49-24-9, 107 points, 2nd in the Atlantic Division
Eliminated in the Stanley Cup Final by St. Louis
Additions: F Brendan Gaunce, F Pär Lindholm, F Brett Ritchie, G Maxime Lagacé
Subtractions: F Noel Acciari (signed with FLA), F Marcus Johansson (signed with BUF), F Mark McNeill (EBEL), F Gemel Smith (signed with TBL), F Jordan Szwarz (signed with OTT), G Zane McIntyre (signed with VAN)
Still Unsigned: F Lee Stempniak
Re-signed: F Peter Cehlarik, F Ryan Fitzgerald, F Danton Heinen, D Brandon Carlo, D Charlie McAvoy
Offseason Analysis: After losing Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final on home ice, the Boston Bruins quickly turned the page to the 2019-20 season. Rookie camp was less than a month away and with it meant free agency for the veteran players of the game.
General Manager, Don Sweeney, followed suit with his business as usual masterplan– stay the course. Don’t overspend on any bottom-six talent and don’t rock the boat.
Boston’s impeccable leadership group of Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and David Backes has everyone in the dressing room in a collective mindset.
The Bruins remain focused on an unaccomplished goal from last season– winning the Cup.
The tight-knit roster witnessed the departure of fourth liner, Noel Acciari, and third-line trade deadline acquisition, Marcus Johansson.
Acciari, 27, brought his talents to the Florida Panthers on a three-year contract worth $1.667 million per season, while Johansson, 28, signed a two-year deal with the Buffalo Sabres worth $4.500 million per season.
Since Sweeney was named GM in May 2015, he’s adopted a new policy for the organization whereby bottom-six forwards– especially on the fourth line– are usually expendable.
Though Acciari’s physical game will be missed by the Bruins, it’s a next-player up mentality combined with the signing of Brett Ritchie to a one-year, $1.000 million contract, that will hold the B’s over for the 2019-20 season.
Excess spending in a salary cap world can get teams into cap hell and more often than not, getting too attached to players that are outside of your top line, top defensive pairing or top goaltender is more costly in the long run.
A little more here and there will hurt a team when the time comes to sign a younger, better, player to a new– more expensive– contract.
In other words, saving $667,000 on Ritchie’s services for the same role as Acciari, should yield the same result on the fourth line (in theory) and save just enough money to utilize elsewhere– like on Par Lindholm’s two-year deal worth $850,000 per season.
Lindholm and Ritchie provide more depth to Boston’s roster than Acciari alone in the simple sense that two players are more than one (especially if one gets hurt).
The Bruins weren’t going to be able to retain Johansson at a $4.500 million cap hit while having to re-sign Danton Heinen, Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo.
Though Johansson was a good fit for the B’s with Charlie Coyle and Heinen on the third line, signing Heinen to a two-year, $5.600 million ($2.800 million cap hit) deal and negotiating a bridge deal that was fair for both sides in McAvoy and Carlo’s case was more important for the future of the franchise.
Sweeney might be playing with fire as McAvoy’s three-year deal bears a $4.900 million cap hit and a surefire significant raise for the 21-year-old defender in three years from now when he’s even further into his prime, but for now, the contract is just another example of Sweeney’s mastery at keeping his team under the cap ceiling.
Carlo’s two-year extension is worth $2.850 million per season and is less likely to cause a ruckus when the defender is in the $4.000 million range depending on how Sweeney’s newest challenge plays out.
With McAvoy and Carlo under contract, Sweeney’s attention can shift to figuring out Torey Krug’s future with the franchise.
While Chara and Kevan Miller are pending-unrestricted free agents at season’s end on the blue line, Matt Grzelcyk will be a restricted free agent and a shoe-in for an extension.
Chara, 42, may retire at season’s end and Miller, 31, might be in his final days as a Bruin this season.
The oft-injured defender (Miller) won’t start the season with Boston as he’s out with a knee injury and has been replaced in his bottom-pairing role by younger and cheaper options in Grzelcyk and Connor Clifton– who signed a three-year extension carrying a $1.000 million cap hit that will kick in starting next season.
With an additional $4.500 million to work with, Sweeney could pay Krug upwards of $9.000 million per season– except Jake DeBrusk will also be Boston’s biggest pending-RFA next July and he’ll need some of that money.
So Krug could sign an extension and have to deal with Sweeney’s money saving ways, be traded while he carries enough trade value before the trade deadline or walk away in free agency, leaving the Bruins with nothing.
At any rate, Boston locked down their biggest component in keeping everything together on the ice this offseason as head coach, Bruce Cassidy, signed a multi-year extension that will begin next season after his current deal expires at the end of the 2019-20 season.
Offseason Grade: B
The reigning GM of the Year had his work cutout for him this offseason in keeping all of his RFAs on the same team without overpaying. Sweeney also managed to avoid handing out any large contracts to free agents and continued to opt for cheap, expendable, replacements to fill lower-ranked roles on the roster.
They didn’t hit it out of the park with a big name star, but they quietly went about their business signing better than average deals (for the advantage of the franchise) and still have enough of their core (despite the age factor) to remain competitive on the ice this season.