Nick Goss

NHL free agents: Will Bruins pursue Elias Lindholm to upgrade at center?

"People definitely believe Boston is going to get a center."

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The Boston Bruins need a top-six center.

Charlie Coyle and Pavel Zacha played very well during the 2023-24 NHL regular season, and they set career highs in scoring with 60 and 59 points, respectively.

But the Stanley Cup Playoffs showed that acquiring a more traditional top-six center -- one who can consistently generate offense and win over 50 percent of his faceoffs -- is still a roster need for this franchise. Zacha has one goal in 25 career playoff games. Coyle scored only one goal in 13 games during the 2024 playoffs.

Luckily for the Bruins, there are several good centers who could hit the free agent market in July. The most notable names include Elias Lindholm, Steven Stamkos, Chandler Stephenson, Matt Duchene, Max Domi and Alex Wennberg, among others. It's possible not all of them will make it to free agency, though.

Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman, on the latest episode of his 32 Thoughts podcast with co-host Jeff Marek, provided some interesting information on the Bruins' offseason plans, specifically about their expected pursuit of a center.

"I'm expecting (the Bruins) to be in on (Lindholm) if he hits the market," Friedman said. "Someone else said to me, throw Chandler Stephenson's name in there. I think there are a lot of people expecting Stephenson to be on Boston's radar.

"People definitely believe Boston is going to get a center. ... Whether it's Lindholm, Stephenson or somebody else we're missing right now, there's definitely a belief they're gonna do something down the middle."

The Bruins reportedly were interested in acquiring Lindholm before the March 8 trade deadline, but he wound up going to the Vancouver Canucks. Lindholm had a rough start in Vancouver but was very good for the Canucks in the playoffs with 10 points (five goals, five assists) in 13 games.

He is a legit top-six center who creates scoring chances for teammates and wins faceoffs at a high level. The B's really struggled on faceoffs during the regular season and playoffs. The 29-year-old veteran is capable of scoring 15-25 goals per season as well.

Lindholm is not a dominant player, but he would be an upgrade over Coyle and Zacha. The Swedish center is a very good defensive forward, too, and finished second to former Bruins star Patrice Bergeron in Selke Trophy voting in 2021-22.

Stephenson has tallied 50-plus points in three consecutive seasons for the Vegas Golden Knights. He scored 16 goals with 35 assists in 75 games this past season. Stephenson was a key contributor during the Golden Knights' Stanley Cup title run last year with 20 points in 22 playoff games.

Lindholm is a more talented and more complete player than Stephenson, but either one would be a nice addition to the Bruins roster if they're able to make it work (and also assuming those players make it to free agency).

The Bruins are projected to have around $21 million in salary cap space in the offseason, per CapFriendly -- far more than they had last summer.

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