Claude Julien will be back as the Bruins’ coach, but he could have a much different roster come opening night of the 2016-17 season. Boston GM Don Sweeney has important choices to make when it comes to a minor rebuild of his roster, including what do with captain Zdeno Chara.
After missing the playoffs last season for the first since since 2006-07, the Boston Bruins shook up their management and roster. Having missed the postseason in consecutive years (also for the first time since ’07), more changes are expected.
It was assumed coach Claude Julien could lose his job, but GM Don Sweeney stated otherwise during his season-ending press conference. That comes as a big disappointment for teams (such as the Ottawa Senators) in need of a new bench boss next season.
Boston pundits, meanwhile, are speculating over this summer’s possible roster moves. Steve Conroy of the Boston Herald wonders if Sweeney will try to convince aging captain Zdeno Chara to waive his no-movement clause. He also suggests blueliner Dennis Seidenberg could be shopped, though that could mean picking up part of his annual $4-million cap hit through 2017-18. Conroy also thinks UFA rearguard Kevan Miller might not be back and underachieving winger Jimmy Hayes might benefit from a change of scenery.
CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty believes the Bruins need sweeping changes, suggesting everyone other than Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak should be in play. He also wonders if Chara might accept a trade this summer, perhaps to skate with “Slovakian buddies” like Chicago Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa or Los Angeles Kings forward Marian Gaborik, or to play for one of the teams in Florida, where he owns a home.
If Chara agrees to be dealt, the cap-strapped Blackhawks and Kings won’t be interested. The Tampa Bay Lightning, meanwhile, face a big enough salary-cap headache attempting to re-sign their key free agents over the next two years without adding Chara’s salary to the mix.
Don’t expect starting goalie Tuukka Rask to be part of the Bruins changes. Trading him for the sake of change would be a huge mistake. While his numbers were down this season, that’s due largely to the porous defense corps in front of him. There’s also no suitable replacements via this summer’s trade or free-agent markets.
The Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa observes the Bruins could use their two first-round picks in this year’s draft and their depth in prospects as trade bait to boost their blueline.
Shinzawa speculates GM Don Sweeney’s ideal trade targets are clubs with defensemen to spare, such as the Minnesota Wild, Anaheim Ducks and Winnipeg Jets. He points out Wild blueliner Matt Dumba, Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen of the Ducks and the Jets’ Jacob Trouba are restricted free agents this summer.
The Wild and Jets aren’t parting with Dumba or Trouba. Both are rising young defensemen whose best seasons remain ahead of them. Given the Wild’s limited cap space for next season, perhaps Jonas Brodin ($4.1 million) or Jared Spurgeon ($5.1 million) become available. The Jets could try moving Tobias Enstrom and his $5.75-million annual cap hit. That leaves the Ducks as Sweeney’s best target.
Assuming next season’s salary cap ceiling is $74 million, the Ducks have over $19 million in projected salary-cap room to re-sign key players like Lindholm and Vatanen. However, ownership has kept their cap ceiling significantly lower than the league’s in recent years. If they maintain that internal ceiling, they might not be able to comfortably afford the big raises Lindholm and Vatanen could command. One of them could be moved to make room for a promising young rearguard like Shea Theodore.
Of the pair, Vatanen could be the more likely trade candidate. He’s got arbitration rights this summer, whereas Lindholm is coming out of his entry-level deal and has little contract leverage.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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