Following their Game 7 loss at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes in the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 14, the 2022 offseason for the Boston Bruins began. There are several questions surrounding the future of the Black and Gold, mainly centered around their roster make-up for the 2022-23 season.
As the Bruins turn the page from the 2021-22 season, here are four questions that are facing Boston in what certainly feels like some sort of change that is coming over the next four months. It’s only a matter of time before captain Patrice Bergeron makes a decision on his future, so we will leave that alone until he announces his future plans. Let’s look at some questions that will face general manager (GM) Don Sweeney, assuming his new contract is coming.
Do the Bruins Finally Honor DeBrusk’s Trade Request?
In one of the more bizarre storylines during the 2021-22 season, it was announced in late November that Jake DeBrusk had requested a trade. Later, it was revealed that he made the request last summer through his agent, and Bruins general manager (GM) Don Sweeney said that he would take his time and make a deal that he thought would be a fair return for the 14th overall Draft Pick in 2015.
DeBrusk’s season took off in late February when he was moved up to the top line with Brad Marchand and Bergeron. He looked a lot like the 2018-19 version of himself that scored a career-high 27 goals. There is no doubt that the talent is there for him to consistently score 20 goals a season and one day, he will most score likely 30. There has been no indication that he rescinded his request and the Bruins agreed to a two-year contract extension with him right before the trade deadline in March. He was a professional in the way he carried himself following the trade deadline and playoffs. The time is now to either move him or keep him.
What Do the Bruins Do With Studnicka?
It is time for the Bruins to make a final decision on Jack Studnicka, either he is part of the future in Boston or it’s time to move on from him, trade him in some type of package deal and get what you can. There is no more in between for Studnicka or the Bruins.
In training camp, he was in a battle with Charlie Coyle for the second line position behind Bergeron, but despite playing well and doing everything that was asked of him, he was sent down to the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League (AHL). He made multiple returns to Boston and played well in those games, but the time is now or never, either he’s a center moving forward or not. If the Bruins continue to shuffle him up and down between Boston and Providence, he could be the next young player requesting a trade.
What Do the Bruins Do With Their Three Other Impending Free Agents?
Yes, I know, Bergeron is a free agent too, but he has earned the time to make his own decision, whether or not to return to Boston, play somewhere else or retire. Boston does have three other notable free agents in, Curtis Lazar, Anton Blidh, and Josh Brown to make decisions on.
Of the three, the most notable name is Lazar and the 27-year-old scored a career-high eight goals and finished with eight assists, good enough for his second-highest career point total of 16. His previous career-high in total points was in 2015-16 with the Ottawa Senators when he finished with 20. Part of the Taylor Hall trade in April of 2021 with the Buffalo Sabres, Lazar was one of the most valuable bottom-six forwards for coach Bruce Cassidy. He played both center and on the wing, he was a key penalty killer and brought energy and grit to every shift. He certainly has earned himself a nice contract this summer with more security and he will most likely get it somewhere else.
Brown was acquired at the trade deadline for defensive depth and Blidh played well this season, but it’s going to be tough for him to crack the lineup on a regular basis. The Bruins have options down in Providence that they can use to fill out the fourth line next season.
How Do the Bruins Go About Adding Center Depth?
Even if Bergeron returns or not, there is still more center depth needed. If he doesn’t return, then they need to hit the free-agent or trade market to find a top-six center or two. They certainly don’t have one in their system for a number of reasons.
It is easier said than done to get one or two top-six centers, but if there is ever an offseason that the Bruins need to do it, it’s right now. They have a roster and prospect pool littered with bottom-six centers, but no top-six. This might be the biggest position that needs to be addressed this offseason. They can’t run it back the way they ended it, even if Bergeron returns.
Plenty of Questions to Answer This Summer
There are plenty more questions facing the Bruins and their front office, but these four will go a long way to help shape the 2022-23 roster. A summer of answering questions about next season is underway.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.