If you have been on any Bruins fan social media pages in recent weeks there has been some frustration. Much has been directed at GM Don Sweeney and his lack of in their words impact moves. However with a flat cap once again next season and possibly the season after the Bruins are actually in a great position. According to CapFriendly, the Bruins have 32.7 million in projected cap space for next offseason. While Carlo will see a substantial raise that still leaves plenty of room for other moves going forward. With just 10 teams having over four million in cap space keeping that large amount of cap room for the next offseason could mean big moves going forward for the Black and Gold. So let’s take a look at some players the Bruins could chase in 2021-22 free agency.
Targets For 2021-22 Free Agency
RNH has had an interesting career so far. From being the number 1 pick back in 2011 to now playing a supporting role to the Oiler’s other superstars. While Ryan has been shifted to the wing the majority of his career has been spent at center. In 604 games RNH has an impressive stat line of 169-274-443. He has even topped 20 goals each of the last three years.
Last season in 65 games he put up 61 points with 22 goals and 39 assists. In the 2018-19 season, RNH played all 82 games scoring 69 points with 28 goals and 41 assists. With Krejci becoming a UFA in 2021-22 free agency the Bruins could have a spot open on the second line. RNH will be coming off a deal paying him 6 million per year, so he could even get a slight raise which is hard to come by in the current cap world. With a similar offensive skill set to Krejci as a playmaking center, this seems like a natural fit if Sweeney can pry him away from Edmonton.
Phillip Danault has become an excellent two way forward for the Montreal Canadiens. In the last two seasons, he has finished 6th and 7th in Selke voting. Danault has also won over 51% of his faceoffs each of the last four years topping 54% each of the last two. With Bergeron starting to slow down maybe Danault could be brought in to fill a middle-six role with Coyle. Then once Bergeron hangs up his skates we would already have his replacement on the team.
I’m not saying put Danault on the top line but he could fill the role on the PK as well as be the go-to faceoff guy. This season in 71 games Danault scored 47 points with 13 goals and 34 assists. In the 2018-19 season, he played in 81 games scoring 12 goals with 41 assists for 53 points. While those totals might not jump off the page just think about what he could do with talented snipers like Pasta and Debrusk. Of course, the icing on the cake is stealing him from a bitter rival in Montreal.
Honorable Mention Alexander Wennberg
With Debrusk now locked up and Marchand on the top line, Nick Foligno could be a target to fill a depth scoring role. While Foligno isn’t the guy who scored 73 points back in 2014-15 he has still scored over 30 points each of the last five years. Last season in 67 games Foligno scored 10 goals with 21 assists for 31 points. The real important stat however is he delivered 212 hits. That physically imposing style is something the Bruins desperately need in their forward group. Add to that the defensive ability and leadership he could bring and it seems like a can’t miss move. Foligno will be turning 34 during the 2021-22 season and has already played 908 games in the league. With that in mind, it wouldn’t be a long-term deal but he is still a very useful player in the league.
Jaden Schwartz is another interesting option the Bruins could look at. If Debrusk fails to take that next step in his game getting a top-six left wing could be a priority for Sweeney. So far Schwartz has topped 50 points five times in his career. Last season in 71 games he scored 57 points with 22 goals and 35 assists. Injuries have been an issue for Jaden, resulting in him playing over 70 in just four of the last seven seasons.
Schwartz has also felt like a player who could take his game to another level but just hasn’t been able to with the Blues. Just look at his 2017-18 season where he scored 59 points in just 62 games including 24 goals. Maybe a change of scenery allows Jaden to reach that level of play more regularly than he has so far. He will also be just 29 heading into next season so he still has plenty of tread on the tires.
Honorable Mention Tanner Pearson
Kyle Palmieri has been a rumored target of the Bruins for the last few years. With five straight 20 goal seasons, it’s no surprise the Bruins would be interested once the 2021-22 free agency season starts. Palmieri would be a great fit on the Bruins second line if Kase doesn’t work out. Last season on a New Jersey team that struggled to score goals Palmieri finished with a stat line of 25-20-45 in 65 games. Not eye-popping numbers but when you look at the team around him it’s fairly impressive. Turning thirty this February finishing his prime on a contending team could be a big selling point for Palmieri.
Pavel Buchnevich has become a solid depth scorer for the Rangers. Last season in 68 games Buchnevich scored 16 goals with 30 assists for 46 points. The previous season he scored 21 goals with 17 assists for 38 points in 64 games. In addition to setting a career-high in points, this past season Pavel also set his high for hits with 80. Those 80 hits would rank him 4th among Bruins’ forwards and 7th overall on the team. At 6’3 and pushing 200 pounds, he brings a mix of size and skill that could give opponents trouble. Adding some more strength and grit to his game would fit right in with the Bruins style of play.
We have already heard Debrusk say he wants to be tougher to play against. Why not add a guy who is already becoming tougher to play against and can still score 20 goals in a regular 82 game season. While it’s unlikely the Bruins put in an offer sheet with plenty of high drafts picks to sign the right offer might price the Rangers out. Already making 3.25 this coming season look for a decent raise if he hit 20 goals again, especially in a shortened regular season.
Honorable Mention Ondrej Kase
Ian Cole is not a big name but he could be just what the 2021-22 Bruins need. With the youth movement underway on the Blueline Cole could provide the group with some needed veteran leadership. Cole will turn 32 this February and has played in 541 NHL games. He’s a veteran but can still play a decent role averaging just under 20 minutes a game two years ago and just under 18 minutes last season.
Ian Cole is more of a defensive defenseman who is a lock for over 100 blocks and 100 hits. However, he can bring some offense when he needs to tying his career-high in points with 26 last season. The Avalanche have plenty of young defensemen who are ready for bigger roles so Cole is likely the odd man out next off-season. With Kevan Miller and Matt Grzelcyk as the only NHL regulars over 25 for Bruins defensemen Cole could fill a much-needed role.
Alec Martinez could be available next season as a cap casualty in Vegas. Vegas is already tight to the cap making an extension for Martinez very unlikely. A proven top-four defenseman Martinez would fit right into a Bruins defense core that is going young. Turning 34 next summer with 2 Stanley Cups on his resume Martinez could provide some big minutes if Grzelcyk or Vaakanainen are unable to fill a top-four role. Martinez also has a career-high of 39 points so he could help if the current group can’t make up for the loss of Krug.
With over 100 blocked shots each of the last six seasons, Martinez brings the toughness and grit Boston fans love. If Chara isn’t brought back or he retires after next season Martinez could be brought in to fill that role while still playing 20 plus minutes a game. Did we mention his two Stanley Cup rings yet? Having a player who knows what it takes to win in the playoffs is always a good thing. As members of the 2011 championship team continue to move on bringing in proven winners could help get this group to that level.
Honorable Mention Ryan Murray
Frederik Andersen could be on his way out in Toronto. On the last year of a five year 25 million dollar contract Andersen could be in need of a new home come 2021-22 free agency. After a few playoff disappointments, the Leafs seem ready for a change. In his four years with the Leafs Andersen has a record of 136-66-33 to go with a .916sv% and a 2.74 GAA. Andersen has also finished top 10 in Vezina voting twice in those four years. With a better defensive team in front of him and a solid backup or platoon option, Andersen could be a top 10 maybe top 5 goalie in the NHL.
Now on the wrong side of 30 turning 31, this past October Andersen will be looking for a team that is in win-now mode. The Bruins could be watching Rask retire next summer. Halak is also in need of a contract extension or he could walk in 2021-22 free agency. Suddenly the Bruins have some uncertainty at the goalie position for the first time since the 2005-06 season. If Rask decides he’s calling it a career Andersen would be a great bridge to the next young franchise goalie. With that role, Swayman’s for taking having a top goalie for a few years gives him time to develop.
When healthy Antti Raanta has been one of the better goalies in the league the last few years. Unfortunately, his inability to stay healthy is what lands him on this list. Signing him would be a gamble with a career-high of only 46 starts in a season. However, that gamble could pay off with a career .921sv% and a 2.40GAA in 186 games. Raanta has the ability to be a starter in the NHL and perform well in that role. The Bruins would just need a backup plan of Halak or another 1B option if he does get hurt. As we said the future looks bright in Swayman the Bruins just have to bridge the gap to him for a few years.
Honorable Mention James Reimer
2021-22 Free Agency Honorable Mentions/Final Thoughts
The first honorable mention on the list is center Alexander Wennberg. Back in 2016-17, Wennberg scored a career-high 59 points. Last season that fell to just 22. Now in Florida with some more offensive freedom, a bounce-back could put Wennberg back in the running for a top 6 spot. Next on the list is Vancouver left-wing Tanner Pearson. Another solid season following his 21 goal 45 point performance last season could set Pearson up for a decent raise which might price Vancouver out of retaining him. The right-wing honorable mention goes to Ondrej Kase. I believe Kase could be the answer at right-wing here is an article covering him after being traded to Boston.
On defense, our honorable mention goes to Ryan Murray. The 2nd overall pick back in 2012 has had a hard time staying on the ice. So far injuries have limited him to just 347 games in his seven-year career. When healthy Murray is still an effective top-four defenseman. Finally, our last honorable mention is for the goalie position going to James Reimer. Reimer might not be a clear-cut number 1 guy but he is capable of stealing some games and playing the 1B role. The Bruins would still need that 1A with Reimer but he does provide a good stop-gap if need be.
All stats are courtesy of Hockey-Reference a great site for all the numbers guys out there. Obviously projecting next offseason’s free agents is mostly guesswork but feel free to leave your thoughts and what players you would chase next free agency. Until next time stay safe out there and LET’S GO BRUINS!!
Featured image courtesy of Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald.