After missing out on the NHL playoffs the past two years, the 2016-17 season for the Boston Bruins had to be considered a success since they returned to the postseason and pushed Ottawa in an extremely tight six-game first round series that featured four games that were decided in overtime.
The B’s stumbled into a new head coach in Bruce Cassidy, who was very deserving of the extension that they gave him in April. And for the first time in a while, Boston is flush with young talent headlined by right wing David Pastrnak (34 goals, 36 assists) and defenseman Charlie McAvoy – who made his NHL debut in Game 1 vs. Ottawa and never looked out of place on the top defensive pairing with captain Zdeno Chara.
The key for the Bruins is to carry over the positive developments from the second half of last season into this summer with the expansion draft on June 21 and then as free agency begins on July 1. With some shrewd moves during what are sure to be some hectic days, Boston should solidify its place as not only a surefire playoff team in 2017-18 but one that can do some serious damage. Remember this is the wildly unpredictable NHL, where the Nashville Predators just reached their first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history – as a No. 8 seed.
As of this moment, the Bruins have a projected cap hit of $62,531,668 million with cap space of $10,468,332 million, according to capfriendly.com. Looking at the roster that they finished with in April, they have eight free agents to address (5 restricted and 3 unrestricted). Pastrnak is clearly going to cash in big-time and the team has to have been happy to hear him state his desire to remain here long-term. Centers Noel Acciari and Tim Schaller were good fits as well so I’d expect them to return on team-friendly deals. Forward Ryan Spooner has been the subject of many trade rumors and he’s coming off a rough season so I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him elsewhere. Likewise, veteran forwards Dominic Moore and Drew Stafford were solid additions but Boston will probably replace them with younger options. I assume that defenseman John-Michael Liles and Joe Morrow are both gone as well.
The Providence Bruins are still alive in the AHL (Calder Cup) playoffs, currently tied 1-1 with the Syracuse Crunch in the Eastern Conference Finals. That’s good news for the NHL club since many guys that appeared for them last season including Sean Kuraly, Danton Heinen, Acciari, Austin Czarnik, Matt Grzelcyk, Rob O’Gara and Zane McIntyre are all gaining confidence and valuable big game experience that should have a nice carryover effect come September for Boston’s training camp and preseason. Along with some of their most prized prospects like Jake DeBrusk & Zach Senyshyn, many of those players will no doubt be competing for jobs and eventually be named to the opening game roster next October for the B’s.