After being eliminated by the New York Islanders in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Boston Bruins begin what will be a very interesting offseason. Every season brings change to a team’s roster and this summer expects to be no different for the Black and Gold.
The Bruins have some tough decisions ahead of them with some of their upcoming free agents. Some of the core players are hitting the free-agent market and in their mid-30’s. How much money and what does the length of a contract look like for some of them? So many questions will be answered over the next couple of months. With that said, here are three storylines to keep an eye on this summer for Boston.
1. Who Begin the Season as the Two Goalies?
Veteran netminder Tuukka Rask is hitting free agency after his eight-year, $56 million contract expired. The 34-year-old announced on June 11 in his final press conference with the media that he has been playing with a torn hip labrum, which is going to require surgery that will keep him out until January or February in 2022. That announcement, which the Bruins front office clearly knew before Rask made it to the media, puts a wrench into Boston’s goalie situation.
Regardless or not if Rask re-signs, the Bruins should be in the goalie market in free agency or through a trade. Jaroslav Halak’s three-year run in Boston is all but over with the play of rookies Jeremy Swayman and Dan Vladar. One of those two will find themselves in Boston next season. But who will be with them?
Rask has stated that he wants to only play for the Bruins, so either he re-signs with the Black and Gold or he retires. The feeling here is that he re-signs, but with him expected to be out until early 2022, general manager Don Sweeney will have to look hard at signing a veteran free agent to hold the fort with either rookie until Rask returns from his surgery.
2. What Does the Second-Line Look Like?
This has the potential to be the biggest storyline of the offseason for the Bruins. When Sweeney acquired Taylor Hall and Curtis Lazar from the Buffalo Sabres late into the night on April 11, it revived David Krejci as the veteran center of the second-line saw a big jump in his play and production over the rest of the regular season. It gave Boston something that they had been missing in the past couple of seasons, a second-line behind their top-line producing.
Both Krejci and Hall enter the summer as free agents with questions surrounding whether or one or both will be back next season. Hall has expressed his desire to re-sign in Boston, but there are more questions surrounding Krejci’s future. He has expressed interest in playing in his home country of the Czech Republic, but also would like to return to Boston. Hall has said that he would like to return to Boston and that money would not be a sticking point to re-signing. The Bruins appear interested in Hall returning as well.
Given how well things went with the Bruins second-line of Hall, Krejci, and Craig Smith following the April trade, the Bruins should make Hall and Krejci two of their priority’s over the summer. When healthy, they form a solid point-producing line behind the top-line, something that has been an issue for Boston in past seasons.
3. Is Jake DeBrusk Playing in Boston in 2021-22?
Jake DeBrusk had the most disappointing 2020-21 season for the Bruins, hands down. After signing a two-year bridge deal last November with an annual cap hit of $3.675 million after not drawing much interest in free agency, hopes were high in Boston that he could continue the growth that saw him become a goal-scoring left wing on the second line with Krejci. In 2018-19, he scored a career-high 27 goals, then tallied 19 in the shortened 2019-20 season.
This season, the 24-year-old scored just five goals and had nine assists in 41 regular-season games, and was twice a healthy scratch by coach Bruce Cassidy. He was also a healthy scratch in Game 5 of Boston’s second-round playoff series against the Islanders with the series tied 2-2. In 10 postseason games, he had two goals and an assist.
At the April 12 trade deadline, the Bruins held onto DeBrusk, but this summer, if teams come calling, Sweeney should listen to offers and consider moving him in a deal. In his media availability Monday morning, Cassidy noted the need to find common ground with DeBrusk for next season. With the way this season went, which saw him play Game 6 against the Islanders on the fourth line, that is easier said than done. There’s no doubt DeBrusk has the ability to be a difference-maker in the NHL as a goal-scorer, but with the Bruins championship window closing, how much more time can they give him to find the goal-scoring touch from two seasons ago?
These are three very interesting storylines for the Bruins as they head into a summer of uncertainty with their own free agents as they look to build for another run at the Stanley Cup in the 2021-22 season. Between the Seattle Kraken expansion draft in July, the NHL Entry Draft a few days later, and free agency beginning on July 28, things should get busy in Boston mid-summer.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. 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.