The Boston Bruins’ long-time captain since the 2006-07 season, 43-year-old Zdeno Chara remains unsigned as the end of the calendar year, 2020, draws near.
Chara’s agent, Matt Keator, has been reported as noting that the defender has had contact from more than 20 teams this offseason, but is focused on re-signing with the Bruins if there’s a deal to be had.
Of course, he could also just flat-out retire.
It’s not that Boston couldn’t use the services of their longtime cornerstone on the blue line, but the Bruins are shaking things up this offseason on defense– partially because of necessity and partially because that’s just how time works.
Torey Krug left for the St. Louis Blues in free agency and guys like Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon, Connor Clifton and Urho Vaakanainen are all vying for potentially the same couple of spots.
Kevan Miller was brought back on a one-year, $1.250 million deal and John Moore is still on the books through the 2022-23 season at a $2.750 million cap hit.
With a little under $3.000 million in available cap room, the B’s could be looking to sign Chara to a short-term league minimum contract– one-year, $700,000– and present themselves with at least $2.300 million to offer someone like Mike Hoffman or lure back Carl Soderberg into the mix for added scoring touch or depth, respectively.
If they can’t land Hoffman, then Soderberg is likely the best consolation prize as the offseason drags on and two-week quarantine periods might affect how call-ups from the Providence Bruins (AHL) work.
That’s the latest on how AHL roster transactions might be handled this season, by the way. It all depends on what your state, province or region (if short-term bubbles get involved) has to say about moving players within your own organization.
Soderberg might not be better than playing Jack Studnicka every night, but in a pinch he’d be better than nothing.
After all, he did have 35 points in 70 games with the Arizona Coyotes last season and that’s nothing to sneeze at for a bottom-six forward.
As for Chara, it might be a matter of swallowing a little pride.
He certainly is deserving of almost whatever he wants for the career he’s had and role he’s played in Boston’s leadership for almost 15 years.
But if he’s wanting $1.000 million or more for what’s likely his last season in the league, then the Bruins would be smart to bow out unless they’re able to trade someone like Moore and find a durable top-four defender while convincing Chara to minimize his minutes as a bottom-six defender.
Yet that’d mean they wouldn’t be able to find a guy to play on David Krejci’s wing. You know, kind of what they’ve needed since 2015.
As for Hoffman, the one-time 30-goal scorer has reached the 50-point plateau in the last five seasons and somehow remains on the free agent market.
Whereas the Columbus Blue Jackets have about $9.200 million to spend, how much is Hoffman willing to pull a move similar to Taylor Hall’s one-year deal with the Buffalo Sabres and try to match Hall’s $8.000 million cap hit this season?
Columbus could be a great landing spot for the 31-year-old winger, but would the Blue Jackets be spurned by yet another player in free agency next offseason? Especially if John Tortorella is what could be holding players up from staying long-term?
To play with the Blue Jackets you have to be a 200-foot player in accordance with Tortorella’s style. That’s likely to keep Hoffman from possibly capitalizing on short-term monetary gain with limited options elsewhere unless he can do more than just score.
He might be the one-dimensional sniper Columbus needs, but not if General Manager, Jarmo Kekäläinen, and Tortorella can’t see eye-to-eye on the team’s plan.
For the Bruins to sign Hoffman and bring his 29-30–59 totals in 69 games with the Florida Panthers last season to the Hub of the Universe, Boston would have to shed some salary in a swap for either a defender as they’re reportedly looking for or some draft picks.
That’s where Anders Bjork could be a suitable asset to send to a team in return for, like, a third round pick or something.
Nevertheless, Boston’s not the “Cup contenders” that they were going into last season.
They might figure out a way to win the East Division regular season standings or they could finish fourth in the division and barely make their way into the postseason.
Regardless, the Bruins need to land a top-six forward if Craig Smith is to settle in and get comfy on the third line and patch the defense for a short term fix if management thinks otherwise about the team’s “Cup contender” status.
It’s this year or bust– and in a 56-game regular season every early season game matters that much more.
Getting off on the right foot without Brad Marchand (possibly) and David Pastrnak on opening night (and missing Pastrnak for at least a month) is vital.
It’s crunch time.