After the Boston Bruins were eliminated in seven games by the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 14, it was well known that the Black and Gold were going to face several offseason questions. Since that fateful Saturday afternoon, general manager (GM) Don Sweeney has offered more questions than he has answers.
Three weeks after upper management reportedly told Bruce Cassidy his job was “status quo” for the 2022-23 season with one year remaining on his contract, Sweeney stopped by Cassidy’s house on June 6 to inform him that he was fired. Prior to that, the Friday afternoon news dumps in late May and early June painted a dull early outlook to the beginning of the 2022-23 season with Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy, and Matt Grzelcyk having surgeries that are going to require lengthy recovery time, well past the beginning of the season in October. Mike Reilly also had surgery, but his recovery time has him possibly available for training camp in late September.
Those decisions have raised more questions than answers in the 2022 offseason to date and the Stanley Cup Final between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Colorado Avalanche has yet to even drop the puck on Game 1. Not the type of offseason the Bruins were hoping to have in the first month.
All of those storylines should have left everyone with one common consensus, the direction that the Boston Bruins are going to take ahead of the 2022-23 season will depend on captain Patrice Bergeron’s decision to either return on a new contract or retire into the sunset and call it a career at 36 years old. Here are the two most likely paths based on Bergeron’s decision.
If Bergeron Returns
If Bergeron decides to return, it will mean that Sweeney, who has his own contract expiring following the Stanley Cup Final and the turn of the NHL calendar, will put together a roster that will look to contend next season. If that is the route Sweeney chooses, he will most likely need a commitment from David Krejci to return, as well as a contract extension from David Pastrnak.
Already locked up on defense for the foreseeable future are McAvoy and Hampus Lindholm, with a young rising star in net in Jeremy Swayman. Even if Bergeron returns, the Bruins will still have to make upgrades to the roster in either free agency or through trades. As mentioned above, McAvoy, Grzelcyk, and Marchand are all going to be out until at least mid-November. In order for the Black and Gold to stay within striking distance of an Eastern Conference playoff spot, they will need some additions to the current roster.
There are a couple of avenues for Sweeney to go down. Trading Jake DeBrusk is a possibility, as well as even kicking the tires on moving a Craig Smith. Reilly could be a name that could be moved to open a roster spot and cap space, or maybe you could get someone to take Tomas Nosek or Nick Foligno (if he’s not bought out) in a deal to open as much cap space as possible.
If Bergeron decides to run it back next season and continue his career, there are different ways that Sweeney can go, but until his decision is that he’s returning, this is a wait-and-see approach. Coming off winning his record fifth Selke Trophy and continuing to play at a very high level, there is no doubt that Bergeron has more left in the tank.
If Bergeron Retires
This is the decision that most likely will lead to somewhat of a rebuild. Is it a blow-it-up all the way to the ground and a start-over rebuild? Not likely, however, it opens the door for Sweeney to be aggressive in moving roster pieces and opening the door for younger players to get their chance to show what they can do at the NHL level.
That would open the door for Jack Studnicka, a restricted free agent this summer, to come back and prove his worth at center. It could also open the door for 2021 first-round draft pick Fabian Lysell to get his feet wet in the NHL. Oskar Steen is another player that could have the door open on a rebuild and maybe even Jakub Lauko. Making room for those forwards could be as simple as cutting ties and moving on from Nosek, Erik Haula, and Foligno.
On defense, Jack Ahcan could have an opportunity to show if he’s an everyday NHL defenseman, and Jakub Zboril, who signed a two-year extension in May, would get a serious look at the beginning of the season, especially with McAvoy and Grzelcyk sidelined.
Bergeron Decision Key to 2022 Offseason
I know I’m not breaking any news here, however, which way Sweeney and the front office decide to go will depend on the captain’s decision. Either way, running it back or going into a rebuild, it will be done with a new coach, which is another decision that Sweeney needs to make.
Related: 5 Bruins’ 2022 Offseason Predictions
The case can be made that the offseason decision hinders on what Pastrnak decides to do with his contract extension, but Bergeron’s decision is the most important one in terms of which direction the Black and Gold go. Once Bergeron’s decision is made, then other decisions could be made quickly. Welcome to the Bruins’ 2022 offseason of uncertainty, already in full swing.