Bruins: Reload or Rebuild?

By Brendan Beuregard

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After a disappointing end to their season with a second-round playoff exit back in August, the Boston Bruins find themselves in a pickle. With an aging core of Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Zdeno Chara, and Tuukka Rask, does Boston go for one last Stanley Cup run, or do they start building the foundation for the team’s future?

Bruins team president Cam Neely said it best during his season-ending press conference last month: Boston has to be “brutally honest” with themselves. Boston has to be honest too about some of their underwhelming young players, like wingers Jake DeBrusk and Anders Bjork, who have shown flashes of great hockey play but continue to be non-factors in the playoffs.

Also, with one of Boston’s top defensemen in Torey Krug leaving town for the St. Louis Blues, the Bruins have a big spot to fill in their top four defense spots. So what should Boston do? I say reload but be smart about the future, and this is how the Bruins should do it.   

1. Sign Taylor Hall

If there’s been a longtime need for the Bruins, it’s scoring depth. Boston relies too much on its top line of Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak, who contributed almost 50% of the team’s goals last season. While it’s nice to have a top-line that generates that much offense, it can also mean your team is top-heavy. Signing free agent left winger Taylor Hall from the Arizona Coyotes would help rebalance Boston’s attack.

Hall is a former NHL MVP and the No. 1 overall pick from the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. He is known for his offensive game, averaging more than 20 goals per season. Plugging in Hall and putting him on the second line alongside a playmaking center like Krejci could give opposing teams something else to worry about other than the “perfection line” when playing Boston. 

Boston has room to sign the 28-year-old winger with $12 million and some change in salary cap space. Signing Hall to a good long-term deal of, say, seven years for $60 million will bring in that offensive reinforcement the Bruins have coveted as well as more stability on the wing. However, Boston should consider this next thought if it wants more cap room.

2. Trade Tuukka Rask and trade for Marc-Andre Fleury 

Settle down, folks, settle down—you, in the back, put down that tomato, sir! Let me explain my idea here.  

Yes, Tuukka Rask is an elite goalie and former Vezina trophy winner who could’ve won that trophy again this past season. But, considering Rask’s $7 million cap number, him being a free agent in 2021, and several teams are lined up in the goalie deli line, there is a market and reason in moving Rask.

Of course, parting ways with Rask would then immediately create a need behind the pipes. Enter stage left, Marc-Andre Fleury.

The Vegas Golden Knights goalie is a three-time Stanley Cup champion who can still play starting minutes. Additionally, the Golden Knights are looking to move Fleury after re-signing goalie and great Twitter follow, Robin Lehner.

Now, Fleury has the same $7 million cap number as Rask. Boston, however, could persuade Vegas to take on salary that way Fleury’s cap number could be lowered to around $4.5-$5 million and allow the Bruins to have extra cap space. Adding to that, Fleury could be a good bridge goalie when Boston’s goalie prospects, like the highly touted Jeremy Swayman, are ready to play in the league.

With Hall and Fleury hypothetically aboard the Bruins ship, there’s one more part Boston has to do.

3. Replace Krug with Homegrown Options

Torey Krug’s departure from Boston leaves the Bruins with a leak in their top-two defense pairs. Instead of going after Arizona Coyotes top defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, as Boston’s been linked to, someone in-house should take Krug’s spot, and that someone should be Matt Grzelcyk.

Grzelcyk is more than capable of jumping from the bottom defensive pair to playing top-four minutes, along with already having experience playing alongside the Bruins top defenseman in Charlie McAvoy. Sure, you need to re-sign Grzelcyk first as he is a restricted free agent this offseason.

Wait, what’s that in Boston’s pocket? Additional money from the Golden Knights taking some of Fleury’s contract? Huzzah! A man of quality!—Flushed Away is hilarious, don’t @ me.

Signing Grzelcyk to a deal and then putting in one of your other top defensive prospects, like Jérémy Lauzon, in Grzelcyk’s old spot slaps in that Flex Seal and makes the Bruins look like Phil Swift. 

Perhaps the Bruins offseason plans will be something like that, or perhaps they won’t be like that at all. But one thing is for certain: the Bruins have to decide what their team is going to be. Are they going to continue building a Cup-contending foundation, or is it time to hit the reset button?