The 2022 offseason has arrived for the Boston Bruins, and it could be a franchise-altering summer.
Patrice Bergeron is the focus of it all. The Bruins legend and team captain remains an elite player, but his contract is about to expire and he hasn't made a decision on whether he'll come back or retire.
Bergeron's decision will help dictate what the Bruins' offseason looks like. But he's not the only player on Boston's roster with an expiring deal.
Here's a look at all of the Bruins' 2022 free agents and notable contract situations with the offseason underway (all salary info via CapFriendly).
Unrestricted Free Agents
Patrice Bergeron, C
The whole offseason hinges on Bergeron's decision. If he returns, the Bruins can try to add a few pieces and attempt to compete for a Stanley Cup title. If he retires, the Bruins are still a playoff-caliber team but will have almost no chance of making a deep run.
The most logical scenario for both sides, if Bergeron wants to keep playing, is going year-to-year with his contract. Bergeron is 36 years old and has played in 1,382 career games, including the playoffs. That's a lot of wear and tear over 18 NHL seasons. Taking it year-by-year would make sense at this point.
Bergeron's future at the center of pivotal Bruins offseason ahead
Bergeron has said multiple times over the last week that he needs more time to make his decision. He did make it clear Monday that he can't see himself playing for another team, so it sounds like his options are coming back to the Bruins or retirement.
If Bergeron doesn't come back, the Bruins will need to make a major addition at center. There are no other top-six centers inside the organization at any level, so finding that player via trade or free agency is the best route.
Curtis Lazar, C
Lazar was acquired in the Taylor Hall trade with the Buffalo Sabres last year and filled his fourth-line role nicely for the Bruins. He can play wing or at center, giving head coach Bruce Cassidy valuable versatility.
Lazar's play during the regular season (career-high eight goals) and playoffs (one goal, four penalties drawn) might price him out of what Boston is willing to pay. We saw a similar situation with fourth-line forward Sean Kuraly, who left the Bruins in 2021 free agency when the Columbus Blue Jackets offered him a four-year (!) contract.
Lazar told reporters Monday that there's "mutual interest" in a return to Boston. The Bruins should try to keep him, but it has to be at the right price. Overpaying bottom-six forwards is a ticket to salary cap troubles, and the Bruins have been burned by those deals in the past.
Anton Blidh, LW
Blidh played in just 32 games for the Bruins this season and did not make an appearance in the first round of the playoffs. The Bruins instead chose to play veteran forwards such as Nick Foligno, Tomas Nosek, Erik Haula, Curtis Lazar and Trent Frederic over Blidh throughout the campaign. All of those players are signed through at least the 2022-23 season, so if Blidh re-signs, he likely will have similar trouble cracking the lineup. Leaving Boston is probably the best decision for his career at this point.
Josh Brown, D
Brown was acquired from the Ottawa Senators at the trade deadline and played in six regular season games for the Bruins, plus two appearances during Round 1. He's a classic defensive defenseman who brings plenty of physicality to the ice. He also blocks shots and can kill penalties.
The Bruins have five left-shot defensemen on the roster, so we might see a trade at some point over the offseason to help address other roster needs. Brown plays on the right side, but Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and Connor Clifton are all ahead of him on the depth chart. Bringing back Brown on a low-cost, one-year deal would make sense for the B's, but he could probably find more ice time elsewhere.
Restricted free agents
Jack Studnicka, C
Studnicka was among the B's top prospects for several years, but his inability to earn a regular role at the NHL level is pretty concerning. The hope was that he could potentially fill David Krejci's role as a No. 2 center. Expectations are now significantly lower.
Studnicka has tallied just seven points (one goal, six assists) in 37 career games for Boston. He's never played more than 20 games at the NHL level in a single campaign. Studnicka had a good 2021-22 season in Providence, tallying 35 points (10 goals, 25 assists) in 41 games. He's been unable to make the same kind of offensive impact in the NHL.
Studnicka is too good to give up on, especially with the Bruins' lack of quality center depth throughout the organization. Re-signing him is the best move. But if he doesn't crack the roster in training camp, it would be time for both sides to move on.
Jack Ahcan, D
Ahcan could be a solid depth defenseman on the left side of the Bruins blue line next season. He's got some offensive skill and skates well. His game is similar to Matt Grzelcyk in regards to abilities and size.
David Pastrnak, RW
Pastrnak has one more year left on his contract. It's a team-friendly deal that costs only $6.67 million against the salary cap. The Bruins aren't likely to get so lucky on his next deal.
Players of Pastrnak's caliber have signed long-term deals worth $8-11 million per season. There are currently eight right wingers with a salary cap hit of $8 million or more. The highest is Toronto Maple Leafs star Mitch Marner, who signed a six-year deal worth $65,408,000 in 2019.
The Bruins would be wise to offer Pastrnak an extension of eight years (the max term allowed) and anywhere between $8.5 million to $10 million per season. He is one of the league's best offensive players and has averaged 35.8 goals over the last six seasons.
Here's where he ranks among all players in goals scored since the start of the 2019-20 season.
- Auston Matthews, TOR: 148
- Leon Draisaitl, EDM: 129
- Alex Ovechkin, WSH: 122
- Connor McDavid, EDM: 111
- Kyle Connor, WPG: 111
- David Pastrnak, BOS: 108
If Pastrnak wants to return to Boston on a long-term deal, that's the best case scenario for the Bruins and they should do everything possible to get it done. It's extremely hard to find goal scorers of Pastrnak's caliber. And given the Bruins' scoring depth issues, losing Pastrnak would be a massive setback to this roster.
However, if he doesn't give the Bruins a firm commitment over the next six months or so, then the team has to seriously consider moving him before next season's trade deadline. Losing a player like Pastrnak in free agency and getting nothing in return is a scenario that absolutely cannot happen for the B's.
Matt Grzelcyk and Mike Reilly, D
Grzelcyk has two years remaining on his contract with a $3.687 million salary cap hit. It's a team-friendly deal and doesn't carry long-term risk. But, as mentioned above, the Bruins have five left-shot defenseman under contract for next season. There isn't room for all of these players. Grzelcyk and Mike Reilly play a similar style. It makes sense to move one for draft picks/prospects and clear the logjam on the left side of the blue line.
The problem with trading Grzelcyk is he revealed Monday he needs shoulder surgery, and it could result in him not being ready to play when the 2022-23 season begins. That might hurt his value on the trade market.
Reilly is signed through 2023-24 at $3 million per season. His offensive abilities and experience could make him valuable on the trade market.