Boston Bruins Have A Lot of Off- Season Decisions

Ethan Flaherty, Staff Writer

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When Boston Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney said that it was not “realistic” for the Bruins to retain all of their pending free agents, he verbalized a concern that many players and fans shared. For the 2018-19 season, the Bruins have $64,740,00 of a $74 million hard cap tied up in non-free agent contracts.

 

Despite losing handily in the second round of the playoffs, the Bruins overachieved based on predictions for this previous season. Despite an inexperienced lineup (nine different players scored their first NHL goal this season) and many injuries that hampered the B’s early in the season, professional analysis predicted that, at best, the B’s might have a wild card birth in the playoffs. They ended the season as the Eastern Conference second seed.

 

The off season work Sweeney faces includes decisions about both restricted free agent (RFA) and unrestricted free agents (UFA). Restricted free agents for the Bruins this off- season are: Sean Kuraly, Matt Grzelcyk, Colby Cave, and Anton Blidth. Of these players, Kuraly and Grzelcyk played for the Boston Bruins (Cave and Blidth played for the Providence Bruins, Boston’s AHL franchise). If the Bruins do not tender these players offers by June 25, they become unrestricted free agents, eligible to sign with any team after July 1. It is likely that both Kuraly and Grzelcyk are resigned by the Bruins as they both contributed at a low cost to the team.

The UFA eligible players include: Nick Holden, Rick Nash, Riley Nash, Tim Schaller, Anton Khudobin, Brian Gionta, and Tommy Wingels. UFA eligible players under the Collective

Bargaining Agreement (CBA) are experienced professional players. They command higher salaries.

Because the NHL has a hard cap under the CBA, Sweeney must tread carefully with his veteran UFAs. The 2017-18 Boston Bruins were not good enough to win the Stanley Cup, but . there are many young players in Providence who are close to being able to contribute to the Boston Bruins. With just under $10 million to spend, the Bruins need to remain competitive while developing younger players.

Anton Khudobin, a back-up goalie who played incredibly well this season, made $1.2 million in the 2017-18 season. He is eligible for and will receive a raise based on his performance. It is likely the Bruins will re-sign him. Tim Schaller also might stick around for next season. Making the league minimum at $775,000 for the ‘17-’18 season, Schaller is likely to be an affordable and contributing option for the Bruins going forward. Tommy Wingels, while affordable ($750,000) and serviceable, is an aging player (36 years old). It is unlikely Sweeney will used his limited cap space to re-sign Wingels.

The rest of the UFA class is a bit trickier. Many of these players either command a big salary (Rick Nash at $3.9 million) or are due a big raise (Riley Nash at $900,000 and going up). Some of the players did not contribute or spent the majority of their time with the Bruins not playing (Holden and Gionta). They will likely not be tendered an offer as Sweeney can use that money to put a more competitive team on the ice.

As avid Bruins fan Sheila Ashton added, “After the season the Bruins had, Don Sweeney has some big decisions to make. Some are going to be easier than others, but unless the team is poised to win the Cup, it is ultimately a losing season. That isn’t acceptable.”