3 Bruins Likely Heading Into Their Final Season in Boston

The Boston Bruins have an abundance of players entering the final year of their contract. As a result, we could see the Bruins sport a very different roster in 2023-24. Of the nine players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents (UFA) next summer, three most likely will not be back. Here’s a look.

Nick Foligno

If the Bruins are unable to find a taker for Nick Foligno this offseason, 2022-23 will likely be the veteran winger’s last season in Boston. When general manager (GM) Don Sweeney signed the 34-year-old to a two-year, $7.6 million contract, he was expected to be a solid middle-six option and provide them with much-needed secondary scoring. Yet, things just did not work out last season, as he had only two goals and 13 points in 64 games. He also sported a team-worst minus-13 rating.

Nick Foligno, Boston Bruins
Nick Foligno, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Even if Foligno has a bounce-back season, I still can’t see Sweeney re-signing him. The Bruins have forward prospects like Fabian Lysell, Oskar Steen, Jack Studnicka, and Johnny Beecher, who could all be potential upgrades. Having an aging Foligno take up a bottom-six spot after this season would be shocking, and that’s especially true if he continues to struggle.

Although he will never live up to his contract, Foligno does deserve praise for his leadership and an impressive NHL career. Because of that, having him around for another season isn’t the end of the world, but don’t expect him back once his contract expires.

Craig Smith

Craig Smith has been considered a potential trade candidate all offseason. Jimmy Murphy of Boston Hockey Now reported last month that the Bruins were in trade talks centered around the veteran winger, but a deal did not come to fruition. Given their limited cap space, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Smith dealt once players like Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy, and Matt Grzelcyk return to the lineup. However, even if they trade a player like Mike Reilly instead, this is very likely going to be the last season we see Smith in a Bruins jersey.

Related: Bruins: 3 Potential Landing Spots for Craig Smith

Smith is entering the final year of his contract before he becomes an unrestricted free agent (UFA) again. At 32 years old, this could be his last chance to land a decent payday, and that’s only if he can put together another solid season. Due to this, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him test the open market next offseason, whether the Bruins trade him or not.

Again, the team has multiple prospects who could compete for roster spots in 2023-24, and among them, Lysell will likely be Smith’s eventual replacement in the lineup. The 19-year-old is a right-winger, like Smith, and is reported to have top-six potential. If he continues to head in the right direction and impress, we should see him become a full-time NHLer in 2023-24. That, of course, would make Smith expendable.

Tomas Nosek

I had several choices to pick from for this last selection. David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Pavel Zacha are all on expiring deals, but Sweeney will surely work hard to re-sign them next summer. The same can’t be said about fourth-line center Tomas Nosek, so he is most deserving of this spot.

Tomas Nosek, Boston Bruins
Tomas Nosek, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

This isn’t a knock against Nosek. Overall, he’s worked out fairly well as the team’s fourth-line center and should continue to be decent in 2022-23. The primary obstacle is that he is easily replaceable. The Bruins have center prospects like Studnicka and Beecher who can take over his spot, and since they are the best prospects in the organization’s pipeline, it should be encouraged.

One more season with Nosek in the bottom six will be fine, but it seems unlikely that he will remain with the Bruins past this year. Sweeney has internal options for the future or he could find another bottom-six forward who can produce more consistently.

Nevertheless, it will be intriguing to see how these three perform in what will likely be their last season in Boston. Of the three, Smith is most likely the first to go due to the rumors surrounding him. As for Foligno and Nosek, here’s hoping we can see a bit more offense from them this campaign.

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