With the Bruins extending goaltender Jaroslav Halak for the 2020/201 season, they can now set their sights on the other eight players with expiring deals.
Jake DeBrusk, Matt Grzelcyk, Anders Bjork and Karson Kuhlman will be restricted free agents once the offseason arrives. Captain Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, Kevan Miller and Joakim Nordstrom are set to become unrestricted free agents. The team will have roughly $18 Million in slaray cap space, but it is impossible to know the exact amount until the NHL announces the cap for next season.
It should not be that difficult getting the four unrestricted free agents signed. Last season the Bruins had Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy as unrestricted free agents. Carlo is now making $2.85 Million a year ,while McAvoy’s yearly earnings are $4.9 Million.
Both of those players agreed to those “bridge deals” to help the team stay under the cap. Since many of the upper players on the team are making significantly less than they could be **cough, Pastrnak, Marchand, Bergeron, cough, cough**, Carlo and McAvoy would have looked silly breaking the bank early on in their careers.
The Bruins have been able to convince most of their players to take either significant discounts or at least less than they would make on the open market. That is a huge reason why the team has been competitive the past few seasons.
DeBrusk and Gzelcyk will definitely see an increase in salary, but it will not be an incredible raise. They are both very important cogs in this machine, but their big payday will come down the line. Grzelcyk might see an expanded role next season if the Bruins loose Krug to the market, which could lead to potentially more money as well.
Bjork and Kuhlman will most likely be signed with ease, but neither has proven to be an every game player yet. Next season will be very important campaigns for the both of them to prove they belong in the Bruins’ lineup consistently.
It seems unlikely Nordstrom and Miller will be back. The Bruins have multiple depth wingers, including Chris Wagner, Sean Kuraly, Anton Blidh and Par Lindholm. Signing Nordstrom is probably not a possibility. While he is an important penalty killer, shot blocker, and plays the 4th line winger role well, he probably will not be back next season.
Miller has been hurt for so long it seems improbable the Bruins would sign him again. That is especially true with a plethora of bottom pairing defensemen in the organization, such as Jeremy Lauzon, John Morre, Connor Clifton, and Steven Kampfer.
Chara will almost certainly be back. It would not be surprising in the least to see Big Z locked in for one more year during the quarantine. Chara, even at 43, has had another productive season with the Bruins. He is likely on a year to year plan with the organization.
The last, and arguably most important free agent, is Krug. He also proves to be the trickiest to sign. He could make north of $7 million per season, which would be a hefty price. That would put him above Bergeron, Marchand, and Pastrnak in salary.
However, Bruins general manger Don Sweeney has been excellent this season in shedding salary to prepare for this off season. Trading Danton Heienen and unloading most of David Backes’ might have put them in the position to sign Krug.
Krug is such a vital component to the team’s play on the ice and in the locker room. He spearheads Boston’s powerplay, is solid in his own zone, and produces in the playoffs. Boston should do everything within reason to bring back 47. Even if that means spreading out the yearly salary by offering more years. The organization should trade off a slippage in production during the back end of the deal to keep an elite offensive defenseman for the next few seasons. They are too close to winning The Stanley Cup to let Krug walk now.
The Bruins off season has no clear cut plan, especially with the lack of projections on the salary cap. However, signing Halak makes this summer easier to navigate. The young kids and Chara will almost certainly be back. If they can keep Krug in Black and Gold, Boston should be the favorite to raise The Cup next spring.
Follow Chad on Twitter @shutupchadjones