Despite a first round elimination at the hands of the Ottawa Senators, the 2016-17 campaign has to be considered a success for the Boston Bruins organization. The team returned to the postseason after back-to-back non-playoff seasons and showed tremendous resilience during their six-game series loss, nearly overcoming injuries to key regulars Brandon Carlo, David Krejci, Torey Krug and Adam McQuaid to push Ottawa to OT in game six. Perhaps the silver lining to the season was the development of young Czech winger David Pastnak, who in his third year saw a marked increase across the board in terms of offensive production, setting career-highs in goals (34) assists (36) and points (70). Pastrnak stuggled some in the postseason, finishing with just five shots on goal and regularly turning the puck over, but as Joe Haggerty of CSNNE writes, the 20-year-old will be a better player long term in part because of the playoff experience.
Pastrnak also wrapped up his ELC, making him a RFA this summer. Boston will have a decision to make; do they try to lock up the talented offensive right wing to a long term deal or employ a short term bridge contract to keep the AAV down? Should the team choose the latter, Haggerty speculates a deal similar to that given by Chicago to Artemi Panarin (two years, $12MM) could work for both sides. If Boston chooses the former, they might have to approach the value of the accord signed by Calgary winger Johnny Gaudreau last summer, in Haggerty’s estimation. According to Cap Friendly, the Bruins are projected to have around just $10MM in cap space available with Drew Stafford set to hit unrestricted free agency and Ryan Spooner joining Pastrnak as a RFA. The team should have room as it stands to accommodate a new Pastrnak contract regardless of whether it’s a lucrative long term pact or a shorter term bridge deal. Still, what Boston does will likely have a great impact on what other moves the team can make this summer to fill holes on the roster.
Elsewhere in the Atlantic Division:
- One of the second round’s more interesting subplots involves Ottawa center Derick Brassard facing his old team, the New York Rangers, and the player for whom he was acquired just last July, fellow pivot Mika Zibanejad. Expecting to contend for the playoffs in 2016-17, Ottawa GM Pierre Dorion wanted to add the more experienced and established Brassard to his lineup. It also didn’t hurt that the skilled center from Hull, Quebec is a proven playoff performer known in some circles as “Big Game Brass.” For their part, the Rangers needed to get bigger and younger and did so by adding the talented Zibanejad to the team. Neither player had the regular season they hoped – Brassard finished with just 14 goals and 39 points while Zibanejad missed time with a broken leg and scored 37 points in 56 contests. With scoring expected to be at a premium in the series between Ottawa and New York, it was widely felt whoever performed better between the two would give their team a significant edge. Well, after one game, Don Brennan of the Ottawa Sun has the two players even, though the Senators are up in the series. As Brennan noted, neither player registered a point and both finished with roughly 17 minutes of ice time. Brassard was credited with five shots on goal, Zibanejad with four. While it would be unfair to paint the winner of the series as also the winner of last summer’s trade, it’s evident the two players will be heavily relied upon to help their respective team advance to the Eastern Conference Final and at this point in the season that’s really all that matters.
- With their 25-season playoff streak broken, the Detroit Red Wings enter the offseason with a lot of work to do to reshape their roster into a contender, and without the resources (i.e. cap space) to easily tackle the challenge. In all probability, the team will be forced seek roster improvement via the trade market and with limited chips the team can afford to move, it’s likely Detroit will have to deal one of their starting-caliber goalies, if for no other reason than to open up much-needed cap space. Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press expressed the same belief in a recent mailbag feature. As the scribe notes, the Wings are currently projected to have less than $6MM in cap space with key forwards Andreas Athanasiou and Tomas Tatar scheduled to be RFA’s. The offseason goalie market is expected to be full of starting options, with Pittsburgh likely to entertain a trade of Marc-Andre Fleury rather than risk losing Matt Murray in the expansion draft. Ben Bishop, Brian Elliott, Jonathan Bernier and Ryan Miller headline the UFA crop of netminders and could represent viable starting options for any team looking for a #1. Those factors will hamstring the Red Wings in their attempt to move either Jimmy Howard or Petr Mrazek in return for fair value. In all likelihood, the team will have to be satisfied primarily with cap relief as opposed to acquiring young assets to further their retooling effort. Although St. James does offer up one intriguing possibility, noting that current Stars GM Jim Nill, formerly an assistant GM in Detroit, knows Mrazek and Howard well from his time with the Wings and could pursue one in an effort to upgrade his options between the pipes.