It has been a bizarre offseason for the Boston Bruins.
They let Torey Krug walk in free agency, they were unable to land Taylor Hall and may not re-sign their long-time captain Zdeno Chara.
According to PuckPedia.com, the Bruins have ≈$7.3 million in cap space but still have to re-sign RFA Jake DeBrusk. Fringe roster players like Karson Kuhlman, Peter Cehlarik and Zach Senyshyn all still need new deals as well.
Even with some quality players walking out the door, the Bruins brought in Craig Smith on a three-year deal, still have one of the best goalie tandems in the NHL and are among the favourites to win the 2020-21 Stanley Cup–fourth-best odds (+1200) per OddsShark.com.
Projected Forward Lines
Even with Patrice Bergeron missing nine games in 2020, Brad Marchand, Bergeron and David Pastrnak played over 640 5v5 minutes together. They were one of just three trios to accumulate over 600 minutes together and were fourth among lines with min.400 TOI in GoalsFor/60 (4.09). They’re widely known as the “Perfection Line” and will be together as much as possible in 2021. However, they could begin the season without both Pastrnak and Marchand. Pastrnak underwent right hip arthroscopy and labral repair on September 16 and is expected to be out until mid-February. Meanwhile, Marchand underwent sports hernia surgery on September 14 and is expected to be sidelined until mid-January.
The Bruins acquired Ondrej Kase from the Anaheim Ducks in late-February but he only played in six regular-season games for them before the season was paused. Upon the resuming of the season, Kase played on the second line with David Krejci and DeBrusk and the trio was solid throughout the postseasons. They had a 52.97 CorsiFor% and averaged 2.17 GF/60. The offensive numbers weren’t off the charts but they were good enough to expect them to start 2021 as the Bruins second-line. Smith would be a candidate to move up to the second line throughout the season.
I expect him to play on the third-line, the same way he did with the Nashville Predators last season. That third line led the NHL in GF/60, so the Bruins are hoping that he can elevate their bottom-6 the same way. Pairing up with Charlie Coyle makes that extremely likely.
Boston’s fourth line was caved in during 2020. They carried a 41.9 CF% and had a 23.5 GoalsFor%, which was worst in the NHL among lines who played at least 250 minutes together. Joakim Nordstrom wasn’t re-signed, so expect Nick Ritchie to fill that fourth-line void.
After the news of Pastrnak and Marchand’s surgery, Jack Studnicka will likely start the season with the Bruins. The 21-year-old finished the season in Boston and had one assist in seven games between the regular season and playoffs. He was promoted after leading the Providence Bruins (AHL) with 49 points (23G / 26A) in 60 games. Whether it’s DeBrusk, Kase or Smith who moves up to replace Pastrnak, Studnicka will likely start on the third line with Coyle.
Projected Defensive Pairings
Following the Krug and potentially Chara departures, the Bruins’ blueline is looking thin at the moment. We’re still early in the offseason and they could use some cap space to address it. Veterans like Andy Greene, Sami Vatanen, Dmitry Kulikov and Travis Hamonic remain on the open market, so there’s a chance that GM Don Sweeney makes some moves.
With Krug now in St. Louis, Charlie McAvoy will likely move to the top power-play unit for the first time in his career. He’s never averaged more than 1:59 PP ATOI in his career, so this should boost his offensive numbers–Krug averaged 3:53 PP TOI last year. With Chara still unsigned, it looks like McAvoy will have a new partner at 5v5 and Matt Grzelcyk is the most likely candidate. The 26-year-old is also a candidate to quarterback the second PP unit. He’s coming off of a career-best 21 points (4G / 17A) in 68 games in 2020.
Combined the second-pair of Jeremy Lauzon and Brandon Carlo are almost younger than Chara. The two 23-year-olds both have good size, averaging 6-foot-3, 208 lbs. and should be capable of taking on tough minutes behind Grzelcyk-McAvoy if Sweeney doesn’t bring in a top-4 blueliner.
Their third pairing offers almost zero offensive upside. Connor Clifton and John Moore were in and out of the lineup throughout 2020 and combined for just five points (4G / 1A) in 55 games.
Salary Cap Figures via PuckPedia.com