May 14, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; The Boston Bruins stand on the ice before the start of the game against the Montreal Canadiens in game seven of the second round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Banknorth Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Big Questions Remain for the Boston Bruins

The Boston Bruins are obivously excited about signing David Pastrnak to an entry level contract. He’s had a very good development camp, and the organization is obviously excited having a player who may be NHL ready. While putting Pastrnak on the squad will fill one hole for the Bruins, the organization will need to figure out what they’re going to do to be ready in October.

Here are the big issues the team will be resolving in the next two months:

Who will fill in for Iginla? It looks like the Bruins will try to fill that position from within the family. The best guess right now is to promote Loui Eriksson who brings solid speed and outstanding puck skills to the top line. Last year’s injury filled season was a fluke for the Swede. He spent more games off the bench last year for the Bruins then he did for his entire career in Dallas. (Thanks again John Scott for that one.)

What’s next for the Merlot Line? Love him or hate him, Shawn Thornton‘s absence leaves a very large void on the Bruins fourth line. The game of hockey is evolving, and the role of the enforcer is going the way of the dinosaur. There are young Providence Bruins who may be NHL ready and one or two of them could fill in on the Merlot line. Alexander Khokhlachev or Ryan Spooner could easily fit in as the fourth line center. If that happened, then Gregory Campbell would move into Thornton’s spot and the Bruins could find themselves having one of the fastest fourth lines in the NHL.

How tight is the Bruins salary cap? The Bruins signed Matt Bartkowski the other day to a one year, $1.25 million dollar contract. If that didn’t surprise the Boston fan base, the signing of Jordan Caron to a one-year, six hundred thousand contract sure did.  The Bruins also locked up Justin Florek and Zach Trotman. While these (with the baffling exception of Caron) are good moves for the Bruins, it makes their cap situation profoundly tight. This now gives the organization less than three million dollars to sign their remaining members. Torey Krug and Reilly Smith are still not signed. Barring any big surprises though, they should be alright when it comes to making under the salary cap.

Will the team dynamic change? An early projection for the 2015-16 NHL salary cap estimates the cap will be about $73-74 million dollars. This will give the team some much needed flexibility on retaining players like David Krejci. (I think it’s safe to say that re-signing him is a no-brainer.) Cam Neely and Peter Chiarelli have done their best to keep the core of the 2011 Stanley Cup Championship team in Boston. This will likely be the last year they do that if the Bruins don’t win the Stanley Cup however.

Who will be traded before opening night? The Bruins still have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to NHL ready defensemen (nine at last count). If the Bruins don’t want to fill the Iginla slot in-house, then expect one or two of them to be shopped around in order to get a top six forward in Boston. If the Bruins are worried about cap space, then expect Johnny Boychuk to be on the block. (In my opinion, that would be a mistake.) While Peter Chiarelli seems adamant about keeping Matt Bartkowski, the surprise doubling of his salary may expedite his exodus from Boston.

It seems the Bruins forwards are safe for the time being, but a lot of us thought that way last year before Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley went to Dallas. (While people still say Dallas won that trade, a full season with a healthy Loui Eriksson should shift the pendulum of opinion back to the Bruins side.)

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