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Thursday, May 19, 2022

Bruins 2022 Free Agents, Draft Targets, Offseason Guide After NHL Playoff Loss

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    The Boston Bruins were eliminated from the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 3-2 loss in Game 7 of their first-round series against the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday at PNC Arena.  

    Bruins general manager Don Sweeney spent much of the last few seasons putting pieces around veterans Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, such as Taylor Hall and Hampus Lindholm, in hopes of making another Stanley Cup run.

    That said, Saturday’s loss was a disappointing one for the Black and Gold, who finished the regular season fourth place in the Atlantic Division with an 51-26-5 record. 

    With yet another season in the books, and no Stanley Cup to show for it, the Bruins will head back to the drawing board this offseason in hopes of improving their team for the 2022-23 campaign. 

    So, let’s take a look at Boston’s free agents, some draft targets and what to expect moving forward.  

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Patrice Bergeron (UFA), Jesper Froden (UFA), Curtis Lazar (UFA), Jack Studnicka (RFA), Anton Blidh (UFA), Josh Brown (UFA), Jack Ahcan (RFA), Troy Grosenick (UFA), Jakub Zboril (UFA)

    No other player on Boston’s list of free agents is more important than Bergeron, the team’s captain. 

    The veteran center has been a staple in the Bruins’ lineup since being selected in the second round of the 2003 NHL draft. The 2011 Stanley Cup champion and four-time Selke Award winner has had an unbelievable 18-year career, notching 400 goals and 582 assists for 982 points in 1,216 games. 

    At 36 years old, he showed no signs of slowing down during the 2021-22 season, either, tallying 25 goals and 40 assists for 65 points in 73 games. It was his ninth straight season with at least 20 goals and 48 points. 

    That said, Bergeron’s future in Boston, and in the NHL, is up in the air. The Quebec native said in September that he would wait until after the 2021-22 campaign to decide his fate, and he hasn’t definitively ruled out retirement. 

    However, Sweeney said in September that he had contract negotiations with Bergeron and that however long he wanted to remain a Bruin was up to him. 

    Bergeron is coming off a deal that paid him $6.875 million per year. It’s unclear how much he’s looking for to return for another season. 

    In addition to Bergeron, other notable free agents include youngsters Studnicka, Ahcan and Zboril. Studnicka and Ahcan are still developing but have impressed when called up from the AHL’s Providence Bruins, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them re-signed this offseason. 

    Zboril, meanwhile, finally cracked Boston’s lineup entering the 2021-22 season but suffered a torn ACL after playing just 10 games. The 25-year-old showed a lot of improvement in that short period of time and would be worth bringing back on a relatively inexpensive deal. 

    Players like Lazar and Blidh, who have served in depth roles, could likely depart Boston this summer as the Bruins have always done well replacing those type of players on cheaper deals. For instance, see Par Lindholm, Sean Kuraly and Karson Kuhlman.

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    Graig Abel/Getty Images

    The Bruins don’t have a 2022 first-round draft pick after trading it to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for Lindholm at the deadline, making the season’s result that much more disappointing as Boston has struggled to build for the future and could have used a first-round selection. 

    Here’s a look at the picks they do have in the 2022 draft:

  • One second-round pick
  • One third-round pick
  • One fourth-round pick
  • One sixth-round pick
  • Two seventh-round picks

That said, the Bruins could use some depth both on forward and defense. They are set in goal for at least the next few years with Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark manning the crease, so there’s no need there. 

Provided these players slip to the second round, Luca Del Bel Belluz, Noah Warren and Lane Hutson could be intriguing options for the Bruins.

Belluz, a center, spent the 2021-22 season with the Mississauga Steelheads of the Ontario Hockey League. The 6’1″, 179-pound forward tallied 30 goals and 45 assists for 76 points in 68 games. 

NHL Central Scouting ranked Belluz as the 11th-best North American skater, coming in above players such as Isaac Howard and Adam Ingram. He has great agility, edgework and weaving ability that would help him thrive in a Bruins offense as both a playmaker and shooter. 

Warren, a defenseman, spent the 2021-22 campaign with the Gatineau Olympiques of the QMJHL. The 6’5″, 214-pound defender tallied five goals and 19 assists for 24 points in 58 games.

Warren isn’t an offensive defenseman, and the Bruins certainly don’t need that with both McAvoy and Grzelcyk on board. He thrives defensively, winning puck battles and using solid positioning to force opponents into making mistakes. He would be an intriguing addition and one who shouldn’t be ruled out.

Hutson, a defenseman, spent the 2021-22 season with the U.S. National Team Development Program and is set to play college hockey at Boston University in 2023-24. Considering he’ll play in a system that helped develop both Grzelcyk and McAvoy, Hutson would be a tremendous add. 

The 5’8″, 148-pound defender is definitely small, but both Grzelcyk and Torey Krug, who are on the smaller side, have thrived in Boston’s defensive unit. He tallied six goals and 26 assists for 32 points in 27 games for the USNTDP last season.

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Considering the Bruins frequently explore the free-agent market, let’s take a look at some possible 2022 free-agent targets, which include Calgary Flames’ Johnny Gaudreau, Nashville Predators’ Filip Forsberg and Carolina Hurricanes’ Vincent Trocheck. 

    Gaudreau will be one of the more expensive forwards on the market, but putting him in a top-six that would include Bergeron, Marchand, David Pastrnak and Taylor Hall would make the Bruins lethal.

    The Boston College product had a career year during the 2021-22 campaign, tallying 40 goals and 75 assists for 115 points in 82 games. Boston could use that type of production, so they should at least check in on him.

    Forsberg will also be one of the more expensive forwards available, but he would also be a solid addition to Boston’s top-six. He notched 42 goals and 42 assists for 84 points in 69 games during the 2021-22 campaign. 

    Trocheck, meanwhile, notched 21 goals and 30 assists for 51 points in 81 games with the Hurricanes in 2021-22. 

    Any of these players would be a tremendous addition for the Bruins, especially considering they could use some more scoring, as referenced by their inability to score in this year’s postseason. 

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