Bruins’ Zboril Extension Signals Roster Turnover on Defense Is Coming

Monday was breakup day for the Boston Bruins players at Warrior Ice Arena following their loss in Game 7 in the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Carolina Hurricanes Saturday night. A lot of the players met with the media before they all go their separate ways for the offseason.

During the player interviews, the Bruins announced that they agreed to a two-year contract extension with defenseman Jakub Zboril, which carries a cap hit of $1.137 million. Going into the offseason, Boston is loaded with left-shot blueliners on their roster, but bringing back Zboril is a good move by the Bruins, which now means more moves are on the way this offseason.

Zboril’s 2021-22 Season

It was not the 2021-22 season that both Zboril and the Bruins were hoping he would have. He played in 10 games from Oct. 28-Dec. 2, but his season came to a crashing halt on Dec. 2 when he suffered a season-ending torn ACL injury against the Nashville Predators that required surgery. It was a tough break for Zboril as he was making a strong case to be in the lineup.

His first full season in the NHL was in 2020-21 when he made the roster out of training camp on the third pairing with veteran Kevan Miller. In 42 games, the 13th overall pick of the 2015 Entry Draft had nine assists, but he took a big step in both his development and growth in the NHL. He is not thought of as an offensive defenseman, although his offensive game did improve each season with the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League (AHL), but he is as steady as it comes on the backend for the Black and Gold.

What Does the Future Hold for Zboril?

The future should hold a nightly spot in the Bruins lineup when healthy. In order to do that, Boston has some offseason moving around to do with their left-shot depth chart. They have a lot of question marks on that side behind Hampus Lindholm.

Jakub Zboril Boston Bruins
Jakub Zboril, Boston Bruins (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Derek Forbort was brought in as a free agent on a three-year, $9 million contract last offseason and struggled at the beginning of the season. As the season went along, he got better and became a key penalty killer with Brandon Carlo. He was not afraid to sacrifice his body to block a shot as he had 100 blocks in the regular season and 18 more in the playoffs. Even Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins took notice in a game on April 21 when he tapped Forbort after the blueliner blocked four shots on one penalty kill.

Mike Reilly was acquired at the trade deadline in April of 2021 from the Ottawa Senators and supplied the Bruins with a puck-moving offensive defenseman that helped at the end of the season and into the playoffs. Like Forbort, he was signed to a three-year, $9 million contract last offseason, but his 2021-22 season was far less impressive than the end of the previous season. He struggled and found himself mostly on the outside looking in following the trade deadline and the addition of Lindholm. He played during Lindholm’s injury, but was not the same player as he was last season.

Related: Bruins’ Zboril Should Be Lineup Mainstay After Recent Play

That brings us to Matt Grzelcyk. He has been a big part of the Bruins’ defense and was brought back two years ago on a four-year, $14.75 million contract. There are two years remaining on the deal that carries a $4.25 million cap hit and out of the three previous names mentioned, he might the best player to move as trading him would open more cap space and he has the most upside.

Bruins Have Decisions and Moves to Make

Do the Bruins go ahead and move Grzelcyk? Maybe, maybe not, but he would open up the most cap space and be the most desirable to teams on the trade market. Moving Reilly and Fobort is another option and one of the two still may go, but something has to be done before training camp in September. Bringing back Zboril was the right move and if he comes back from his injury and is the same player he was before it, there is no reason he can’t play the third pairing on defense next season.

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