With a 3-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday afternoon, the Boston Bruins’ rather successful season has come to an end. For the front office, however, their season is just beginning.
Nine players for the Bruins are either unrestricted or restricted free agents this offseason, which means the contract season for general manager Don Sweeney is just starting. Of the nine players, seven are unrestricted and two are restricted.
Rick Nash, Riley Nash, Tim Schaller, Tommy Wingels, Brian Gionta, Nick Holden, and Anton Khudobin are all unrestricted free agents while Matt Grzelcyk and Sean Kuraly are restricted.
Before management makes any decisions, however, they should take into consideration the players who will be looking for new contracts after next season. Ryan Donato, Danton Heinen, Noel Acciari, Zdeno Chara, Brandon Carlo, Adam McQuaid, and Charlie McAvoy will all be looking to come back with the possible exception of Chara and McQuaid.
With this long list of free agents in the next two seasons, who should the Bruins let go and who should they keep?
Nash, Gionta, Holden, and Wingels all arguably came to Boston as rentals at the NHL Trade Deadline for the 2017-2018 postseason in hope for the Bruins to make a long run for the Stanley Cup. While Nash found a spot on the second line with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk, Gionta, Holden, and Wingels often found themselves as healthy scratches.
In other words, let Gionta, Holden, and Wingels walk this offseason. If the Bruins can re-sign Rick Nash for cheap, then they should, but if not then Nash should not be resigned. Management should be focusing on making room for younger players in the future.
Both Riley Nash and Tim Schaller had career seasons—each finishing with 41 points. Both will probably not be cheap to resign, and, if the Bruins were smart, they would resign both Nash and Schaller for as little as possible.
Keeping Grzelcyk, a restricted free agent, would be ideal as the Bruins are in desperate need for a left-shot defenseman.
The question for resigning Kuraly remains, as he only put up 13 points as a bottom-six forward. A two-way contract for Kuraly would be beneficial for not only him but the Bruins as well. This way Kuraly can jump from the AHL’s Providence Bruins to the NHL when needed.
Khudobin is a whole new story, however. The Bruins’ backup goaltender had a solid season behind Tuukka Rask—finishing the season with a 29-16-6 record and a .913 save percentage. If the Bruins can’t resign him, it would not the end of the world, as goaltenders Jaroslav Halak, Jonathan Bernier, and Cam Ward are just three of the several backup quality goaltenders who will be looking for new contracts this offseason.
The Bruins’ management has a lot to consider this offseason, and Bruins fans are in for a ride.