The Boston Bruins offseason work has already started to heat up. With the Seattle Kraken’s expansion draft taking place last night, the first domino of the NHL offseason has taken place. The NHL Draft is set to kick off tomorrow night, with free agency set to follow less than a week from now.
It appears the Bruins are set to get a head start in free agency by re-signing trade deadline acquisition Taylor Hall. Hall found a nice role on the second line next to David Krejci and Craig Smith, and made it clear he wanted to return to Boston. Locking up one of their own before free agency starts would be a big win, and it appears the B’s are set to accomplish that with Hall.
While nothing is official yet, it sounds like a 4 year, $24 million deal is what will come from the negotiations. While the most important piece is obviously locking up Hall for four more seasons, this deal allows Boston to maintain around $20 million in cap space to sign a few more players. This could be used to work on resigning guys like Krejci and Mike Reilly before free agency opens.
If this deal ends up going through, this would be a huge win for Boston. Pairing Hall up with Smith and Krejci (assuming he re-signs) would give Boston one of their best second lines in quite some time. For Krejci particularly this would be a win, as he has been forced to try to make things work with a bevy of different linemates over the years, so some consistency would probably be much welcome.
The best part of this deal would be it shows the Bruins intend on being aggressive this offseason. Their championship window isn’t closed yet, but it’s in it’s final stages, and it’s important that GM Don Sweeney and the front office work towards building a team that can make it all the way back to the Stanley Cup. That they are working towards a deal with Hall before free agency opens shows they are working with a sense of urgency, which is hopefully how the rest of the offseason goes.
Boston Bruins lose Jeremy Lauzon to the Seattle Kraken
As mentioned, the Seattle Kraken expansion draft took place last night, as they selected one player made available from each of the other 30 teams in the league. Their selection from the Bruins was the 24 year old blue liner Jeremy Lauzon.
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This marks a rather abrupt ending to Lauzon’s time in Boston. Part of the reason the Bruins felt OK with allowing Zdeno Chara to leave in free agency last offseason was the amount of young talent they had behind him on defense, which was headlined by Lauzon. But like many of his contemporaries, Lauzon struggled for long stretches of the season.
Lauzon really struggled during the playoffs, and probably cost the Bruins a game or two in their season ending series against the New York Islanders. It was telling that once Connor Clifton was inserted into the lineup in their opening series against the Washington Capitals the third line on defense was much more effective.
Lauzon is young and has tons of potential, but it’s not worth losing any sleep over the Kraken picking him up in the draft. Lauzon’s ineffectiveness last season pushed Boston into making a deadline day trade for Mike Reilly, and it’s safe to assume they would have been looking for upgrades in free agency regardless of whether or not Lauzon was around. If anything, this should only push the Boston Bruins towards rebuilding their defense, and it will probably look better, at least for next season, with Lauzon not around.
What will the Boston Bruins do with Nick Ritchie?
Another point of interest in recent days was that the Bruins left Nick Ritchie exposed in the expansion draft for the Kraken.
Ritchie was the odd man out in the equation, and it could signal that Boston is looking to move on from the big winger.
After a slow start to his time in Boston, Ritchie had a nice bounce back season, picking up 15 goals and 11 assists on the Bruins third line. He made for a nice fit on the top power play unit, often screening the goalie and working his magic around the crease to put pucks home.
But Ritchie’s effectiveness came to a screeching halt in the postseason. He was back to his old ways of basically just being a big body that didn’t offer much aside from screening the goalie and the occasional put-back goal. Once he was taken off the top power play unit, he was basically reduced to nothing.
Ritchie’s status as a restricted free agent means the Bruins can probably resign him for cheap. He obviously has a certain skillset that helps him succeed, but it’s a fleeting success at best. Boston’s willingness to leave Ritchie exposed shows that it may be best to search for another option on the third line.
Regardless of whether or not Ritchie returns or not, it’s clear Boston’s third and fourth lines on offense need to be reconstructed. It’s just going to be a matter of whether or not Ritchie is a part of that rebuild. By making sure Charlie Coyle and Jake DeBrusk were protected, it seems like the Boston Bruins are leaning towards letting Ritchie potentially walk, while searching for a replacement for him on the third line with Coyle and DeBrusk.