The Boston Bruins were faced with a “win and you’re in” situation in the final game of the regular season versus Ottawa. Unfortunately, Tuukka Rask was a last-minute scratch due to illness, and his backup, Jonas Gustavsson allowed 4 goals in 8 minutes in the second period as the Senators routed the Bruins 6-1. The Flyers won later in the day to clinch the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
It was a bizarre season for the Bruins, coming off their first non-playoff year since 2006-07. GM Peter Chiarelli was fired and replaced by his assistant Don Sweeney. Sweeney got off to a rough start with Bruins fans, trading emerging blue-liner Dougie Hamilton to Calgary for three draft picks, despite the belief Edmonton (now helmed by Chiarelli) had a better offer on the table. He then traded longtime Bruins winger Milan Lucic to Los Angeles, resulting in the Bruins having three consecutive picks in the first round (13-15). Sweeney selected tough defender Jakub Zboril and wingers Jake Debrusk and Zachary Senyshyn. Senyshyn was a particularly controversial pick, as he was rated to be a mid-second round pick.
The Bruins went on to post 42-31-9 record, missing the playoffs after that brutal loss to Ottawa.
Cap space: $18.43MM, 16 players under contract
Key RFAs: D Torey Krug – Krug may have been the best defenceman on the Bruins last year, scoring 44 points and averaging 21 minutes per game. Krug underwent shoulder surgery after the season and may miss the beginning of the 2016-17 season. The diminutive Krug will be looking for a raise on the $3.4MM he made last year. With Zdeno Chara getting older, the Bruins are going to rely on Krug more than ever.
Key UFAs: W Loui Eriksson – the two-way scoring winger acquired in the Tyler Seguin trade scored 30 goals and 63 points in 82 games last season. Eriksson was widely expected to be traded or re-signed by the trade deadline, but neither happened. Eriksson is believed to be asking for around $6MM per season for 5-6 years. If the Bruins don’t sign him, they’ll be in the market for his replacement.
Outlook: The Bruins have a busy off-season ahead, with two of their top players needing contracts, and a desperate need on the blueline. The Bruins have allegedly had conversations about acquiring Dmitry Kulikov from the Panthers, according to Joe Haggerty from CSN. Aging defenceman Dennis Seidenberg is a potential buyout candidate. The Bruins also have $5.25MM eaten up by a pair of third-pairing defensemen Kevan Miller and Adam McQuaid. McQuaid could be on the trade block to make room for a higher priced defenceman.
Expect Frankie Vatrano to spend the entire year on the Bruins roster after scoring 36 goals and 55 points in 36 AHL games. He also scored 11 points in 39 NHL games.
They shouldn’t have a problem protecting their current roster from an expansion draft, though goalie-of-the-future Malcolm Subban will have to be exposed.
Sweeney also needs to ensure leading goal-scorer Brad Marchand is under contract well before the trade deadline.