The Boston Bruins are already shut down for the holiday break, but today brought some bad news for two of their defensemen. Brandon Carlo has been added to the COVID protocol, the tenth player so far for Boston. He joins Brad Marchand, Craig Smith, Patrice Bergeron, Jeremy Swayman, Trent Frederic, Anton Blidh, Oskar Steen, Taylor Hall, and Curtis Lazar on the shelf, unavailable for the time being. The first few names should be eligible to return before the Bruins take the ice again on December 27, but if Carlo has tested positive and is experiencing any symptoms, he will not.
Beyond the COVID issues though is Jakub Zboril, who is out for the season after undergoing knee surgery to repair a torn ACL. The young defenseman underwent the procedure on December 16 at Mass General Brigham after suffering the injury on December 2.
Zboril, 24, seemed finally ready to contribute at the NHL level, six years after going 13th overall in the 2015 draft. It’s been a slow development path so far, but during last season and the early going this year, he had taken a big step to force his way into the lineup on a regular basis. In the nine games before exiting early against Nashville, he had averaged nearly 17 minutes a night while recording three points.
Importantly, this injury means that Zboril will not reach the 80-game threshold required to make him a restricted free agent. Instead, he will now qualify for Group VI unrestricted free agent status, given he has played just 54 NHL contests and turns 25 in February. There would have been an argument to be made over whether the Bruins should qualify him anyway, given he would have been arbitration-eligible, but with this, the decision is no longer in their hands. The defenseman will hit the open market, should the Bruins not reach an extension with him before free agency opens.