defense-first style of play. With that, like Manson, he is noted for his toughness and overall physicality.
Gudbranson would also be far cheaper to sign than both Klingberg and Manson. However, even with this being the case, the Bruins would still likely need to part ways with one of their left-handed defensemen or Clifton. Yet, with the team needing a change in identity, it could be an avenue worth exploring at the end of the day.
Nevertheless, we will need to wait and see if Sweeney ends up signing any of these three defensemen this offseason. If the team is looking for more offense from the point, Klingberg would be their best target. However, both Manson and Gudbranson also have the potential to be good additions, so they shouldn’t be ruled out as targets, either. Alas, time will tell if any of them are Bruins at the start of the 2022-23 campaign.