2017-18 Bruins begin to take shape - Metro US

2017-18 Bruins begin to take shape

With defenseman Colin Miller predictably getting selected by the Las Vegas Golden Knights in last week’s expansion draft and then six guys getting picked on Friday and Saturday in the 2017 NHL Draft, the next edition of the Bruins has started to be formed.

Things will really get ramped up on Saturday when free agency begins at noon (EST) and trade season has already begun although Boston thus far has been very quiet on that front. The newest B’s (who in all likelihood are at least a year or two away from the NHL) are Finnish defenseman Urho Vaakanainen (1st round, 18th overall), Canadian forward Jack Studnicka (2nd round, 53rd overall), American goaltender Jeremy Swayman (4th round, 111th overall), Canadian forward Cedric Pare (6th round, 173rd overall), Swedish defenseman Victor Berglund (7th round, 195th overall) and Czech defenseman Daniel Bukac (7th round, 204th overall).

The NHL free agent class of 2017 isn’t exactly one for the ages, at least on paper. It’s mostly filled with veterans, many of whom could be referred to as washed up or over-the-hill (and therefore not worthy of a long-term investment), with talented youngsters few and far between. However, I believe there is a small group of players (three forwards and two defensemen) that the Bruins would be smart to target in free agency. At the moment, Boston has a bunch of promising second, third and fourth-year players (think defenseman Charlie McAvoy and right wing David Pastrnak) so if I was GM Don Sweeney, I would look for some dependable veterans that would blend well with their current cast as they hope to reach the postseason and advance further than last spring.

Defenseman Andrei Markov is 38-years-old which clearly makes you pause but he is still competing at a high level although he’ll probably want a ton of money since he had a cap hit of $5,750,000 last season with Montreal. Therein lies the other intriguing part about him: he would strengthen Boston’s defense while simultaneously weakening their archrival-the Canadiens (assuming that he wants to go back there). Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk is a more polished and accomplished replacement for Colin Miller. He struggled for a while last season after he was traded to Washington but he is only 28 with a cap hit of $4,250,000 in 2016-17. He’s from Connecticut and starred at BU as well so it’s doubtful that he’d be intimidated by playing in Boston.

Center Mike Fisher was the captain of the Predators who just lost in the Stanley Cup Final to Pittsburgh and he was also on the Senators when they were in the Stanley Cup Final back in 2007. Since his wife is country music superstar Carrie Underwood, they probably want to stay in Music City but he’s a winner ($4.4 million cap hit last season) so if you can sign him, go for it. Hingham native and former BC Eagle Brian Boyle is a similar center that you can picture as a Bruin. He’s good on special teams and only carried a cap hit of $2 million last season that ended in Toronto for him. Wherever he goes, his clubs always seem to pile up the victories. Finally, right wing Justin Williams remains on the short-list of the most clutch players in the NHL. He’s 35 and while he couldn’t bring a Cup to the cursed Capitals ($3.25 million cap hit last year), he won a combined three with Carolina and LA. The Bruins always need wingers that can put the puck in the net and he’s someone who always steps up in the biggest games.

Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate

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