Bruins re-sign forward Jake DeBrusk

By Brendan Beauregard, Assistant Sports Editor

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The Boston Bruins re-signed restricted free agent winger Jake DeBrusk to a two-year, $7.35 contract on Nov. 23, returning some stability to the top-six forwards.

The 24-year-old winger tallied 19 goals last season and has scored 62 goals in his young three-year career so far.

Bringing DeBrusk back at under $4 million is a solid deal by General Manager Don Sweeney, but of course, there are some concerns with DeBrusk’s game. His 19 goals last season was a downgrade from his 27-goal season back in 2018-19. Additionally, DeBrusk’s inconsistent play really showed in the 2019-20 Stanley Cup Playoffs with just four goals in 13 games along with a not-so-friendly plus/minus rating of -3.

This offseason, DeBrusk has been continuing to elevate his game in different areas, such as forechecking. 

I’ve been focusing on probably just my physical side of the game,” said DeBrusk in an interview with 98.5 The Sports Hub. “That’s usually how I play. That’s how I’ve been known to play. It just didn’t really happen much this year, and it’s one thing I felt like it affected my game a lot. It could open up space for me, my teammates and also just getting the puck.”

Bruins fans hope the former first-round pick’s 27-goal season two years ago isn’t a flash in the pan and instead becomes more routine. Yes, DeBrusk has shown his goal-scoring abilities and quick pace on the ice here and there, but when you are on a Stanley Cup contending team like the Bruins are right now, DeBrusk needs to show it every night. Otherwise, that “draft bust” label will come knocking on his door.

DeBrusk’s deal was one that Boston’s front office needed to seal sooner rather than later, with star players like Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak projected to miss the start of the 2020-21 regular season due to offseason surgery rehab. Sure, there isn’t an official start date for the 2020-21 NHL regular season yet, but if games were to begin in January Marchand and Pasternak wouldn’t be playing. Re-signing DeBrusk gives Boston a sort of offensive relief until those players can hit the ice once again.

It’s also important to note the holes Boston still has regarding scoring depth and the left side of their defense. Longtime Bruins captain and current unrestricted free-agent defenseman Zdeno Chara is still on the open market, as well as free agent goal-scoring winger Mike Hoffman.

With Boston having a current cap space of just under $3 million, I suggest looking into trading players like Nick Ritchie ($1.498 million cap hit) or John Moore ($2.75 million cap hit) to free up some space to re-sign guys like Chara and Hoffman. 

I don’t believe Chara would demand that much money, as an agreement like his one-year, $2 million deal from last season could suffice once more for Boston. A Hoffman deal, on the other hand, could require a bit more cap space, as he’s coming off of a contract that paid him over $5 million annually.

I’m not saying the Bruins should just hand over $5 million to Hoffman, since I believe his contract value has dropped with him remaining in the free-agent pool these last couple of months. But considering Hoffman’s knack for goal-scoring and an average of 19 goals per season, it could be worth it for Boston to offer him a one-year $3.5/$4 million contract for him to provide the secondary scoring punch the Bruins crave.

The Bruins should still be right there in the contending class for the Stanley Cup once the regular season starts, but there’s still more tinkering to be figured out, even after re-signing DeBrusk.