The initial shock of the Bruins’ collapse has faded and given way to a full-blown autopsy. Following exit interviews on Tuesday, the still-warm body of the 2022-23 season has been split wide open and exhaustedly examined with hindsight. But while every injury and lineup change has been meticulously second-guessed, there’s one question still unanswered:
What happens next?
This season was meant to be Bergeron & Krejci’s swan song. While both have left the door open to returning, the roster will look much different next year.
Don Sweeney went all-in on a Cup run and busted on the first hand.
Per @BruinsCapSpace, the Bruins will have just under $5m in cap room this summer with a whole lot of holes to fill. Bertuzzi, Foligno, Nosek, Hathaway, Orlov, and Clifton will all join Bergeron and Krejci as unrestricted free agents. Trent Frederic, Jeremy Swayman, and Jakub Lauko are also due new contracts as RFAs.
Bringing back Bertuzzi and Swayman should be the top priority of this group. However, both are likely to command high price tags on the open market and could price themselves out of a return. In all likelihood, there will only be enough cap space to sign one of the two. If given no other options, Sweeney could flip Swayman’s RFA negotiation rights to a goaltender-needy team for draft picks.
Assuming that one of Bergeron or Krejci push off retirement again, that will still leave a gaping hole at Center. Pavel Zacha could fill that role, but that would open up another hole on the wing.
Needless to say, Sweeney has his work cut out for him.
While the Bruins’ GM has a track record of signing players to below-market and team-friendly deals, he’ll still have to move players out to free up the money to do so. The most likely candidates would be blueliners Matt Grzelcyk, Derek Forbort, and Mike Reilly. All three carry at least $3m cap hits on expiring deals and could be replaced through the farm system.
In fact, Providence should be the first place to look to fill out the depth for cheap. Prospects like Lauko, Oskar Steen, Fabian Lysell, Georgi Merkulov, Marc McLaughlin, Jack Ahcan, and John Beecher could all be given extended auditions for open spots.
Boston can still be a Cup contender going forward with the right moves.
A lot of next season’s outlook hinges on Bergeron & Krejci (Deja vu). It’s extremely unlikely that the Bruins would contend for 60+ wins again, but they still have much of the core intact to be in a position to redeem themselves next spring.
Photo: Boston Globe/Getty Images
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