Bruins Feel Loss of Lauzon With Lack of Left-Side Defensive Depth

Wednesday night, the Seattle Kraken officially became the 32nd team in the NHL when they held their expansion draft. Seattle selected one player from 30 other teams, except for the Vegas Golden Knights, as they build a roster under the leadership of general manager Ron Francis.

While the Boston Bruins protection list was as expected, there were some young defensemen that were left available for the Kraken and they took advantage of it when they selected Jeremy Lauzon. Losing Lauzon is a big blow to the Bruins, who are already short on bodies on the left side of their defense.

Bruins Current Left-Shot Defensemen

The left side of the Bruins defense was already one that was in need of additions before Lauzon was picked by the Kraken, but now it’s an issue that general manager Don Sweeney needs to address either through a trade or free agency. As of today, the current left-shot defensemen under contract for the Black and Gold are Matt Grzelcyk, Jakub Zboril, John Moore, and Urho Vaakanainen.

Matt Grzelcyk - Bruins
Matt Grzelcyk, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Grzelcyk was a free agent last offseason and re-signed with the Bruins in October for four years and $14.75 million, with an annual cap hit of $3.687,500 million. Zboril has one year remaining on a two-year, $1.45 million contract that has a $725,000 cap hit. He was left exposed to Seattle, but a lack of development since being selected 13th overall in the 2015 Entry Draft might have kept the Kraken away. Moore is entering year four of a five-year, $13.75 million contract with a cap hit of $2.75 million, but injuries have played a part in his tenure with Boston and have limited him to only 90 games over the first three seasons of his deal. Vaakanainen has played in just 16 games over three seasons for Boston.

John Moore Boston Bruins
John Moore, Boston Bruins (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Aside from the 26-year-old Grzelcyk, there is not a lot of experience on the left side. At the trade deadline in April, Sweeney acquired Mike Reilly from the Ottawa Senators for a draft pick. The 28-year-old puck-moving blueliner had eight assists in 15 games with the Bruins in the regular season and finished with a plus/minus of plus-8. He is an unrestricted free agent this season and is expected to get a pay raise from the two-year, $3 million contract he signed with the Senators in 2019 with a cap hit of $1.5 million. Another addition last season to the roster, Jarred Tinordi, is another free agent left-shot defensemen, but he is more of a depth player than anything else when he was acquired off of waivers from the Nashville Predators.

Bruins Will Need Outside Help

Connor Clifton was passed on by Seattle and is a right-handed shot, but can also slide over to the left side in a pinch. The Bruins will need to fill the void of losing Lauzon and do it sooner rather than later. Jamie Oleksiak of the Dallas Stars would have been a nice addition in Boston, but he was left unprotected by the Stars and Seattle selected him, then signed him.

Alec Martinez is another free agent that checks all the boxes the Bruins are looking for, but he will require a pay increase from the $4 million he earned last season with the Golden Knights. Ryan Suter was recently bought out by the Minnesota Wild and despite being 36 years old, he is someone who the Bruins should consider in free agency beginning next week and he can play in all situations.

Ryan Suter Minnesota Wild
Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Sweeney could go the trade route as he has been linked to Oliver Ekman-Larsson of the Arizona Coyotes and Noah Hanifin of the Calgary Flames, but in order to acquire either of those players, it would require a hefty return package going to either team. Ekman-Larsson carries an $8.25 million cap hit over the next six seasons and unless Sweeney can get the Coyotes to retain some money, getting him is asking a lot. Hanifin is more manageable as he carries a cap hit of $4.95 million over the next three seasons.

Bruins Need to Address the Left-Side Depth

Whether it’s through free agency or a trade, the left side needs to be added to by the time training camp rolls around in September at Warrior Ice Arena. There was a good chance all along that the Bruins would lose a young defenseman to Seattle, but now that it’s official, it makes the left side of the defense a top priority. With around $25 million in cap space, the Bruins need to use some of that on the blue line.

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